FIREFOX WILL NOT INSTALL ON WINDOWS 95
Don Kenney, Essex Junction, VT January 15, 2006
THE PROBLEM Starting somewhere just before Firefox Release 1.0, the Firefox installer will not install Firefox on the original Windows 95 release. The Firefox installer will download and will start to run. It posts a box indicating that it is verifying files. Then it simply vanishes.
RESOLUTION It appears that Firefox Version 1.5 requires updated versions of three (and only three) Microsoft files in order to install and run on Windows 95. I have successfully run the Firefox 1.5 installer on two Windows 95 PCs with updated versions of the following files:
- MSVCRT.DLL -- Microsoft C Run-Time Library V6.00.8337.0 261KB 12/7/98
- COMCTL32.DLL -- Common Controls Library V5.80 565KB 4/30/99
- OLEAUT32.DLL -- OLE Automation 32 Bit Library V2.40.4277 585KB 8/31/99
I also installed and ran Mozilla 1.7.11 on the same configuration.
I would imagine that other Windows 95 updates, such as Winsock updates, Service Packs, and such would be a good idea, but the three files are enough to get Firefox installed and to access the Internet.
NOTE Mozilla 1.7.11 requires updates as well, but apparently can live with an earlier version of COMCTL32.DLL than Firefox can. Presumably this accounts for Mozilla installing and running on Windows 95 systems that Firefox will not install on.
My goal was just to get Firefox running without installing IE. I did not make a systematic attempt to identify the earliest versions of the three updated files that the two browsers will work with.
IN MORE DETAIL
Over the past year, my list of PC problems I want to look into in depth has grown to considerable length. Most are the usual Linux stuff. e.g. CUPS (Common Unix Printing System-Can't Usually Print Stuff ... whichever you prefer) doesn't work very well with my HP-IIP; sound is present, but garbled; my Intel QX3 Microscope is detected, but not usable, etc.
I decided to spend an hour or so a day on these things and take a year or so total to get them resolved. As it happens, the first is a Windows issue -- Firefox will not install on Windows 95.
WHY DO I CARE IF FIREFOX WILL INSTALL ON WINDOWS 95?
Windows 95 is the oldest of all the 32 bit Windows configurations. The initial release was buggy. With patches released in 1995-1998 Win95 is quite stable and will run most (not quite all, but most) 32 bit Windows software including many programs that do not claim Win95 compatibility. On given hardware, Win95 is the smallest, fastest, and easiest to debug of all the 32 bit Windows OS configurations. And it does not require Internet Explorer. While I think I understand the attraction of using a browser in OS display, I think that the Windows-IE combination just hasn't worked as well as hoped. The result of the union is ponderous, somewhat insecure, and has no significant user benefits that I can see.
Yes, later Windows versions including NT based Windows fix many problems in Windows 95 and add many features. They also introduce multitudes of new bugs and in my opinion are not really much, if any, better at supporting user computing. As they grow in size and complexity, they are increasingly hard to debug. My last brush with Windows XP -- which I think is the least unsatisfactory desktop in a rather rum lot -- required seven(!!!) hours to discover that a rogue device driver installer had wiped out much of CONFIG.NT. (Tech support for the villanous software was, as usual, not much help. They misdiagnosed the symptoms as a hardware problem).
A small number of people stick with Windows 95 for various reasons. Some of them would like to use Firefox (or Mozilla). So I wrote this article to tell them about something that might permit them to do so.
- I am recently retired after 40+ years in the software business. The last 10 was spent fighting with 32bit Windows. I would offer the opinion that anyone who makes a living dealing with that bloated, largely undocumented collection of bugs, half baked concepts, out of control libraries and rampant race conditions should be entitled to combat pay.
WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS IN INSTALLING FIREFOX ON WIN 95?
I wanted to install Firefox on Windows 95. Unfortunately, Firefox releases in the 0.8/0.9 timeframe wouldn't run on Windows 95 without IE installed because of dependencies on the IE version of URLMON and some of its friends. That was reportedly fixed in Release 1.0. but since release 1.0, the Firefox installer has refused to install on Windows 95. Moreover, the ZIP file alternative installation for Firefox was dropped a year or two ago, so it now seems to be the installer or nothing for official Firefox releases. In principle, the development ZIPs are still available for installation, but I found the nomenclature confusing and the most plausible looking choice -- the 1.5rc3 ZIP -- seemed not to install all the files needed to run FIREFOX (XPCOM_CORE.DLL and XPCOM_COMPAT.DLL were reported missing).
Googling produced a lot of information about what is needed to run Firefox on Windows 95, but it was sort of fragmentary, not up to date, and when I tried to assemble it into a coherent picture, I couldn't. I decided to run some experiments.
I had a spare PC around -- a Pentium 266 with 64MB of memory. So I wiped the disk, installed Windows 95 and tinkered enough to get video, mouse, keyboard, and a network connection. Rather to my surprise, TCP/CIFS ran well enough to access the network PCs without loading updates so we really are dealing with basic, unadorned Windows 95 here. I then downloaded Firefox 1.5 and Mozzila 1.7.11 to another PC and copied them onto the test PC. The only software present on the PC other than Windows 4.00.950 (the August 1995 Windows 95 release) and the install files for the two browsers was:
- A driver for the ALN-201 NIC downloaded from the Acer website.
