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Windows Installer Utility
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David Hartsock
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August 7, 2009 - 2:51 am
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[quote="Selahgal":1sgdcvkk]"Can I really delete this silly thing [Windows Installer] without causing problems?"

and

"I have several programs that have 'start up' lists in them, but how do I know which list is the one windows is really using each time I start my computer?"
[/quote:1sgdcvkk]
Answer #1
Most programs need quite a bit of information to be installed; registry entries created and/or changed, folders created, files placed in the appropriate places, permissions set, and more. This is a pretty complicated process, and one that used to have to be done manually (here are the instructions! Do these 50 steps to install your program while standing on one leg and rubbing the top of your head). In these modern times we have something called an installer, and there are many different ones. What an installer does is allow the programmer to automate all of these steps and combine the instructions and the needed files into one simple file that greatly simplifies program installation for the user.

The user downloads one file which, when double clicked, will open a nice graphical interface for the user to interact with. As the user answers questions, or clicks next, the program automatically creates the necessary registry entries, folders, Start Menu entries, shortcuts, etc and copies all needed files to the locations they need to be. All done in the background with only basic intervention required from the user.

Now we've got one file, like a container, with instructions and the files needed for the program inside of it. There needs to be something to interpret the instructions. In most installers this is included in the file. So you have one file that is a container for instructions, files, and a method to interpret the instructions. Sounds great and works well for most programs!

The problem for Microsoft is that they deal with thousands and thousands of files, so including a method to interpret instructions in each installation package is redundant. There are also many of the instructions that are redundant from installation to installation. Microsoft wrote their own installer, which they include as part of Windows, and files that call the installer generally use the msi file extension. By doing this they can reduce the download sizes of their installations (saving lots of bandwidth and time) and provide a standard installer for their developers and developers of other programs to use.

So you can see that removing the Windows Installer can present all kinds of problems. Updates may not work. Microsoft programs won't install/uninstall. Many non Microsoft programs won't install/uninstall

Answer #2
Programs that start automatically are triggered by the same methods (registry, task manager, etc) so each of these programs have the same exact information available to them. The problems arise when every utility program in the world thinks they have to implement this functionality. When that happens you end up with several programs that seem to display the same information (and generally do). However, not all programs display the info from all the locations. Many just display the data from most common locations. I like Startup.cpl from Mike Lin. It doesn't give you additional info about the programs, but it is easy to use and integrates with the control panel.

Selahgal,
Please don't think we are suggesting you reinstall as an 'easy out' for us. We have no problems walking you through troubleshooting your existing problem, or through a reinstall. We are just pointing out that problems like this fall under the rule of diminished returns. It would take much more time to narrow down the cause of your Windows Installer problem than to reinstall.

Here's a simple example of what will be involved to troubleshoot your problem:
Judging by your description I would guess it is related to a program that has hooked into the windows explorer.exe process.
You would need to disable any startup program that isn't absolutely necessary. Then you would have to use some high level tools to disable anything that hooks into explorer.exe - a mistake here could make your Windows installation completely unusable!
You would then have to enable each startup program one at a time and see if it helps.
You would then have to enable each program that hooks into explorer.exe and see if it helps.
When you find the offending program you would need to run the Windows Installer Cleanup tool that Ziggie mentioned above.
You would then reinstall the program if you really needed it, and only if you really needed it.

The above process would take some time and a lot of effort. Making a mistake while messing with system hooks or the Installer Cleanup utility could literally ruin your OS (requiring a complete reinstall and possible loss of data, unless you have access to specific hardware to recover it) and/or loss of programs and program data.

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Selahgal
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August 27, 2009 - 1:36 pm
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Well, we finally did it. We reinstalled windows about two weeks ago.....and have been picking up the pieces every since! For some reason, reinstalling windows put many things 'back' to when it was originally installed two years ago when we bought our computer. Things like bookmarks and address books. SO, been building those back up again. I suppose the whole experience was a good housecleaning anyhow. At least that darn windows utility box stopped popping up! LOL

Thanks so much for all the help and assistance I got here. You all are the BEST!!!

