Windows 8.1: WinHelp32.exe issue after December Patchday?

Today I’m experiencing a new issue with Windows 8.1 (64-Bit). The old WinHelp32.exe fix doesn’t work anymore. Windows8.1-KB917607-x64.msu isn’t functional anymore with Windows 8.1 (patch level December 2014).


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What’s the problem?

Windows 8.1 isn’t shipped with support for old .hlp files. Luckily Microsoft provided a solution to view old .hlp files. The website Windows Help program (WinHlp32.exe) for Windows 8.1 provides instructions and files, to update Windows 8.1 in a way, that old .hlp files may be viewable.

Under normal circumstances it’s sufficient, to download and install the appropriate .msu file. I’ve tested it with success in the past.

Windows 8.1 (Patchlevel December 2014) won’t work anymore

Today I was stumbled uppon two entries in German MS answers forum (here and here), where users are claiming, that the old solutions won’t work anymore. And I also received a similar e-mail. This user is claiming, that the old help file viewer works till end of November/ begin of December. But now Windows 8.1 fails to show .hlp files.

Testing it on one of my German Windows 8.1 64-bit-systems (patch level December 18. 2014), showed me, that Windows8.1-KB917607-x64.msu installed fine. But afterward I wasn’t able to view .hlp files.

Currently I’m still investigating this issue (I just startet system restore to set my system back to May 2014). But my current guess is, that either December 9th patches or the today’s patch KB 3025390: Fix for screwups in Internet Explorer 11 screwed up something. Any further suggestions are welcome.

Discussing technical background of this issue

The reason for this issue has been discussed in Microsoft Answers forum in thread November rollup KB3000850 and winhlp KB917607. In short: November rollup KB3000850 updated winhlp32.exe to a version, which doesn’t support opening old .hlp files.

The problem: Since this new component have higher assembly version, installing the fixed hlp file component in KB917607 won’t solve the hlp issue, because the fixed hlp file component become not active and isn’t used. So users are facing this message again:

Unfortunatly I haven’t seen an updated component KB917607 that fixes this issue.

Workaround for KB3000850 HLP file issue

A temporary workaround has been posted at Microsoft Answers-Forum from user Abbodi86 (the same guy who gave us the explanation above):

You can use this temporary workaround. Extract the script, and put KB917607 .msu file next to it, then run as admin.

However, this workaround will cause SFC to give an error regarding %windir%\winhlp32.exe – you can ignore in the mean time

Hope it helps – a feedback is appreciated.


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32 Responses to Windows 8.1: WinHelp32.exe issue after December Patchday?

  1. Günter Born says:

    Just a short update. Within my German blog article I received a feedback from my buddy André Ziegler from WinVistaSide.de. André has observed this behavior since November update. Background: the help stub was updated, so the winhlp32.exe fix provided from Microsoft can’t be installed anymore (the version of winhlp32.exe fix is lower than the winhelp stub provided by November update). André told me, that he already has informed Microsoft about this issue. Let’s hope, Microsoft will fix that and release a revised winhlp32.exe.

    Update: A technical discussion about the reason for broken hlp file support may be found here.

    Searching the web for “KB3000850 HLP file issue” shows a lot results

    Update2: Microsoft has fixed the issue (16 June 2015), see Update fixes Windows 8.1 WinHlp32 problem (KB917607)

  2. Mark says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for this very useful summary of the issue.

    Did you manage to find a solution to this problem yet? I have a legacy .hlp file that I need to access and it’s infuriating not being able to do so.

    Thanks and regards,

    Mark

    • Robert says:

      I too found help file not working after a Windows update about the 7th March 2015. I run W 8.1. The information from this site that I gleaned was that KB 3000850 stops KB917607 x 64 working (no idea why). I found the update and uninstalled it and lo and behold my help files were back! So it’s all the fault of MS!

  3. guenni says:

    Mark: A workaround has been posted within my German blog. See my update within the blog post. But I haven’t tested it yet.

  4. Thanks for this very useful work around.

    It worked perfectly for me when I really needed it.

    Regards,

    Mark.

  5. isotope feeney says:

    in re:

    I just tried it and within 10 seconds: problem solved! As an aside (that many here will find either amusing or horrifying, prob. both): before figuring out a search term that would point me to a to a peer-to-peer solution, I tried (logically, I thought) Microsoft Tech Support. Whoever I was connected to knew nothing (or at least SAID nothing) about support for .hlp files being disabled as of 12/14, or the fact that the official MS patch (still on Microsoft website) is now invalid. He spent at least an hour trying to convince me that I probably had some kind of exotic virus or malware [that only disables help files?!], and that I should spend $150 for their ‘Assurance’ plan – – – or better yet just let them wipe my drive and do a clean install of the OS to fix my registry. Yikes! I was on the verge of paying the money to let someone (remotely) poke around in registry to see if they could find corrupted files, then suddenly realized that the person on the other end didn’t know any more about why this was happening than I did. If there were only a way to get back in touch w. the same person, I would love to forward this discussion to him, but alas . . .

    Power to the people!

    • guenni says:

      @isotope feeney: The funny thing is, that some users reporting, that MS support sends them to my blog to find a solution ;-).

      But believe me, I’ve many gray hairs on my head (and currently writing a book about Android to have a bit fun – ha ha, just kidding – but the book project is real).

  6. Carlos Solano says:

    Works perfect!

    Thank very much. Very helpful.

