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Window Manager
Brian Livingston
Microsoft responds to the easy removal of IE from Windows 98

Last week, I described how any reasonably competent Windows 98 user can remove Internet Explorer (IE), recovering about 35MB of hard disk space. The method is so easy that even a federal judge could do it.

The steps to remove IE were developed by Shane Brooks. In brief, the technique involves replacing the Windows 98 versions of explorer.exe, shell32.dll, and comdlg32.dll with their Windows 95 equivalents. This gives you a smaller, faster Win95 shell. After making this change, you can delete about a dozen folders' worth of files you won't need if you're not running IE (if you prefer, say, Netscape Navigator).

The entire procedure is described in detail at Brooks' Web site at Brooks also provides three free, downloadable utilities that automate some or all of this process. For example, ShellSwap switches the Win95 and Win98 versions of the three shell files for you, so you can run the more efficient Win95 shell or run Win98's Internet Explorer, as the mood strikes you.

I don't recommend you roll out this change on a crucial part of your corporate network, because it hasn't been subjected to thorough testing. Removing IE disables the Windows 98 Update feature, although you can get all of the same updates with any browser from It also disables Notepad and WordPad, which rely on the new resizable common dialog boxes. But you can copy the Win95 versions of these editors into Win98, if necessary.

Aside from these minor failings, Windows 98 runs fine without its IE shell -- it runs even faster and more reliably than with the new shell, according to several people I interviewed who have tried the procedure. And this raises serious questions about Microsoft's defense in its antitrust trial, in which the company says it had to give away IE free (hurting the sales of competing browsers) because IE can't be removed from Windows 98.

I wrote last week that I'd print Microsoft's response. I sent e-mail and voice messages to several Microsoft representatives, and so far I have received reactions from two.

The first came from Waggener Edstrom, Microsoft's public relations firm, written by a Microsoft spokesman who declined to be identified.

"No, it does not remove IE from Win98," Edstrom wrote. "It does remove some visible pieces of IE to give that impression, but at the core, IE is still there."

The other response came from Mike Nichols, a Microsoft product manager for Windows 98.

"What it removes," Nichols said of the procedure, "is not IE itself, but some visible parts of IE."

Nichols added, "Even if you swap something else in [Win95 files], what the guy's doing is taking out parts of IE."

When asked what files are the "core" of IE, Brooks named shdocvw.dll (shell document viewer) and mshtml.dll. These files display Microsoft's new "dynamic HTML."

Brooks confirmed that his procedure leaves these two files in place. Win98 Help won't display without these files, nor would other programs that output dynamic HTML.

Whether these files are IE, or are programs that are used by IE (and other applications) is a semantic distinction. I use my car to go places, but I am not my car.

I'll print results from readers who have tried the procedure next week. I'm still accepting comments. (Type "IE removal" as the subject of your e-mail.)

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