18, 1997, On-Line Only
Removing Browser From
Windows 95 Is Easier Done Than Said
Microsoft, apparently on a mission to make Judge Thomas Penfield
Jackson's order separating Internet Explorer from Windows 95 look
foolish, wants OEM licensees to obey the order and delete 228 files,
rendering not only IE, but also Win 95, inoperable.
A Computer Reseller News Test Center analysis concluded
Microsoft's position is pure politics. IE can be disabled by
removing one EXE file and one desktop shortcut. But the preliminary
order, issued on Dec. 11 by the U.S. District Court, wants IE
removed, not disabled.
The court decision defines IE 3.0 as the product Microsoft
"distributes at retail as 'Internet Explorer 3.0.' " It
ignores the all-important OEM version (OEM Service Release 2.0, or
OSR 2.0, issued in August 1996) that includes both the complete
operating system and IE 3.0.
The difference is enormous. Of the retail product's 228 files,
some have nothing to do with IE. They are updates to pre-existing
core Win 95 files, files without which the operating system simply
will not run.
How many? Microsoft officials will not say. They refused to
identify which files relate solely to IE and not to Win 95 itself.
No wonder: A Microsoft memo states, "You may not elect to
install only selected portions of Internet Explorer 3.0."
Microsoft, adhering to the letter of the court ruling, advises in
the memo that all 228 files are to be removed. Windows subsequently
shatters, and Microsoft blames it on the ignorance of the court.
Rather than spend time deleting all 228 files, an alternative is
to install the original August 1995 version of Win 95, which does
not include IE. But doing so forgoes two years' worth of progress,
including the addition of support for large drive volumes, MMX, and
Next week, Microsoft is due to ship two OEM updates: a December
1997 "supplement" that includes only IE 4.01 and some Win
95 patches, and OSR 2.5, which contains the entire Win 95 OS, IE
4.01, and the patches. Although the ruling does not refer to these
updates, the same issues apply.
How can the removal of a Web browser bring down a seasoned
operating system? It's all a matter of semantics.
Microsoft first bundled IE (version 2.0) with Win 95 in OSR 1.0.
But more important, the Redmond, Wash., software giant bundled many
Win 95 core components with the retail version of IE 3.0.
Microsoft's letter identifies the 228 files contained within 19
compressed cabinet (.cab) files in that retail version that must be
deleted to "de-bundle" this retail version of IE from Win
95. Many of those modules are core components of the Win 95 OS.
RUN32DLL.EXE is a good example of a core component. Win 95 uses
it to handle the briefcase, shortcuts, remote networking, and other
fundamental aspects of the OS.
Removing the Microsoft Foundation Class library (MFC40.DLL),
where many of the building blocks for Win objects reside, makes it
impossible for applications relying on those objects to run
properly, if at all.
The lack of REGSVR32.EXE, used primarily to register programs,
makes adding new applications to the system a trying task.
What does it really take to disable IE? Simply deleting
IEXPLORER.EXE and its shortcut is all that is required.
To see if that would work without harming a system, the CRN Test
Center examined IEXPLORER.EXE with QuickView, a file-viewing utility
bundled with OSR 2.0.
If that executable was a critical component other programs and OS
components relied on, QuickView would list the names of routines
(called "entry points") inside IEXPLORER.EXE that other
programs could call upon to make the program do work. No such
routines were listed. QuickView described the program "File is
executable (i.e. no unresolved external references)," which
means it has no entry points for programs to call on.
To guarantee that no programs were using IEXPLORER.EXE by simply
running the whole program in the background (as opposed to just a
piece of it), the Test Center removed IEXPLORER.EXE from one system,
rebooted it, and ran several programs, including Netscape's own
browser without negative effect. It certainly kept IE from working,
As far as the Test Center can determine, a few programs,
including AT&T WorldNet, The Microsoft Network, and the Personal
Web Server, would not operate properly. AT&T WorldNet and
Microsoft have an agreement whereby the service only uses IE,
according to Microsoft. An attempt to use those components simply
produces an error message requesting that IE be installed; it does
not bring down the OS.
- John Yacono co-wrote this story with Eric Elgar