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BlizzardFly - John C. Kirk

Mar. 9th, 2010

07:30 pm - BlizzardFly

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I recently looked at a computer where Internet Explorer kept crashing, and it turned out that a particular add-on was responsible. If you have a similar problem, these steps may help you to solve it.

The original problem went like this. When anyone started IE on the machine, it would start to connect to their homepage, then display an error:

Internet Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close.

It would then attempt to recover from this error by re-opening the tab:

This tab has been recovered

However, this would immediately crash again, giving the same error as before. In order to avoid an infinite loop, IE would then stop trying to load up the website:

Website restore error

In a situation like this, there's a simple diagnostic test: try running Internet Explorer without any add-ons. To do that, go to:
Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Internet Explorer (No Add-ons)

When I did that, IE opened fine, and displayed the homepage without any errors. So, this proved that one of the add-ons was responsible. The next step was to determine which one. This machine had old versions of Java and Adobe Reader installed, so I upgraded them to the latest version in case it would help, but it didn't. It also had an old version of Flash, but the simplest way to update that is to go to the Adobe website, which I couldn't do while IE kept crashing.

In IE, I went to the Tools menu, then clicked "Manage Add-ons". Scrolling down the list, this one caught my attention:

Manage Add-ons

The name was pretty generic ("Downloader Class"), but the publisher was "(Not Verified) BlizzardFly". The "Not Verified" bit means that the add-on hasn't been digitally signed; that doesn't necessarily mean that it's bad, but it's certainly a warning sign.

I couldn't find any useful information about BlizzardFly on the web; the nearest thing I could find was the Blizzard Downloader (used for World of Warcraft), but I don't know whether it's related.

Anyway, it was simple enough to test my theory: I disabled that add-on, then ran IE normally, and it worked fine. However, enabling/disabling add-ons is user specific, so anyone else who used that machine would also have to disable that add-on to stop IE from crashing. That's not ideal, so it's obviously better to remove that add-on altogether.

Clicking the "More information" link shown above wasn't particularly helpful:

More information

Ideally I would be able to click the "Remove" button, but it was disabled. I then checked "Add/Remove Programs" in Control Panel, but this didn't appear in the list of applications, so I couldn't uninstall it that way. I then had a look in the Windows folder, and I found two relevant files:

The DLL file is the one mentioned above, i.e. the actual add-on. Running the uninstall program removed the add-on, although it didn't display any messages on completion. I then deleted these two files manually.

I wouldn't really class this as malware; my guess is that it used to work properly on an older version of IE, but it's not compatible with IE8. (I've seen similar problems with old versions of the Google Toolbar.)

Anyway, that machine is now working properly, which is good. In a situation like this, it's tempting to say "Meh, IE sucks, use Firefox/Chrome/whatever instead", but it's not really fair to blame Microsoft for problems caused by third party add-ons.



[User Picture]
Date:March 9th, 2010 08:03 pm (UTC)
What you can blame MS for is not having a good structure for installing, controlling and removing said add-ons, something Firefox does exceedingly well; in fact its killer app, I'd say.
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[User Picture]
Date:March 11th, 2010 09:11 pm (UTC)
Does anyone on your firendslist actually use IE?
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
Date:March 11th, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)
I don't know, but I'd guess that a couple of people do. There may be other people who don't use it themselves, but do tech support for friends/relatives who do use it.

If you mean "Why am I posting something that will be irrelevant to everyone who reads it?" then there are a couple of reasons. Firstly, as I mentioned above, I couldn't find any information about BlizzardFly when I did a Google search. So, by posting this, it may show up in future search results for other people who investigate that add-on. This has certainly been the case for some of my other tech posts, e.g. I posted about HP printer drivers in Feb 2006 and got comments from random people in August 2007, October 2007, and March 2008.

Another issue is that I can refer people to this directly. For instance, if my colleagues encounter a similar problem then they can look at this to see how I solved it. Also, if I'm job hunting then I can use this as an example of technical writing.

I have thought about setting up a separate tech blog. However, it's then a question of how far I take it - do I have separate blogs for cooking and comics too? For now, it's simplest to keep everything in one place, but I use cut-tags so that it's easy for people to scroll past if they're not interested. One of these days I need to update my main website, so I'll copy some of these posts over there.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
Date:March 11th, 2010 09:49 pm (UTC)
Actually, I wasn't meaning that, I was just curious. I know very few people who use IE, with most people I meet seeming to use the Windows or Mac ports of Firefox (and it's not like there are still websites which only work in IE, or at least I haven't encountered any myself in about five years now, anyway). Now, my sample is very biased and not representative of the general public, but I would have expected that your circle of acquaintances to be similarly selective.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
Date:March 11th, 2010 10:21 pm (UTC)
Ah, fair enough :)

I move in different circles, and some people I know are more techie than others. For instance, most of the people I know in SJA will still use IE, although they probably don't read my blog.

Regarding websites, I can think of a few examples off the top of my head. I'd prefer it if they were compatible with other browsers, but for now it's a choice between using IE and not using the website at all.

* Outlook Web Access.

This has two options: the "light" version and the full version. To quote the blurb: "The Light client provides fewer features and is sometimes faster. Use the Light client if you are on a slow connection or using a computer with unusually strict browser security settings. If you are using a browser other than Internet Explorer 6.0 or later, you can only use the Light client." For instance, if you use the Light version, one restriction is that you can't open extra mailboxes.

* ADP.

This is a company that offers payroll/HR solutions. They only support Internet Explorer - if I try to connect to their portal using Firefox then it says "Incompatible Browser". So, if your company uses ADP, and you want to book annual leave or view your payslips, you have to use IE.

* Immediacy CMS.

This only supports IE6 and IE7 (or at least the version I'm using does). No IE8, which means you're out of luck if you use Windows 7, and no other browsers.
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