Reload Windows?

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Howard (Howie) Merrill is the Master of the Web Manor website, as well as the author of the wonderful newsletter The Funnies.  Comments, questions, and anything else about Howie's Corner should be sent to Howie.

I am the type that likes to stick with "tried and true" software/hardware and let others debug the new versions. This applies to everything from operating systems like WIN95 to browsers like Netscape. The reason I chose this is that I usually have little need for all the new bells and whistles that new software provides, the older versions have been beaten to death by now, fixes/patches and loads of information is available on the older versions.

Software companies, in a maddening rush to provide the latest and greatest, as well as beat out the competition, publish "generally available" software to the unknowing, hungry users. These users become the "beta testers" of the new software. After much trial and tribulation, these poor souls document the horrors discovered. Eventually fixes, patches, work arounds and such appear on the horizon.

Sticking with the good ole software versions is FAR from a fool proof method of maintaining a healthy PC.

I have as many IPFs, GPFs, Blue screens, and weird bugs as most anyone else. The difference is I can usually find answers in forums, searches, technical newsletters, and maybe even friends and co-workers.

That does not mean I never use new software. I may still be using WIN95, but I have IE5.5, Netscape 4.75, Homesite 4.5a, and other newer versions. This is because in a never ending quest to fix some of the weirdness of WIN95, I have received recommendation to install the newest version (The software vendor first answer to EVERY problem!), re-install the version, de-install the version and re-install the version, and (my favorite)... "Don't use THAT software with our software!".



In one of my more moronic moments, in an attempt to fix my mouse freak problem, where my mouse will suddenly randomly jump all over the screen, clicking in a frenzy, opening and closing various windows that I have never seen before, and changing settings in software to the point that I can NEVER get things back the way they were! After the "normal" fixes like replacing the mouse, upgrading mouse drivers, cleaning out the desktop and reseating boards, to the weird suggestion of Dell Tech Support to switch the plugs for the keyboard and mouse so the mouse is plugged where the keyboard should be and vice versa, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and reload WIN95.

I have had this PC for about 4 years and not once did I venture into this unknown wilderness. Yes, I've reloaded windows on various PCs before, but never on this one. Being the type that tries freeware, shareware, trials, installs, deinstalls, and tinkers with all kinds of stuff, I figured that the famous statement used by most software vendors, "You probably screwed up your operating systems and should reload it.", once probably true.

I knew this would not be fun. Dell does NOT provide the software CD's for the installed software. A windows 95 CD, some driver CDs, and some rather lame documentation was what came with this PC.
I have backups, and most of the Application install files for the more important software just in case I would need to reinstall anything after my trek in windows hell.

Actually, the windows 95 reinstall did not go all that bad. I spent a good amount of time reading websites on the topic, and spent even more time in Microsoft's Knowledge Base. I was pretty comfortable that I would have a working PC when I was done.

What I was NOT prepared for was the carousel ride of installing Homesite, Norton Systemworks, and IE.

When WIN95 is reinstalled, if you HAD IE5, you don't now! I didn't know that. It put me back to IE4 and not to a WORKING version of it to boot! Hmmmmm, this stinks! OK, I have the install files for IE5. I'll just install IE5 over what I have and be done with it. Uh-huh.

The setup file would not execute given me the EXTREMELY useful message which stated something to the effect that I was not able to connect to the site.

I tried all kinds of stuff and finally realized that this message was not the problem but more like the mainframe message manual telling you to fix almost every problem by "Call your system programmer".
In other words, you do not know what you are doing so call someone. Well!

I did a search of my hard drive to see what files were touched by the setup and what was created. Oh lookie there! A log file of what the setup program was doing! I found a rather useless message in the "active setup log" which read:

ERROR: CoCreateInstance on IID_IInstallEngine failed :-2147024888

and tried to search Microsoft as well as Deja Usenet Forums for this error. Nothing. Not one hit on anything to do with this message.

Using my "superior" logic, I determined that this message appeared in a section that had something to do with ActiveX components. Now I do not know squat about ActiveX but I kinda figured from version numbers that I had some version 4 ActiveX DLLs and some version 5. How lovely of Microsoft to get me this out of synch. Oh, I guess I shouldn't blame them. Tucked away in a knowledge base article under a title like, "If you are stupid enough to reload win95 without deinstalling IE5, you deserve what you get bonehead!", they tell you to deinstall IE5 before reloading WIN95. Gee thanks! Too late! What do I do now???!!!?!??!

I got a brainstorm. I wrote down the file names and preformed a restore from my tape backup from 1998 of these particular files. After all, these files were the ones on my PC when IE4 was installed, they MUST be the right versions! Holy mackerel! It worked!!! IE 5 installed without a hitch! I am a genius!!!!


After getting IE5 to work, Homesite would not install. Needless to say, at this point, there is not enough Xanax in the world!

Homesite install goes as far as "Registering Components" and hangs. Dead. Ctrl-alt-del until your fingers bleed. Nothing. Hard boot and sigh.

I've had issues installing Homesite before and Allaire has been EXCELLENT in their support! I mean REALLY excellent! They have called me at home after I sent them an e-mail documenting my install issues and the tech spent the better part of two hours working patiently with me to fix my problems (Which turned out to NOT be their issue!). This is tech support! (Man do I hope that their recent merger with Macromedia doesn't lessen their superior support).

I happen to be an EXPERT registry hacker. I have manually removed every trace of Homesite and Norton Systemworks so many times, I can do it in my sleep (No easy task!). So I hacked to death my registry to remove ANY references to Allaire and Homesite and reinstalled. Same result.

Allaire was stumped and sent the problem to their forum and development staff.

Yet another brainstorm and I discovered that Norton, which monitors installs, was causing the install of Homesite to hang. By disabling all Norton products, I was able to reinstall Homesite finally. Now, we all know (I hope) that when you install software, you should shutdown virus programs and other software, but this software monitors installs and registry updates! It is SUPPOSED to be running when you install software! DUH!!!!

You would think this is the end, but not! After all this hacking, attacking, and smashing head against keyboard, I decided it would be intelligent to use Norton System Doctor to verify the health of my registry, windows files, and such. Mind you, Norton System Doctor does a wonderful job identifying stuff that is a problem, and helps you fix it, IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING!

I clicked on system doctor and immediately got an invalid page fault. After a few cigarettes, a pot of coffee and chasing my neighbors dog for a few blocks, I came back to my senses and decided it was time to deinstall Norton Systemworks (One component at a time) and reinstall the whole suite.

This is the equivalent of performing open heart surgery on yourself! The deinstalls fail for all kinds of random and ugly reasons and once they fail, you must remove the pieces left behind yourself. And they say that grown men don't cry!

A few days, much anti-anxiety meds, and many mistakes later, I got Systemworks installed.

So after many weeks, much heartache, and a large doctors bill, I have WIN95 reinstalled, Homesite back in business, SystemWorks humming, and IE5.5, Netscape 4.75 all in place. Hooray!

Oh, the mouse freaks. Still happening.

Have a nice day.

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Last Revised: 02/03/2001