How to run Microsoft Update using Firefox

Diane korngiebel By Diane Korngiebel

The Sept. 6 issue of Windows Secrets explained how to automate Internet Explorer 7 to access Microsoft Update once a month.

But some readers expressed displeasure at the thought of using the dreaded IE 7 even for this relatively safe chore.

Firefox add-in runs Microsoft Update like IE

Scott Dunn’s article asserted that IE 7 is a requirement in order to run Microsoft Update. (MU is a Windows Update superset that patches Microsoft Office in addition to Windows itself.) However, Ramona Lane sends this useful tip:
  • “There is an ‘IE Tab’ extension that lets Firefox users update with the Windows Update feature. The IE Tab extension is located at the Mozilla add-ons site.”
Thanks, Ramona! The IE Tab extension lets you switch between Firefox and IE rendering. Once installed, I had no trouble using the IE Tab add-on to run Microsoft Update. According to Mozilla’s Web site, the IE Tab works with Firefox versions 1.5 through 3.0a5. I used it with 2.0.0.6.

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To install the IE Tab, go to the add-ons site using the above link. Choose Install Now. The installer will restart Firefox when finished or prompt you to do so before the changes will take effect.

To add the IE Tab button to your Firefox Toolbar, right-click the toolbar and choose Customize. Drag the IE Tab icon and drop it where you want it. When clicked, the IE Tab button will swap rendering engines.

Once you’ve done this, you can use Firefox with Scheduled Tasks in XP; however, keep in mind that only administrators can install updates. The scheduling steps are slightly different from the ones provided in the last issue:

Step 1: Choose Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Scheduled Tasks.

Step 2: In the Scheduled Tasks window, double-click Add Scheduled Task.

Step 3: In the Scheduled Task Wizard, click Next. Then click Browse.

Step 4: Select Mozilla Firefox from the list. If you don’t see it, use the Browse button to locate Firefox.exe and click Open.

Step 5: In the next step of the wizard, select Monthly and click Next.

Step 6: Specify a start time. Select the second radio button and specify the second Tuesday. Leave all months checked. Click Next.

Step 7: Enter your account name and password for an administrator account. Click Next.

Step 8: Check the box for opening advanced properties and click Finish.

Step 9: When the Firefox Properties dialog box opens, click at the end of the line in the Run box. Type a space followed by the URLs for each tab you want to open, separated by spaces. For example, when you’re done, the finished command should read something like this:

“C:Program FilesMozilla Firefoxfirefox.exe” www.update.microsoft.com secunia.com/software_inspector

Step 10: Click OK. Enter your account name and password again, if prompted. Click OK.

MyUninstaller is another removal-tool option

Scott’s article also provided a step-by-step guide on how to remove old software. For those of you who’d like a program that does much of the legwork for you, however, Joe de Fide has this advice:
  • “I have found that MyUninstaller is an invaluable asset, as it has a search function that will not only look at the name of the program, but look at the program’s property sheet as well. You can also double-click on a program’s name to see the property sheet.”
We haven’t tested MyUninstaller, but PC World columnist Steve Bass has recommended it.

Get reminders for Secunia Software Inspector

When checking for unpatched software, it makes sense to run the latest version of Software Inspector. Timothy McGowan points out that Secunia offers an e-mail reminder:
  • “This free e-mail update will ‘notify you whenever the online Software Inspector is improved and updated.’

    “Go to Secunia Software Inspector, run the test to completion, and you’ll get a message: ‘As an additional free service, Secunia offers to notify you whenever the Software Inspector is improved and updated. Do you wish to subscribe?’ Click through and submit a valid e-mail address. That is all it takes.”
Thanks, Tim. You can also sign up for the reminder service without completing the test. Go to the Secunia Software Inspector Web page using the above link. Under “Other” (in the right-hand column), click the link for the Reminder Service. You will be asked to provide an e-mail address. Then click Subscribe.

Finding the hidden Secunia privacy policy

Some readers expressed concerns over Secunia’s difficult-to-find privacy policy. Jon Larimore criticizes Secunia for the omission:
  • “I had intended to pass along a link to Software Inspector to several friends, but when doing so, I wanted to reassure them that no personal information would be ‘lifted’ from their computers by Secunia during the inspection process. Unfortunately, I could find no Privacy Policy statement of any kind anywhere on their Web site. So I sent their webmaster a note.

    “The response was: ‘It is right here.’

    “I hope Secunia will take the hint and include a link to the Privacy Policy at the bottom of each Web page.”
Readers Lane, de Fide, McGowan, and Larimore will each receive a gift certificate for a book, CD, or DVD of their choice for sending tips we printed. Send us your tips via the Windows Secrets contact page.

The Known Issues column brings you readers’ comments on our recent articles. Diane Korngiebel is assistant managing editor of WindowsSecrets.com.
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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2007-09-13: