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The Fine Art of Debugging Someone Else’s Stuff

For a portion of this afternoon, I found myself frustrated with Microsoft.

I was attempting to install Microsoft’s Visual Studio Express onto my machine so I could do some custom development. Everytime I did, the installer would stall out at 100% with the only thing letting me know what was wrong was a simple message that read “Setup is loading installation components. This may take a minute or two.” 

I thought at first the error might have been coming from the .Net 3.5 package, however, even after removing more .Net packages that I felt was safe, that resolved nothing.

I then tried to google the problem to no available. People had similiar issues… Like log files that would report the error: Setup.exe: GetGlobalCustomProperty – Property: {AA62DF98-3F2C-11D3-887B-00C04F8ECDD6} – PropertyName: Maintenance Mode – Value: 0, etc. But really, non of them could solve the problem for me. I probably Googled for close to an hour, reading forums, etc, before deciding that this was going to be fruitless.

I then tried something I should have done in the first place. I opened procmon (a free tool from Microsoft) to see what the computer was doing while it stalled out.  About every 5 seconds or so, setup.exe was attempting to write to drive G: on my computer… Something that would be fruitless considering Drive G: was a virtual CD burner designed to work only with itunes (see: Noteburner). So I hopped into the Windows device manager and disabled the drive. Sure enough, the installer fired right up and I was on my way. The moral of the story: use procmon to find what setup is doing.

It’s funny, because now that I look back on it, something that people were suggesting might have pointed me to the right direction had anyone mentioned why the fix worked… The fix I kept running into was to disable your network connection… I’m betting this fixed it for some people because it would disable some read-only network shares that the software would have a hard time writing to, similiar to the problem I was having with my CD Burner… Strange how that works. Now if only I could figure out why Microsoft was trying to write a temp file to my CD rom drive… I’d be golden.

Hopefully someone finds this post useful in the future.. I tried to embed the words that I was searching for in the post to hopefully help people stumble on it ;-). IF you are someone that this turns out to help, please post a comment… Even if the year is 2010 :-).