Beware: Interactive setup of Explorer 5 sets you up for a crash

John McCormick

Long-time readers know my bias against upgrades: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 starts out on my wrong side, and I want to pass along some advice that could save upgraders a lot of trouble.

There is nothing wrong with Explorer 5, and by all means make the change if you need its features or are having crashes with Explorer 4 or Netscape Navigator browsers. One particular advantage is access to Microsoft Corp.'s automated Windows update service, at www.microsoft.com/windows98/downloads/default.asp.

When you install Explorer 5, don't do it the easy way: Don't just select the streamlined setup on Microsoft's Web site. This is tempting because you only have to download about 500K of files. But a better choice is the full download of about 64M or a CD-ROM version.''

Why the full download? The fast online upgrade runs a significant risk of crashing your computer in a major way. The problem is not in Explorer 5 itself, but rather in the way the upgrade process works.

Not what it seems

The fast 500K download does not give you the actual upgrade files or a full copy of Explorer 5, which are much larger. Instead, the 500K utility manages the upgrade process by downloading the needed pieces over the Internet and installing them on your system one at a time. This is efficient, but what happens if the connection hiccups partway through?

Yep, you guessed it: Explorer 5 won't be fully present yet, but you have corrupted Explorer 4 so it cannot get back online to fix the problem.

Worse yet, Microsoft has woven the browser so intimately into the latest Windows versions that a big browser glitch could crash Windows badly enough to prevent it from rebooting.'' Wise users don't want to reinstall Windows if they can avoid it. I'm not just expressing some theoretical worry about upgrading Explorer via the Internet. Check the newsgroups and you will find many users complaining about this. A lot more are probably complaining to Microsoft directly.

Get the full version even if you have to buy the $7 CD-ROM from www.microsoft.com/windows/IE/.

If you don't know where to find genuine Microsoft downloads, search www.microsoft.com/downloads/default.asp. For Explorer 5, however, this just leads you to the interactive setup that should be avoided.

Windows 95 and NT power users will be interested in a little 65K utility called Tweak UI, which stands for user interface. Download Version 1.1 from www.microsoft.com/windows/downloads/default.asp.

Windows 98 users, unless they have one of the partial installations created by a few PC vendors, already have Tweak UI on their Win98 CDs. Although Microsoft doesn't support the software, it does distribute it, and Tweak UI works well.

John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at poweruser@mail.usa.com.

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