- A copy of PKZIP V2.04G used to unpack the Ranish Partition Manager
- A copy of the Ranish Partition Manager V2.40 used to make a back up copy of the Windows partition
- A copy of the OffByOne Web Browser V3.2.J.2 used to verify that the Internet was actually accessible from the PC (because I didn't want to waste days debugging Firefox/Mozilla problems that turned out to be caused by misconfigured hardware or OS TCP/IP software)
- A copy of Dependency Walker 2.1.3623 used to check installs for obvious interconnection problems.
- A real mode CDROM driver (TIMCD) used to copy the WIN95 install CD files to the hard drive which I used as the source drive for the install. I couldn't find a WIN95 Install floppy and didn't feel inclined to make one from scratch.
I then proceeded to try to install FIREFOX, record the results, Try to install MOZILLA, record the results. Attempt to fix one (and, as much as possible, only one) problem, then repeat. All installs were done in Normal rather than SAFE mode.
Trial 1 -- Unaugmented Windows 95
- Firefox reported a "required file MSVCRT missing".
- Mozilla crashed with error 1157 C:\temp\ns.temp\xpcom.ns\bin\xpistub.dll.
Trial 2 -- Windows 95 plus MSVCRT.DLL
- Firefox crashed during file verification with a page fault in COMCTL32.DLL at 0137:bff17165
- Mozilla installed, but when run, quit with no error message (surely, that is a bug, not a feature) after displaying a splash screen.
Trial 3 -- Windows 95 plus MSVCRT.DLL and COMCTL32.DLL
- Firefox now installs (Yes!!!), but when run it reports that the link to export OLEAUT32.DLL.411 is missing (oops). Dependency Walker confirms that the links to OLEAUT32 are not correct.
- Mozilla installed, but when run, quit with no error message after displaying a splash screen.
Trial 4 -- Windows 95 plus MSVCRT.DLL, COMCTL32.DLL, and OLEAUT32.DLL
- Firefox now installs and runs well enough to get to websites.
- Mozilla now installs and runs well enough to get to websites.
WHAT ARE THE FILES NEEDING UPDATES, AND WHERE CAN THEY BE OBTAINED?
MSVCRT.DLL MSVCRT.DLL is a C(/C++?) run time library. Windows 95 4.00.950 ships with only MSCVRT20.DLL. MSVCRT.DLL is shipped with a lot of products, including, I believe, some of the Windows95 updates. I doubt that anyone except maybe a few troglodytic souls at Redmond can make much sense of which overlapping DLL is which and what ships with what. There doesn't seem to be anyplace one can go to download specific libraries and identify dependencies. I had the additional constraint that I didn't want to get more software than I needed because I wanted to limit changes to one thing at a time as much as is possible. So, after failing to find a download for the file at www.microsoft.com I did what most pragmatic people will probably do, I did a Web search, found a likely looking source at www.aggsoft.com/download/win95updates.htm. (That particular download wants to install to some program specific directory. I redirected it to \WINDOWS\SYSTEM.) One could also copy the file from another PC that happens to have it.
COMCTL32.DLL COMCTL32.DLL is the Common Controls Library for Windows. There appear to be a number of versions of COMCTL32.DLL. Firefox will install with Version V5.80 565KB 4/30/99. but not with V4.72.2106.4 439KB 11/17/97. Mozilla will install and run with V4.72.2106.4 but not with V4.00.950 178KB 7/11/95. The bad news is that COMCTL32.DLL is not, in Microsoft's view of the world, a redistributable file. What Microsoft wants one to do is either install IE5.0 or download a file called 50COMUPD.EXE from the Microsoft Web Site. Using 50COMUPD.EXE makes some technical sense because the 50COMUPD installer purportedly prevents overwriting a later COMCTL32.DLL version and also installs Registry keys needed by COMCTL32.DLL. The update is not easily found on the Microsoft site
http://web.archive.org/web/20070706200549rn_3/www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=CB2CF3A2-8025-4E8F-8511-9B476A8D35D2" might work (link was dead when checked in Dec 2008). Since the MS verbiage accompanying the file will leave any rational person utterly baffled about whether redistribution of 50COMUPD.EXE is permitted, there aren't too many alternate sources, but a Google search should turn up a few.
OLEAUT32.DLL OLEAUT32.DLL is the OLE Automation Library for Windows. Because I didn't want extraneous libraries updated, I obtained OLEAUT32.DLL by copying it from another PC. But I think that most people would want to download Microsoft's Year 2000 update (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/home which includes a version of OLEAUT32.DLL that Firefox and Mozilla can live with. I did verify later that the Y2K update plus the other two updates is adequate to get Firefox (and Mozilla) going.
FireFox Installation rough notes
Copyright 2006, Donald Kenney (Donald.Kenney@GMail.com). Permission is hereby granted to use any materials on this page under the V2.5 Creative Commons License. This page has been validated as correct HTML 4.01 Transitional.