NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, December 2009
A Tale of Two Printers, a Scanner, and a CD Drive
Written by Bruce Preston, president of West Mountain Systems, Inc.,
long-term board member of DACS who conducted the Random Access sessions at the General Meetings
as well as chaired the Microsoft Access SIG, Danbury Area Computer Society, CT
bpreston (at) mags.net (click to email author)

This article has been obtained from APCUG with the author’s permission for publication by APCUG member groups; all other uses require the permission of the author (see e-mail address above).

Printer #1: About two months ago, my friend/dentist called to say that he had a problem with his Epson Stylus CX-3810 Multifunction printer. Usually when he printed, a pop-up window would appear showing the level of his ink cartridges. This had disappeared. In addition he could not get it to appear when he went to the printer’s property page by way of Control Panel > Printers. He had wasted two hours on the phone with Epson's support "somewhere" - they had him uninstall the printer and reinstall it twice, and finally they used the generic "not my problem" cure - they told him to "reinstall Windows." Fortunately he didn't follow that instruction.

Printer #2: About a week ago, I had a problem with my HP OfficeJet 6310, a multifunction printer. It just ceased to respond to print requests, although the scan and copy functions worked just fine. I tried doing a "repair install." HP's large hourglass thing came up for a while, a screen flashed by too fast to read, and the setup utility concluded before asking me what to do. I went to the HP site and found that they had a 38MB download of basic drivers for "Corporate Use Only." Reading the description, it detailed that this was a lightweight install for distributing over a corporate network such that the printer's functions could be shared over a local area network (which I do) without the baggage (not their phrasing) of all the add-on software that the consumer installation puts on each machine. The consumer install puts "HP Director" - a dashboard application, various photo manipulation software, various photo sharing software, and the ubiquitous automatic check for updates application. The one thing that it would lose would be the ability to send a scan to a desktop application at a selected machine by pushing buttons on the printer's control panel – “pushing” the scan to the computer rather than “pulling” it from the computer. This is a feature I don't need. The lightweight install was just what I wanted. In addition, it said that if it found the consumer drivers it would uninstall them. I downloaded it and cranked up the installation program from the command line as instructed. Again, I got the large hourglass, a too-fast-to-read pop-up, and then nothing.

Scanner: About a month ago there was a Q&A Posting on SmartComputing where a reader had a problem with an Epson Perfection 2580 scanner. Upon pushing the scan button he got a message on his computer's display that a DLL was unable to save the file. Previously it had worked fine. He too had not gotten a solution from Epson support.

CD Drive: About two weeks ago a friend of mine in Michigan had a problem with a CD drive. It "just disappeared." When she had installed an upgrade to her antivirus software it had complained about an incompatibility with the CD burner software (the software came with the machine when new). She ran the uninstall program which crashed, and the drive disappeared from the device manager.

What do all of these have in common? It appears that all the problems were caused by corrupted registry entries. It is unknown what might have corrupted the registry entries, perhaps an update from either the vendor or Microsoft - but I won't point fingers without evidence. Whatever the cause, the standard response of “uninstall/reinstall” or “repair reinstall” didn't fix the system.

The good news is that free RevoUninstaller from http://www.revouninstaller.com resolved all four problems in minutes. After uninstalling the broken software we were able to install components without a problem.

RevoUninstaller loads quickly and presents you with a very inclusive list of things that it offers to remove for you. I found it notable that it presented the list within a second whereas the standard Add/Remove Programs takes about a minute to populate on my machine. When you select something to uninstall, it gives you three options:

1)Safe - fast uninstall and a scan of the hard disk for left over files.

2) Moderate - same as Safe with an additional extended scan of the system registry for left over entries.

3) Advanced - Same as Moderate but with a deeper registry scan. Takes a bit more time but finds and/or clears more.

I have always used the "Advanced" option. RevoUninstaller analyzes the application for a moment and then uses the application's native uninstall mechanism first. Upon completion it then does its own digging. When done, it presents you with a tree-view of what it found in the registry with full path to the registry keys. The items it suggests for deletion are shown in bold, and have an adjacent check box. I have always used the SELECT ALL and the DELETE button. Having cleaned the registry of leftover, it then displays a similar page with a list of leftover files, and gives you the same option of selecting files for deletion. Again, I have used SELECT ALL and DELETE to good effect.

Why it works - this is just an educated guess but I suspect it to be accurate. When an application is installed, along with the core .EXE files the vendors often include a multitude of dynamic link libraries - DLLs, which are either provided by the vendor or a third party. These DLLs provide common functionality across products. (For example, almost every application in Windows is likely to make use of COMDLG32.DLL from Microsoft - this Common Dialog module provides the ubiquitous FILE / OPEN, FILE / SAVE, FILE / PRINT dialog boxes. DLLs are activated from the .EXE by way of registry entries. If COMDLG32.DLL has three functions (known as Entry Points) then it would have three registry entries, one for each function. Now suppose an update is installed - it may replace a DLL with a newer one, and may insert a new registry entry to point to the new DLL. But, if some other application also makes use of the DLL that has been replaced, it may break. For this reason when you uninstall something you may see a warning message that asks for permission to remove a component that might be shared.

I suspect that the first two printer problems weren't cured by the reinstall SETUP because the SETUP found either the leftover files or left over registry entries and decided that it wasn't necessary to continue, and thus either skipped a critical step or just decided to bail out. By running RevoUninstaller the machine was wiped clean in such a manner that the SETUP was forced to do all of its operations.

For what it's worth - the HP installer seems to be a homegrown custom module rather than an installer based upon the almost industry standard InstallShield product. I don't know about the Epson installers or the one for the CD drive. There are several products used for creating installations - InstallShield, Wyse, Microsoft's MSI, etc. I won't go so far as to say that the problem is specific to any particular installer product – in fact, they may all be innocent and victims of a sloppy update.

Lastly, I'm not a fan of the various "registry cleaners" as I have found them to be either a scam (We've found 4,513 problems in your registry. We will remove 33 of them, and if you pay us $29.95 and we'll remove the rest!) or to work only on the registry without delving into the innards of related applications. Revo Uninstaller seems to approach the registry from the application's side and work from the outside in, rather than from the registry side and work from the inside out. Again, that's just my educated guess. Be that as it may, I highly recommend RevoUninstaller.

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