  7. Algie says:

    Thanks a lot! It really helps!

  8. Harry says:

    Thank you! We have s/w that unfortunately only uses the old HLP file format.

  9. Luiz Yuan says:

    It works! Thank you!

  10. Mark O. Hammontree says:

    I ran into this problem also, and am trying to find a solution again.
    Thank you for collecting information about it.

  11. Allen Chen says:

    It work !! Thank you !!

  12. Günter Born says:

    Just an update. I just received the following message:

    Title: November Update (KB3000850) breaks legacy .HLP WinHelp update (KB917607)…

    Hi All,

    We are working on rebuilding KB917607 to resolve this issue. The problem was winhlp32.exe in the OS code tree is just a stub. The hotfix was rebuilt out of the OS code tree and included winhlp32.exe, and since it then had a newer version than the OOB (out of band) 917607 download, it overwrote it. The new 917607 will have a newer build number, which will resolve this issue.

    Thanks,

    Ray Ackley

    Windows Debugging Team

  13. Jan says:

    WINHLP32.EXE does work in WINDOWS 8.1!
    This worked fine for me today, after a lot of searching and trials.
    Download winhlp32.exe (.msu) for Windows 8.1 from:
    https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=40899
    Install it as administrator.
    Download “KB917607-Fix” (a zip file) from http://1drv.ms/1AkM3gv
    Extract it and copy winhlp32.msu to the same map.
    Run KB917607-Fix.cmd as administrator

    • Marko says:

      Hi, can you provide alternative link to zip file with script, since I cann’t access it from link above.

  14. NF Smith says:

    My new Lenovo apparently came with November Update (KB3000850) pre-installed. . . in any event, I cannot uninstall it. There is no option to do that when right clicking it.

    Anyway, the zip file at http://1drv.ms/1AkM3gv is not there any longer, and I was wondering whether a copy was obtainable anywhere?

  15. Karsten says:

    I ran into the same problem.
    Unfortunately I cannot find neither the KB917607-Fix.cmd nor the KB917607-Fix.zip files.
    Jan, could you please re-post a working link?
    THANKS!!

    • guenni says:

      Jan posted exactly, what the workaround describes above – and the onedrive link is still valid. I’ve just checked ist (16. May 2015, Google Chrome, login to my Live.com account).

  16. JD says:

    Hi all – I ran into the same problem with the MS “fix” not fixing the broken Help file on my ASUS tablet running 32-bit Windows 8.1.

    Per Jan’s instructions above, I found the KB917607-Fix.zip file at http://1drv.ms/1AkM3gv today, downloaded it, extracted the file KB917607-Fix.cmd to a folder on my desktop, then copied the Windows8.1-KB917607-x86.msu file to the same folder (you folks who got skunked trying to get the zip file recently should check the link again).

    I then opened a command prompt with Admin privileges, launched KB917607-Fix.cmd and received the output:
    C:\Users\Me\Desktop\TEMP\KB917607-Fix>KB917607-Fix.cmd
    1 file(s) copied.
    1 file(s) copied.
    1 file(s) copied.
    1 file(s) copied.

    Done.

    Press any key to Exit

    After doing this the Help file worked fine! Many thanks for everyone’s comments and especially to Jan for providing the fix!

  17. Giovanni says:

    It works perfectly!!

    Many thanks.

  18. Keith Diehl says:

    Thanks so much for fixing the help function so I can continue using my antique version of C++ Builder. You saved me an expensive upgrade.

  19. IVAN says:

    Thanks a lot, It Works fine and too easy.
    Muchas Gracias, funcionó correctamente y muy fácil.

  20. Bill Pierce says:

    Thanks very much for the fix, which enabled me to call up the Help files again in a couple of legacy Windows apps. It looks as if Microsoft stepped on its own foot.

  21. Joost says:

    Finally a fix, despite offering this as a zip-file on http://1drv.ms/1AkM3gv (which was there alright)
    This problem has been a PITA for months…..
    It would be nice if this would be fixed via a normal update.

  22. Sarvelio Navarro says:

    Excelente aportacion, funcion perfecto, estoy ayuda a leer archivos en el viejo formato .hlp en windows 8.1, mis pasos fueron: 1. instalar la actualizacion de microsoft, 2.bajar el script y descomprimirlo, 3.coloque el archivo de la actualizacion de microsoft en el mismo directorio del script, 4. corri el script como adminstrador, 5.luego hice clic en el archivo de actualizacion ya modificado, 6. me mostro el error de la ruta no especificada y por ultimo prove y listo, muy agradecido al dueño de este blog!!! desde Guatemala

  23. Pingback: WinHlp32: Fix für KB917607-Problem veröffentlicht | Born's Tech and Windows World

  24. Jay Liddell says:

    Thank you very much! Worked like a charm!

  25. Ernesto Vera says:

    Wunderbar. It works perfect. Thanks a lot.

  26. tolits says:

    Windows8.1-KB917607-x64 please help I need this help file to be installed but it says to me not applicable I have win 8.1 64bit

  27. Arska says:

    Just downloaded Windows8.1-KB917607-x64 fix and it gets stuck on install process right at the beginning. Just a small windows with title “separate windows update install” and below that there is the install progress bar continuously running (forever). It will not install. This has to be killed thru task manager. What is happening here?
    Syetem is win 8.1 pro and media center Acer 64bit aspire E15

    • guenni says:

      Probably the security updates that has been added since 2014 are blocking successful install – but I’m not sure.

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