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Overcoming software installation failures

If you're not interesting in granular technical blog posts, skip this one.  If you're somewhat curious about how to overcome any technical failure, then read on.  In this brief post I'm going to share one small example of a troubleshooting methodology that results in resolving issues quickly and efficiently, which translates into more time back to the individual who needs their computer working, and an improved bottom line for any business who needs everyone up and running to get business done.

Recently I came across an extremely bad software installation error while installing Autodesk Building Design Suite Premium 2017 on a brand new Windows 10 workstation.  The installation starts, then appears to go through the motions of completing several application installs.  When the installer reaches the end of the installation it presents an error "Installation Complete - some products failed to install."  Revit and several other apps fail to install.  This is Not a Good Thing.

The answer to this problem isn't something you can find on Google.  Not directly at least. This is point #1 about solving any kind of tech problem: Search strings can help you explore what other people are writing about what you're search for, but one can rarely rely on Google for answers.  

In this particular bug's case, I did scan through Google search results, and with four different search strings.  You know it's a bad problem when all the "I solved this" answers don't work, and you're six pages deep in search results.

But what search can do is give you clues.  And if you (as a tech) decided to explore how operating systems work, how applications work, and how the various components of software interact with each other, then you can formulate a series of solution steps that are a repeatable model for success.

I promised this would be a short post.  So here's the answer that worked in three separate cases and two different form factors running Windows 10 Professional 64-bit operating system.  Make sure you're installing from a user with local Administrative rights to the computer:

  1. Disable Windows firewall - completely.  Then restart.
  2. Uninstall all antivirus. In this case, I use Sophos Endpoint and Intercept X, which is the most advanced antithreat suite you can run on a PC.  Uninstalling requires discipline, patience and perseverance.  Once uninstalled, restart.
  3. With no antithreat management software present to interfere in pruning the Windows operating system, uninstall all C++ related software in the Add/Delete Programs.  There will be a lot of them.  A Windows 10 default installation includes multiple years' worth of C++ compatibility.  And some of all of it interferes with the C++ libraries that Autodesk relies on, and that install with the Autodesk software.  Once again, after this step, restart.
  4. You can install the software over a network in most cases, but if this doesn't work, copy or download from your Autodesk subscription site the installer locally to your hard drive, then install from there.

The key principle here is to reduce the problem to simple components, guided by search and discussions that can give you clues to where a problem may be.  The big problem with search is that nearly all technicians incorrectly attribute success to a specific step, without the platform and other relevant specifications and environmental factors as a context.  To follow in that person's steps is a surefire way to waste dozens of hours of time and other resources.

There are several other possible steps, depending on your platform (version of Windows, etc.). But with Windows 10 Pro, this solution works, and it works repeatedly across multiple machines. In this case the hardware installed on was all Apple: A 2015 MacBook Pro and dual late-2013 Mac Pros, all running Windows natively via Apple's Bootcamp support for Windows.

David Pogue wrote in Scientific American, November 2014: "Buggy software isn't just an occasional fluke; it's now the rule. Tech companies routinely treat their paying customers as unpaid beta testers."  This still seems to hold true in many cases, even in industries where professionals pay thousands of dollars for a single app, like Autodesk Revit.   As an employer or professional architect, you have three choices:

  1. Pay an outlandish amount of money to a software reseller for a "service level" where the software maker will answer the phone.
  2. Watch a technician or someone assigned to the task thrash in a swamp of variables until something somehow works, even though the steps were unclear (and therefore not repeatable).
  3. Invest in a tech who understands the OSI Model intimately, and can apply what's called "split-half troubleshooting" to any problem, reducing it to its core parts to isolate the issue, so the problem can be resolved as effectivity and efficiently as possible.  This doesn't come with experience.  Experience only builds on formal education, study and practice of methodologies that are part of the professionl

#3 is the best way to go.  It works.