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Microsoft Pushes Office for Mac 2011 14.5.0 Update — Beware, it’s a Double-Edged Sword [Updated]

Posted on May 13th, 2015 by

Microsoft has released Office for Mac 2011 version 14.5.0 with patches for a remote code execution vulnerability that exists in Microsoft Office software when it fails to properly handle objects in memory. The software update is available for Mac OS X version 10.5.8 or a later version of Mac OS.

The Office for Mac 2011 update applies to the following Microsoft software: Office for Mac 2011, Microsoft Excel for Mac 2011, Microsoft PowerPoint for Mac 2011, and Microsoft Word for Mac 2011.

However, before updating, Mac users should beware, it comes to you as a double-edged sword: while Office for Mac 2011 14.5.0 fixes security bugs, it also opens an Outlook bug.

Image of Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 14.5.0 Update notice

Microsoft described the vulnerability (CVE) resolved in this update, as follows:

CVE-2015-1682 : Remote code execution vulnerability exists in Microsoft Office software when the Office software fails to properly handle objects in memory. Exploitation of this vulnerability requires that a user open a specially crafted file with an affected version of Microsoft Office software. An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could run arbitrary code in the context of the current user. If the current user is logged on with administrative user rights, an attacker could take complete control of the affected system. Microsoft's security team addressed the vulnerability by correcting how Microsoft Office parses specially crafted files.

Normally we strongly encourage all users download and install such updates immediately. After all, the new Office for Mac 2011 fixes a remote code execution vulnerability. However, the update, as numerous reports are suggesting, can be a double-edged sword.

Before you consider updating to the latest Office for Mac 2011, there have been reports of a bug in it that can "render the Outlook email software useless." According to discussions among the Apple community, upon updating your Microsoft software, "the main [Outlook] email window is missing and emails cannot be sent/received."

At MacInTouch, a user by the name Graham Needham recommended to not install the update until Microsoft issues a new, fixed update. If you have already updated, he said:

If you have already installed and have a (Time Machine) backup you can simply delete the newly updated Microsoft Office 2011 folder in your Applications folder and restore the whole Microsoft Office 2011 folder back to your Applications folder. This will restore v14.4.9 (or the latest version you backed up) and everything will work again until Microsoft issues a fixed update.

This is what they call a pickle of a situation.

If you're feeling lucky — or do not use Outlook for email — Mac users can apply these updates by using Microsoft's AutoUpdate application, or you can visit the Microsoft Download Center to get the Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 14.5.0 Update (113.6 MB).

Editor's note: May 22, Update

Microsoft has quietly released Office for Mac 2011 14.5.1 with fixes for the Outlook bug.

The Microsoft support page made note of the issues the 14.5.1 update fixes, saying:

This update fixes an issue that causes the main window not to open in Outlook for Mac 2011.

Furthermore, the update includes all of the security fixes for vulnerabilities resolved in the Office for Mac 14.5.0 update.

Apparently Microsoft is not yet pushing the update to Macs, instead, users are required to find the update and download it directly from the Official Microsoft Download Center. As of writing, using the Microsoft AutoUpdate to check for software updates still asks users to install the botched Office 2011 14.5.0 update, which is odd, to say the least.

To get the latest Microsoft security updates we encourage all Mac users to install the Office for Mac 2011 14.5.1 Update (113.6 MB).

[Thanks to The Mac Security Blog reader "Ken Fitzpatrick" for the heads up.]
  • Alan Mimms

    This one bit me. Thanks to TimeMachine I’m back in business, I hope.

  • http://www.bamatone.net SportingChap

    WTF. Why would MS continue to offer this update with a bug this big? I have a Time Machine backup at home I can use, but come on… Absolutely ridiculous.

    P.S. Thank you for this post!

  • http://www.mayer.info/ Jean-Francois Mayer

    I have installed it. I use Outlook for some email addresses (mostly those associated with lists): I have not noticed any issue until now, and I have tens of thousands of messages. Probably it does not impact all users in the same way. (I am on MacPro, running Yosemite 10.10.3)

  • WriterGuy10

    Please be aware this update has a BIG BUG! For a percentage of users, it screws up Outlook on the Mac. I could not access any of my inboxes, which means you can’t read any of your mail. You can create NEW emails, but that’s it.

    Fortunately, I had a time machine backup and replaced my entire Microsoft Office folder (all 1.25GB) with a pre-14.5.0 version.

  • Tracy

    Not very happy, have already installed and don’t have time machine back-up!!

    MS should remove this immediately and sort it out! Hate using online emails!

  • Max

    Just thought I would chip in here….
    My wife had same problem after recent Mac 2011 update. Outlook 2011 main window had vanished but curiously menu bar still activated as though Outlook was working fully in the background. My work around was simply to go to Menu Bar/View/ Go To and check Mail and full window returned! I am guessing that the update unchecks this view option so you have to bring it back. Worked for us!

  • Mike Kole

    Installed it and lost Outlook main screen as written 🙁 … Spent 2 hours with MS tech support who deleted old copy, reinstalled 14.4.9 and supposedly all was fixed. Opened Outlook this morning, and it was somehow turned back into 14.5 when I tried to send a mail. Lost screen again, waiting for Tech Level 2 to call back.

