If you’re a Vista user and you haven’t updated to iTunes 8 yet, it might be worth holding off a little longer. There are isolated reports across the internet that it’s causing blue screens of death when you plug an iPod or an iPhone into your PC. Downgrading to iTunes 7.7 seems to solve the problems, but not without other issues.
Some people have been saying that doing a clean install of iTunes (i.e. uninstalling your previous version and rebooting before installing iTunes 8) avoids the problem, but this hasn’t been confirmed yet by the masses.
Apple are asking for dump files to find the source of the problem, but Ed Bott at ZDNet has been doing some digging of his own. He knew that BSODs can only be caused by device drivers at the kernel-level and system services – something that wouldn’t normally be included in something as simple as an update to a media player, so he delved a bit deeper.
But it turns out that this isn’t a “normal” update. Apple are using their automatic update system to push tonnes (80MB!) of new software to their users, including a driver which has a long history of causing BSODs. It doesn’t ask permission to do any of this, it just calls the whole package “iTunes 8”.
The package includes iTunes, Quicktime, Bonjour (which has been part of iTunes for a while), Apple Mobile Device Support and MobileMe. If you don’t want any of those other bits, you don’t get any option to deselect them at any point. That’s a big deal, in my opinion. Mac users may be happy with the “Apple knows best” philosophy, but on my PC I sure as hell aren’t. I want full control over what’s being installed. I’ve got no MobileMe account, and no iPod, so why the hell are they installing those things?
There’s also a couple of driver updates in the package – firstly a USB controller update which is used when connecting your iPod. This is the one that’s showing up in crash reports. However, there’s also another driver – an obscure one used for writing to CD and DVD drives. This, according to Ed Bott, has a long history of causing crashes and BSODs in Windows. Deleting the driver and replacing it with a version included in the last version of iTunes fixed the crashes.
Apple need to start giving people options. It seems like it’s against company policy to let users decide what they want to do. The options don’t have to be complicated – something as simple as “Will you be connecting an iPod to your PC?” and “Do you have a MobileMe account?” would fix half the problem, and thoroughly testing drivers on rival operating systems would fix the other half.
Though before you start calling me a Microsoft fanboy, I had a bad Microsoft experience while writing this post, too. A Windows Update box appeared under the box I’m writing this in, and I ignored it because I was mid-flow. After eventually clicking to it, I found it was ten seconds away from rebooting my PC entirely. Microsoft – that really isn’t on, either. Slapped wrists all round today.
UPDATE: Apple have rolled back the driver in question. See here for more details.