Wednesday, April 26, 2006

IE 7 Beta 2 install woes

Microsoft's folks say that IE 7 Beta 2, even though it is a Beta product, is really quite close to a full public release. On their website, Microsoft has a big advertisement on the download page encouraging the general public to download IE 7 Beta 2 and give it a spin. Unless you are familiar with testing products and are willing to test this product for Microsoft (which means dealing with failures and frustration), then I recommend you DO NOT DO THIS.

OK, sorry for the shouting, but I wanted to make that clear. Here's my experience with IE 7.0 thus far (keep in mind, I am familiar with these things). I downloaded the hefty (11.6MB) package and saved it to my desktop. After posting on this blog yesterday about not knowing whether or not I'd do the install, I thought what the heck! Clicking on the install button brought up a nice looking install screen from IE 7.

Two nice things about IE 7's install: First, it looks for updates to the OS before doing the install. Secondly, it downloads Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool and runs it. Both are good ideas for the average user as it will assist in getting a clean system before the install which, in theory, will aid in security.

So far, so good. I let IE 7 run it's install program as normal. Now, keep in mind that I have several antispyware programs on my PC: Spyware Blaster (which locks the host file), Spybot Search & Destroy (also locks the host file, but I do not run the tea timer program), Ad-Aware (with Ad-Watch, which is another version of tea timer), Microsoft Antivirus, and Zone Alarm (up to date). I also run Norton Antivirus, but that hasn't seemed to have been an issue. Why is this important? Because as IE 7 installs, it attempts to change a LOAD of different settings that you already have on your browser. For instance, it attempts to change your start page. Sorry, folks, I know Microsoft is infamous for doing this (as Yahoo is for changing the search engine), but this is just plain wrong. A software company, when upgrading, should virtually NEVER, EVER change the user's presets from the prior install. The one caveat to that would be if it actually was a new feature or enhanced performance for the user, but the user should have the right of refusal and it shouldn't be stealth (which it would have been had I not come armed to the teeth).

Now, my homepage is set, as a matter of fact, to IE 7 attempts to change the homepage setting to..? You guessed it, Still, I read that info and decided to deny the change. What difference would it make?

With that, I was asked for a number of other changes. It seems, for instance, that Yascrew changed the search bar to Yascrew's engine (I didn't know - I never use IE except for Windows updates). Sure, I thought, IE can change to MSN's search engine. In fact, I approved all changes except to the home page.

When it was completed, I got an error message informing me that the install of IE 7 failed. I was required to restart my computer and IE 6 would be reinstalled. After restarting the computer, I noted that an error message popped up from Zone Alarm regarding the WININET.dll. Uh oh, there was the first sign of trouble.

Scanning the desktop I noted that the IE logo had changed. Clicking on the logo brought up another error for WININET.dll. In other words, IE would not start. I decided to open the control panel to add/remove programs. Sure enough, the PC indicated that IE 7 was loaded; not IE 6. I tried to remove IE 7, but got an error stating that only the user who installed the program could remove it. Well, I was logged in under the same account I used to install it, so this was useless advice.

Digging further, I attempted to find the uninstall procedure. During that time, I came across some logs and looked through them. I noted that the logs indicated that the install failure occurred when I denied the change to the start page. Assuming that is what caused my later problems, that it wrong on so many levels. Eventually, I did locate the uninstall procedure and it either failed or did nothing. *sigh*

At this point, I was/am at a loss. Attempting a system restore failed with another error popping up several times over the same dll file. Another restart and another control panel option also failed. My main concern is getting the dll problem resolved so that Nero and Zone Alarm are not popping up error messages to me. The secondary concern is getting IE up and running so that I can manage my Windows updates.

After poking around for a while and reading Microsoft's IE support pages, I've reached the conclusion that I'm experiencing 2 separate issues. First is the one with permissions and the registry. I have no idea why that is failing. In theory, I should be able to remove IE 7 or roll it back to IE 6. The registry entry that it says it failed on does have full permissions - it always has. I did try to reinstall the program (go through the whole procedure again as a repair process and then accept all of the changes and/or turn off the antispyware warnings) however the install program recognizes that I have IE 7 already installed on the machine and exits. That's less than helpful.

My second issue involves this wininet.dll file. My guess is that Microsoft changed this file for the new version of IE. In doing so, Microsoft may have inadvertently broken other third party software (in my case, Nero and Zone Alarm and perhaps their own Restore Point system for XP). If that's the case, then they should not be pressing the public to test this program for them. Interfering with third party software in such a manner is not something you want to unleash on the average user.

Now, the slightly good news. I've found 2 sites that describe how to run IE 7 as a stand alone product. Apparently, Microsoft decided not to build this functionality into IE 7 as they have done with past versions of their browser. Developers like to have this capability so that they can test their software on both old and new versions of the browser to ensure compatibility. Doing so on the same machine reduces the risk of any errors being caused by something other than the browser. So, if you're interested in running IE 7 without going through the full install and the possibility of screwing up your machine, try daydream or JonGalloway. Personally, I prefer the latter's solution.

At least I have a version of IE running for Windows updates. I still need to resolve the dll problem. My error has been reported to Microsoft in their bug base. Hopefully I'll hear back from them later today. If that happens, or if I call the support line, I'll post an update here about what resolution, if any, I find.

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