    Beware, I was told this morning by MS Tech support it is a Global Problem now.

  • Robert Wilkin

    And it bit me too. I have spent a considerable time today trying to get back to a semblance of normality. I don’t use Time Machine and only back up my working files daily to a NAS, but I’ll look at getting Carbon Copy Cloner to back up application files in future. In the end I got lucky in that I upgraded from a hard drive to an SSD a couple of months ago and I was able to pull Office for Mac 14.4.7 off the old drive and now have Outlook working. Meanwhile, on the Mactopia website, Microsoft seem to be acknowledging there is an issue to be resolved by asking for information about the OSX versions etc of those who have suffered this fate.

  • sefanzed

    There is a temp fix…Opened Terminal, and typed following two commands (first one took several seconds, then the second one was very fast):

    defaults delete com.microsoft.Outlook

    killall cfprefsd

    • Beyors EmLeigh

      this doesn’t work for me. i get this:
      2015-05-15 16:05:53.553 defaults[11621:1873637]
      Domain (com.microsoft.Outlook) not found.
      Defaults have not been changed.

  • sefanzed

    Oh, and one more thing… When you quit Outlook, make sure all of your folders and subfolders on the sidebar are collapsed, otherwise you’ll have to reapply the fix on subsequent launches.

  • http://about.me/egoiste egoiste
  • Bob’s your uncle

    This worked for me, in terminal:

    defaults delete com.microsoft.Outlook; killall cfprefsd

    Better long term solution is to switch to Mac Mail, too bad that Outlook makes that so difficult.

    • Bob’s your uncle

      However, if you quit Outlook you will need to do the same thing again. So long-term solutions seems better and better (albeit a ton of work, tried app for this from App Store, OLM Exporter, but doesn’t work).

      • Bob’s your uncle

        OK, MS seems to have fixed this, see:

        http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=46973

        Works for me.

        As for long term search, if you have a complex folder/sub-folder it is extremely difficult to do (at least for me). As for the OLM exporters, they don’t do what they claim to do in my experience; the calendars produced won’t import into Calendar and categories aren’t retained in Contacts. Don’t know about Tasks, but with other failings, it makes no difference anyway.

        • oldforger

          This works for me too. Thank you for getting me up and running again faster than Microsoft appear to be able to.

  • DoubleDoc

    Replacing full MS Office folder – without previous deletion – by the full MS Office folder of the non-updated version from Time Machine a few hours before fixed the problem on my computer (“replace”). Very easy once you dare to do it. DoubleDoc

  • williedillo

    Time Machine Backup Solved My Problem. Deleted the current MS Office 2011 folder in Applications. Restored the backup folder from Monday. Started up Outlook and everything worked like before Microsoft’s disaster update.

  • Jerry Cutini

    I just ran into the same problem. I’m quite worried about deleting the entire application folder. Everyone here says its okay after that. I assume the restore function from TimeMachine is easy. Is it as easy as opening TimeMachine and dragging the folder from TimeMachine back to your desktop?

  • Ken Fitzpatrick

    I had exactly the same problem on Wednesday the 20th. I read all of your posts and appreciate the info. I tried to call Microsoft to help me retrieve my Outlook files they were of absolutely no help whatsoever. In fact they were rude when I refused to sign up for a paid technical contract for a problem caused in fact by their critical update.

    I then called Apple Care to help me to restore from my Airport Extreme so I didn’t screw it up as I have never done a restore before. I had the extremely good fortune to speak with an Apple associate who was right on top of it.

    Now pay attention here you probably won’t believe this….this associate already new that Microsoft had put out a fix 14.5.1 on there download site. He gave me the link and suggested that I try to update to see if Outlook will work. Then if it didn’t to get back to him right away and he would walk me through the restore. By golly he was right on. Much more accommodating and knowledgeable than the three Microsoft associates who should have been aware of the problem, informed me of the fix and not tried to scam me into a paid technical support contract.

    All I can say is thanks Apple Care you did it again. Here is the link

    https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=47307

    Finally, my wife got a notice for this foul critical update this morning a day after they had already put up a fix. Microsoft should be ashamed.

  • Rochelle Parry

    Trying to install update. “Running packaging scripts”.. one minute remaining. Been saying that for the last 30 minutes.

  • Stephan Novak

    After updating, the problem I have now with the new version 14.5.1 is that when opening a larger document in Word, and using track changes, the document at one point after ~ 20 minutes cannot be saved – Word says the disk is full, even though I have more than half a TB free still, thus forcing me to quit Word and lose all recent changes. Automatic save does not work as well. This happens every time I use Word. To me the program has become unusable.

    This had occurred in some earlier versions, and has not happened to me in a while with the versions 14.3 and 14.4. So definitely here is another major bug that has resurfaced. I just hope that Microsoft brings a quick fix for this, as it makes my work very difficult.

  • http://www.firstfox.co.uk Marcus

    I’ve just installed the 14.5.1 update about 4 times and every time it says its “finished” it then runs an automatic search for updates and says the 14.5.1 update needs installing!!! I’m not sure why this is happening. Has anyone else had this issue?