Recently Microsoft announced the updation of the distribution scope of a toolbar update which, without the user’s knowledge, installed an add-on from Internet Explorer. Moreover it also installed an extension from Firefox called Search Helper Extension. Microsoft assured that the new update is actually the same as the old one; the only way they differ from each other is the way in which the distribution settings are done. In other words, the update will no longer be distributed to toolbars that it shouldn’t be added to. End users would not see the twist. However, Microsoft told Ars offering an explanation on what the mysterious add-on actually does.

Microsoft put up a component called the Search Enhancement Pack which enables toolbar search functionality, like the toolbar search suggestions drop down. Microsoft assures that this is not a toolbar but is a component which was brought up after the discovery of a bug in the latest update that installed a Firefox extension for those who made use of windows live toolbar. However, Microsoft reassured that the problem was fixed and that the update will only be available to the user using the higher version of MSN toolbar.

One more problem rose to the surface as many users complained that the new update once installed cannot be uninstalled even from the control panel of the Firefox settings as the option is disabled. Moreover, the add-ons once added to Internet Explorer cannot be uninstalled. Microsoft gave a way of solving this particular problem. It has asked the users to follow the following steps.

  • Close all running instances of Firefox.
  • Open Windows Explorer.
  • If you have 32 bit Windows, navigate to C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Search Enhancement Pack\Search Helper\firefoxextension
  • If you have 64 bit Windows, navigate to C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft\Search Enhancement Pack\Search Helper\firefoxextension
  • Delete the folder named “SearchHelperExtension”
  • Start Firefox.
  • Go to Tools> Add-ons and verify that Search Helper Extension is gone.

The problem was indeed solved after the deletion of this firefox extension folder which was mostly installed through SEPsearchhelperie.dll which can be found in the search helper folder. However, many users found that the add-on was not completely uninstalled even after following the above mentioned process although it was enough that it did not turn up. But then too, Microsoft has cautioned the users using Internet Explorer that they should not be removing it as it may cause some problems in the searching functionality.

Microsoft also details another workaround for the issue: unregistering the HCP Protocol. It requires editing the registry, and Microsoft explains two different ways to do so. While this prevents the flaw from being exploited on affected systems, Microsoft notes that it will break all local, legitimate help links that use hcp://. For example, links in Control Panel may no longer work.

Unfortunately, these removal instructions only remove the extension in question, and while this is what most users were complaining about, the actual update remains installed. As a result, in order to test that the update is being offered only to the correct users again, we took a third machine, install the Windows Live Toolbar on it, and checked to see if was offered. It was not.