Oh yeah, while trying to re-establish my desktop icons, I've noticed that some shortcuts don't have arrows beside them and some do. I would like to have my curser hover over a shortcut and reveal all the folders within it without having to actually CLICK the shortcut. This happens whether I select 'paste new shortcut' or 'create new shortcut' or 'create new folder'.

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Jim Hillier
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August 28, 2009 - 5:23 pm
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Hey Selahgal - Well done you!!

[b:2n8xrex5][i:2n8xrex5]"For some reason, reinstalling windows put many things 'back' to when it was originally installed two years ago when we bought our computer. Things like bookmarks and address books."[/i:2n8xrex5][/b:2n8xrex5]

LOL....That's exactly what it's supposed to do. You could have created a backup of your bookmarks, address book and other settings, saved them to external media and then imported them back into the newly installed OS. Something to keep in mind for next time.......NEXT TIME!!!!.....Shock, horror!! LOL

[b:2n8xrex5][i:2n8xrex5]"I've noticed that some shortcuts don't have arrows beside them and some do"[/i:2n8xrex5][/b:2n8xrex5]

The arrows indicate that the shortcut leads to a file/folder....there will generally not be an arrow associated with shortcuts to things like; Word docs, Excel spreadsheets and system items such as the Recycle Bin.

[b:2n8xrex5][i:2n8xrex5]"I would like to have my curser hover over a shortcut and reveal all the folders within it without having to actually CLICK the shortcut"[/i:2n8xrex5][/b:2n8xrex5]

Not sure that is possible from within XP, maybe via some 3rd party software...dunno. Generally the balloon info you get when hovering over a desktop icon will only reveal the file/folder location. Changing that particular setting (turning on or off) requires a registry edit...not recommended! A general setting can be enabled/disabled via: StartControl PanelFolder Options. Click on the 'View' tab and scroll down to the option..'Show pop-up description for folder and desktop items'. Placing a checkmark in the box next to that item will turn them all on, removing the ckeckmark will turn them all off.

cheers...JIM

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Mindblower
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August 29, 2009 - 10:29 am
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There is a FREE utility software which removes the "[b:im1694fn]arrow[/b:im1694fn]" as well as "[b:im1694fn]shortcut to[/b:im1694fn]", plus a lot (and I do mean LOT more). What is even better is that they've just released newer versions (have not checked out what's changed). Click the link below for more info, d/l and enjoy, Mindblower!

http://www.tweaknow.com/

"Light travels faster than sound;
That is why some people seem bright until you hear them speak"

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Selahgal
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August 29, 2009 - 11:24 am
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What I figured out was to create a new FOLDER on the desktop and then put shortcuts IN them. So when I open the Desktop 'list' ... arrows appear to the side of the folder showing me what shortcuts are inside the folder ... then I can select what I need from that list.

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Jim Hillier
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August 29, 2009 - 7:37 pm
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Yes, well that's terrific Selahgal but it isn't what you asked, i.e...[i:1swu1sud][b:1swu1sud]"I would like to have my curser hover over a shortcut and reveal all the folders within it"[/b:1swu1sud][/i:1swu1sud]

What you now have is the other way round, i.e....hovering the mouse cursor over a [b:1swu1sud]folder[/b:1swu1sud] reveals all the [b:1swu1sud]shortcuts[/b:1swu1sud]. That is frack to bunt!!!

Just so long as you have it the way you want. May I suggest you take a look at this nice freeware from Stardock which is designed specifically to help tidy and organise desktop items (note the 'hide' and 'reveal' feature):
http://www.stardock.com/products/fences/

cheers....JIM

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Selahgal
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August 29, 2009 - 9:15 pm
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Oppsie! I tend to think of everything on the desktop as a 'shortcut'. DOH. Sorry for the mix up. Well, I got it working finally.

Thanks for the help and info! I'll check out stardock!

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