Vista Security vs. iTunes

Last year at the AJAX Experience conference in Boston, all of the attendees received an iPod shuffle as part of the swag package.  I have four media players I rotate between: a Zune, the iPod shuffle, an iRiver T30, and an old Creative Nomad Zen.  I love the smaller flash devices because they are light-weight, and easy to put in my pocket when I ride the bus and train back and forth to NYC.  I use the iPod Shuffle primarily for listening to podcasts since iTunes is the only well integrated podcast receiving client on Windows (that I'm aware of).

Recently, I was prompted to upgrade to the latest version of iTunes, version 7.3.  I downloaded the update as part of Apple's automatic software update tool.  All went well until I tried to run the install.  About half way through, it failed with the following error message:

"iTunes could not be installed because Visual Basic Script (VBScript) is not installed or has been disabled. Make sure VBScript is installed, turn off script blocking in anti-virus and personal firewall software, re-register VBScript, and then install iTunes."

I've heard about iTunes having issues on Vista, but haven't experienced any of them myself.  (Okay...  I did have one issue:  Downloaded TV shows just won't play smoothly unless you set your power plan in Vista to "High Performance".  So don't try saving your battery on the airplane if you want to watch some TV shows you downloaded.  I discovered that issue back in January.)

Anyway, the non-consumer friendly error message above surprised me coming from Apple!  I've always heard from Mac fans that Apple software is known for being more user-friendly than Windows.  While that message made sense to me, a tech guy, it surely wouldn't make sense to non-tech person.  So, off to Live Search I went for some answers...

It turns out, this has been a known issue for a while now (and on a couple of different point versions of iTunes).

Wow!  I can't believe this hasn't been fixed yet.  So I went through the rigmarole documented here at Apple's support site to upgrade to iTunes 7.3.  The steps on Apple's support site worked fine.  Once I re-enabled VBScript, the installation went fine.  Not only is this a cryptic set of hoops for a user to jump through, it is disabling some of the security precautions built into Windows Vista! 

When you're done following the steps outlined from Apple, you will have VBScript enabled.  Be sure to add the extra step (#5) outlined here in the Coder Journal post to disable VBScript.  If you don't, you'll be potentially leaving your machine in a more vulnerable state than it comes in out of the box!

[Update 7-13-07:] After installing iTunes 7.3, I started getting the following error:

"iTunes Library file cannot be saved, an unknown error occurred (-50)" only to have iTunes then crash."

It turns out that I wasn't the only one.  Apple released another update for iTunes (v 7.3.1) and QuickTime (v7.2) claiming it fixed several bugs.  I installed the updates and low and behold...  the iTunes installation STILL has the VBScript problem described in this post!  Ugh.  I guess they didn't fix that one.

So, I went through the rigmarole again and the install worked fine.  With the update installed, I am not seeing the error message above anymore.  Once nice side note:  The updated version of QuickTime lets you view video in full screen mode without having to use the pay version!  Now you can watch all of your favorite movie trailers full screen in HD!

Comments (1)

  1. Tom says:

    This same issue also exists with a number of other installers that assume vbscript is registered, as it has been for previous versions of Windows. It’s not Apple-specific.

    Apparently in some (not all) configurations of Vista, vbscript is not enabled by default, due to security considerations. But this is an application compatibility issue introduced as a result of this change. In other words, the Vista team made a tradeoff between security and compatibility.

    Apple could have handled this situation more proactively in their software, however.

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