How to download individual updates when using Vista or Windows 7

If you want to get hold of updates for Windows 7 or Vista when you’re running Vista or Win 7 already, you can get the updates via the updates catalog (catalogue): http://catalog.update.microsoft.com/ (the pages require IE of course).

I actually had to run up my virtual xp machine to get hold of that link! I simply couldn’t remember the word “catalog”. Heh.

What inspired this blog entry was that I thought I’d have a go at making a fully up to date disc of Win7 before I put it on my wife’s PC, i.e. mount the wim with imagex, and use dism with the latest updates. Thought that would be fun, but then I couldn’t get hold of the updates of course. Sorted.

Removing Troublesome Crapware

My mum just got a new Dell Studio laptop. The thing completely rocks and blows even my desktop PC out of the water. There’s a small problem, and that is of course that it’s a Dell and it came filled with crapware! So naturally I’ve removed it all. However one of the applications was a real pig….

The culprit was the “Dell DataSafe Local” client. It has two components, a support component and an application component. The support part removed easily, I expect it was just documentation. However when I ran the uninstaller for the application part (elevated of course – this is a Vista x64 machine) the uninstall would begin but after a little while taskmgr shows it’s using 100% of one of the CPU cores (thank god for dual-core!) and the memory usage is rising heading for infinity, a nice little memory leak. Great that’s not going to work.

So I think maybe a reboot and a repair then uninstall again will help. No, can’t do that as the installation source media is not on the original application support DVDs. Most likely it’s buried somewhere inside a hidden .wim file on the support partition – I’m not downloading the WAIK on a brand new laptop just to get to that! OK so now what? Surgically remove it from the registry and unregister all the dll’s? No way, it’s hundreds of MB and I expect it’ll leave crap everywhere and mess up this lovely new laptop in the process.

I’ll stop wasting time…the answer with most problems like this is to use the fantastic sysinternals tools from the godlike Mark Russinovich (he has a great blog by the way). So I grab psexec, drop to an elevated command line and – the naughty bit – I run a cmd.exe as the system user… running the setup from there as system works like a charm and the crapware is dust 🙂
In all likelihood the problem was the usual crap installshield uninstaller and it was probably wrongly changing elevated states so couldn’t gain access to the files it needed to delete.

Anyway, if you have trouble uninstalling something, try removing it as the system user using psexec, it more than often will sort the problem good and proper.

How to remove “Dell DataSafe Local”:
click the start button
cmd.exe (ctrl+shift+alt return) [this runs cmd.exe as an elevated user]
cd\
psexec -d -s -i %comspec% [runs cmd.exe as system, interactively, and without waiting for it to close]
– switch to the new cmd window that has opened –
"C:Program Files (x86)\InstallShield Installation Information\{0ED7EE95-6A97-47AA-AD73-152C08A15B04}\setup.exe"

Download Orca for Vista

There’s a new version of Orca available (4.5.6001) that is suitable for Vista. You get it by downloading and installing the Windows Installer 4.5 SDK, available here (6.79 MB).

After the SDK is installed it will have delivered the installer for Orca into the program files folder (“%ProgramFiles%\Windows Installer 4.5\SDKTOOLS\orca.msi”). At this point you install it by double-clicking.
I recommend you archive the orca.msi file somewhere for the next time you need it.

Enjoy 🙂

Put Internet Explorer back on the Vista desktop

Microsoft keep being forced into how we are allowed to use Windows. With each new version of Windows and IE they’ve been removing IE from the desktop and making it harder to put it back.
I keep seeing the same thing all the time on users’ computers – they want IE on the desktop, can’t find out how to do it properly, and end up creating a shortcut to it. It does the job but they’ve lost the right-click functionality they had before
By properly of course I mean that like the Outlook icon (which they also took away – which I show how to fix here), you can right click on the Internet Explorer icon and get to your internet options easily.
Here’s how you get it back:-
Copy the following text into notepad, save it as a .reg file somewhere, right-click and import…

For all users on the computer:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerHideDesktopIconsNewStartPanel]
“{871C5380-42A0-1069-A2EA-08002B30309D}”=dword:00000000
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerHideDesktopIconsClassicStartMenu]
{871C5380-42A0-1069-A2EA-08002B30309D}”=dword:00000000

For just the current user:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerHideDesktopIconsNewStartPanel]
“{871C5380-42A0-1069-A2EA-08002B30309D}”=dword:00000000
[HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerHideDesktopIconsClassicStartMenu]
“{871C5380-42A0-1069-A2EA-08002B30309D}”=dword:00000000

After you’ve done that, just refresh the desktop (click on it and press F5) and IE is back.

Photoshop CS3 hangs when you exit

Got myself a new laptop recently with Vista preinstalled and when I installed Adobe Photoshop CS3 I found when I tried to exit the program it would always hang during the exit process. I’d never seen it do that before, but after searching the net I found I wasn’t alone – perhaps I had been lucky up to now.

Anyway after much messing about, reinstalling, trying various things (like turning off UAC and system restore before installing) I found a forum post from someone talking about the FLEXnet Licensing service and how it could be to blame for this stupid behaviour.
Some people said if the service was running it needed stopping and/or removing, others said if it was not running you should start it. Mine was set to manual but was running, so I was suspicious…if it’s manual then something has started it – therefore it must be needed. I wasn’t about to delete it then, and clearly it needed to run.
So I started searching for updates specifically for Macrovision FLEXnet – it is a 3rd party product after all. And low and behold I found a patch on Adobe’s site which nobody had mentioned – in this case for Adobe Acrobat 8 and 8.1. After installing the patch (which I believe replaced a dll) all was well again! Well done Macrovision and Adobe for making crap software.
Since finding the patch I did find a forum post which explains it as something to do with SATA drivers:

Install Vista from a USB device

Today I had the need to install vista from a USB stick. I’ve been having to deal with horrid crappy slow HP tablet PC’s that refuse to boot from external usb cdrom drives, but they happily work from USB sticks.

Anyway, it turns out the way of getting vista onto a usb stick is really easy!
Check this blog entry out: http://kurtsh.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!DA410C7F7E038D!1665.entry

The method requires you to use diskpart to do a clean on your usb stick, make a primary partition and crucially make that partition active. You can then format it to fat32 and give it a drive letter. Last thing to do is then copy on the contents of the Vista dvd to the stick and you’re done! Wow!

Extend Vista’s Activation Dead-line by up to a Year!

It has been discovered that Microsoft have made it possible to delay the activation dead-line on Vista Business installs. Simple as changing a registry key, running a command and rebooting. Definitely script-worthy 😉
Found it on Bink first. Original article here.

Here’s my interpretation of what you have to do:
1. Running un-activated Vista, bring up regedit
2. Set the SkipRearm DWORD to 1 found at the following registry location: HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\SL
3. Close reg-edit and run the following command as an admin: slmgr -rearm

After a reboot the registry key goes back to it’s default 0 value, and you have another 30 days of activation time. Sweet!

Apparently the act of setting the SkipRearm key prevents the activation information from getting wiped when the rearm command is run, so the rearm command just resets the expiry time. Supposedly you can repeat the process to give you a buffer of a maximum of a year.

The original article I’ve linked above starts babbling on about piracy and rubbish like that. Well who cares about that, that’s just home-user rubbish. This kind of thing will make admins very happy. Oh and don’t forget, an un-activated copy of windows can’t get on-demand updates from Microsoft Update can it! Something tells me the scare-tactics of “oh no, dodgy retailers might start selling un-activated Vista!” won’t quite hold any water.