No sooner had Microsoft released the second beta of Internet Explorer 8, then it warned users of Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) might not be able to uninstall either the service pack or IE8 in some circumstances.
This is not unusual. When Microsoft released SP3 last May it warned users that they wouldn't be able to downgrade from IE7 to IE6 without uninstalling the service pack.
The issue arises only under a specific set of circumstances. It only affects XP users who installed beta 1 of IE 8 (issued in March) and then XP SP 3 (issued in May). That's the scenario as described by Jane Maliouta, a Microsoft program manager, on the IE Blog.
In that situation, a dialog box pops up alerting the user that a service pack was installed after the installation of beta 1, and if they continue it becomes permanent. That may sound dire, but your system can be upgraded in the future. "You will still be able to upgrade to later IE8 builds as they become available, but you won't be able to uninstall them," Maliouta wrote on the blog post.
She recommended that users instead first uninstall Windows XP SP3, then uninstall IE8 Beta 1, then reinstall XP SP3 and finally, IE8 Beta 2. That could translate into a few hours of reboots given many updates and fixes have been issued for XP since SP3 shipped.
Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff said the hassle for users is a result of the legacy of ties between IE and the operating system. "While you can have a philosophical argument about putting an application in the OS, there are still a lot of low-level hooks between the two," he told InternetNews.com. "They increased that with IE 7 because IE 6 was notoriously insecure. So this is one of those things where they are trying to do what's right and you got some lock in."
Windows Vista users aren't getting off easy, either. IE8 Beta 2 will automatically uninstall Beta 1 on an XP machine before installing itself, but for Vista users, they have to manually uninstall Beta 1 before they can install the second Beta.
Installing IE 8 Beta 2 on Vista requires several files be updated, so installing the new browser will require some updates to the system anyway. The IE 8 installer will perform a check to verify these files are present, and if not, the install will stop.