December 29, 2009
This sad story began with the purchase of the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Blu-Ray, which happened to also include a coupon for a free download of the digital version of the movie from iTunes. I connected to iTunes, using latest version (9.0) on my Windows XP SP3 machine. The download, which should have taken perhaps 15 minutes over my speedy connection, continued for many hours, and during that time managed to download just a few MB of the total 2.1 GB movie. The download finally failed with an iTunes error 9006. Repeated this multiple times; reinstalled iTunes; re-authorized machine, blah blah blah, but no success. Then after much Googling found some suggestions that the problem might be related to a 2 GB file size limit built into IE6, and that apparently iTunes uses IE for its downloads and is therefore subject to this same limit. Sure enough, when I switched to another computer currently running Windows 7, with IE8, the download worked without a problem. My XP machine had never been upgraded from IE6, because I only ever use IE to test web pages for IE6 compatibility. Plus I had previously had a couple of major system problems (i.e. blue screen of death, leading to reinstall of XP) when I upgraded some systems to IE7, so I stopped allowing any IE upgrades on any of my machines. But I figured Microsoft had probably solved any of the upgrade problems that I had previously experienced, so I did a complete system backup, crossed my fingers, and began the upgrade to IE8.
Everything was fine initially. System rebooted without issue. IE8 ran fine. Whew! But then about a day later, Windows Update ran, and on the next reboot -- the dreaded blue screen of death (BSOD). Couldn't even get into safe mode. It is possible that the BSOD was unrelated to the IE8 upgrade, but it sure seems like a likely culprit when this system has been otherwise stable for about two years.
I tried a manual registry restore, which has been a very succesful and expedient solution to multiple past BSOD issues, but this time no luck. So I decided to do a Windows reinstall. Before I started, I did a complete Ghost backup of my unbootable system, which came in very handy later.
One of the issues with a Windows reinstall is that the original Windows CD is usually a lower "Service Pack" than what is currently installed on the machine. In my case, my disk was SP1a, while the installed system had been updated to SP3. So before starting, I created a slipstreamed SP3 version of my XP disk. I have done this many times before, and it always worked. The slipstreamed disk saves a ton of time after the first boot because you can avoid repeating all the old Windows updates. Plus, I had at least one prior problem where I had tried to use the SP1a disk to reinstall on a SP2 machine, and the process managed to break Windows update, because apparently the end result was an incompatible mixture of older and newer versions of the Windows update files. So I created the SP3 disk, and did the reinstall. Everything appeared to be going just fine until the first boot after installation supposedly completed, at which time the system hung at the black Windows XP startup screen with the message "Please Wait..." visible at the bottom for many hours. Finally ran out of patience and did a hard boot, and the next time the system went past the black screen and showed my windows wallpaper and the mouse pointer, but then hung right there with no other signs of life from the machine.
I can't remember exactly the sequence of further troubleshooting, but after many hours of googling and testing different things ( lots of people report similar issues, eg google "xp please wait repair"), I tried one suggestion that was to get into safe mode and remove IE8. That allowed the machine to boot successfully. For a couple of minutes I thought everything was just fine, and had no plans to try IE8 installation again, but then I tried to use Microsoft Money, and just got a blank white screen along with an error message about some kind of "Visual C++" problem. I opened my system logs, and found them filled with
Error Event ID 59
Resolve Partial Assembly failed for Microsoft.VC80.CRT.
Reference error message: the referenced assembly is not installed on your system.
That message had been generated every 5 seconds for the many hours when the black "Please Wait" Windows XP startup screen had been on display. So it appears to me that somehow the upgrade process became stuck because of a problem with the Visual C++ installation that wasn't resolved correctly using the slipstreamed SP3 disk. Perhaps if I had used the SP1 disk, I would not have had the problem -- I just don't know and don't have the patience to try to recreate the situation and try again.
I tried fixing the problem by installing a Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable Package but that didn't help. So then I downloaded a standalone IE8 installer which I ran, and finally, my system seemed to work fine. So ultimately I don't know for sure what went wrong, but it looks to me like trying to do a reinstall of Windows on a system which already had IE8 installed could be a Catch-22 situation, in which there is no way to successfully reinstall without first removing IE8. Someday when I have a few hours free (as if!) maybe I'll try a repair reinstall on an otherwise healthy XP SP3 system with IE8 to try to confirm my theory.
Oh yea... after finally getting the system stable with IE8, the original iTunes Harry Potter file downloaded without any problem. In parallel, I tested and verified on two other XP machines with IE6 that they also failed to download files > 2 GB from iTunes, and that the problem was solved with an IE8 upgrade. And there were no other problems created on those other two machines when I upgraded to IE8.
btw... I had some other problems along the way that I thought I'd document in case it helps someone...
The first time I was careless selecting my Windows XP CD... my original installation had been from a XP Pro OEM SP1a disk, but I grabbed a slightly different XP Pro OEM SP2 disk as my starting point, and slipstreamed SP3. It turns out that the two disks have different product ID's (55274OEM vs 76487OEM) and that those product ID's are preserved even after slipstreaming SP3, so the first time I tried this, I got the "Please Wait..." error, but additionaly I couldn't get into Safe Mode because my system wouldn't let me log in to either regular or safe mode until I activated the system, but it also wouldn't activate, presumably because my product ID didn't match my product key. So I had to restore my harddrive from my Ghost backup, and restart the repair reinstallation using a second disk that was now a slipstreamed SP3 version of the SP1a disk. I found the "Joshua's Key Reader" utility very useful for troubleshooting the product ID problem.
Also, the second time I tried the repair installation, I decided to get smarter about activation. A lot of people doing XP repair reinstalls get into activation Catch-22's like I did, where Windows won't let the user log in until the system is activitated, but the system can't be activated without first getting into Safe Mode to fix some system conflict (eg. network card driver.) After my first activation problem, I decided the second time to manually back up and restore the activation files wpa.dbl and wpa.bak, per these instructions http://www.theeldergeek.com/activation_workaround.htm . That worked fine... I was not prompted to reactivate Windows at all following the second repair reinstallation.
If anyone stumbles across this thread and finds it helps out (or not), let me know!
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