When trying to view a Netflix video in Firefox 33 on Windows 7 x64, I got a page that said, “Install the Microsoft Silverlight plug-in now — it only takes a minute.” But I had already installed it. Apparently something was wrong. I clicked on the Netflix “Install Now” button. That opened a dialog offering to download Silverlight_x64.exe. (It would have downloaded automatically if I had previously checked the “Do this automatically for files like this from now on” box.)
I tried to install that Silverlight_x64.exe file. A dialog opened that said, “Install Silverlight.” I clicked “Install now.” It said, “Silverlight is being installed on your computer.” It went up to around 90% complete. Then it said, “Unable to install Silverlight. Installation failed.”
I clicked the link for “More information.” That opened a webpage that said this:
Message ID: 1603
A fatal error occurred during installation. Please take the following steps:
Verify that your computer is supported. See Silverlight System Requirements.
Uninstall all previous versions of Silverlight by following the Silverlight Uninstall Instructions.
Download and install the latest version of Silverlight.
I knew my computer was supported because, as I say, I had already been running Silverlight. I went into Control Panel > Programs and Features. There, I saw that Microsoft Silverlight was installed. As advised by some webpage somewhere, I uninstalled it. It vanished from the Programs and Features list. I tried installing Silverlight_x64.exe again. Same result as before: “Installation failed.”
I followed the link (above) to the Silverlight Uninstall Instructions webpage (whose title was actually “Get Microsoft Silverlight”). On the Uninstall Silverlight tab in that page, I saw this:
Uninstalling previous versions of Silverlight
To find out how to uninstall the following plug-ins, visit the Removing Silverlight Controls on Windows page:
- “WPF/E” Community Technology Preview (Feb 2007)
- “WPF/E” Community Technology Preview (Dec 2006)
Note: If you do not see any of the above installed on your computer, then you have not installed a previous version of Silverlight, or you have already successfully uninstalled it. You can install the latest version of Silverlight.
For installation support, visit our support page.
From this, it seemed that I had to uninstall three different plugins. I went to the Removing Silverlight Controls on Windows page. It offered instructions for Windows Vista and XP. I was running Windows 7. Either way, it just advised me to go to Control Panel > Programs and Features. I had already tried that. But I had not tried uninstalling anything other than Silverlight there. I went back to Programs and Features and looked again. It said Microsoft Silverlight had gotten itself reinstalled, despite the error message. A check confirmed that Netflix was still not satisfied. So I uninstalled Silverlight again. But this time, in Programs and Features, I also looked for the WPF/E” entries mentioned in the preceding quote. Unfortunately, there was no such thing. That advice appeared to relate to earlier versions of Silverlight, circa 2007.
- A Microsoft support webpage titled How to clean a corrupted Silverlight installation and then reinstall Silverlight
- A link to a download of MicrosoftFixit50747.msi
- A link to msicuu2.exe, short for Microsoft Windows Installer Cleanup Utility
- A link to the Get Microsoft Silverlight webpage I had already tried (above).
Although Amy’s advice was not clear, it appeared that she wanted me to just try to follow those instructions and run those downloads. I tried MicrosoftFixit50747.msi. Actually, I think I tried it twice. If so, it did not do anything the first time. But the second time, it advised me to close Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox. The last two were running at the time. I did not think IE was running, but a look in the Processes tab of Task Manager (Ctrl-Alt-Del) indicated that I was indeed running several iexplore.exe processes. There were also still some chrome.exe processes running after I closed Chrome. I killed all those processes and then clicked “Try Again.” When the Fixit was done, I tried installing Silverlight_x64.exe again. It failed again.
I went back to Programs and Features, uninstalled Silverlight again, and tried running Amy’s other download, the msicuu2.exe tool. It said, “Welcome to the Windows Installer Clean Up Installation Wizard.” It advised me to close all programs before proceeding. Eventually I did that. In the meantime, however, I had removed one partition (namely, drive W) from my machine. Somehow the absence of that partition seemed to prevent the Wizard from running properly.
That was compounded by the arrival of updates from Microsoft and NVIDIA. I installed those updates. They required a reboot. After rebooting, I noticed that Windows Update (in Control Panel) wanted to install another optional update. This turned out to be none other than Microsoft Silverlight. I let it go ahead. It failed. A retry did not change the outcome. The Update window said,
Some updates were not installed
Failed: 1 update
Code 643 Windows Update encountered an unknown error. Get help with this error.
I tried the “get help” link it provided. That opened a Windows Help and support window with “8 results for ‘WindowsUpdate_00000643’ ‘WindowsUpdate_dt000.” Six of those eight results named specific update errors (e.g., 8024001F, 80072ee2). Mine did not seem to have a number. The seventh result was just “See which Windows updates are installed.” The eighth was, “Troubleshoot problems with installing updates.” That troubleshooting option led to eight more possibilities. These seemed very general. I tried the first one: “I tried to install updates but one or more didn’t get installed.” It led to general-purpose advice (e.g., “Is there enough free disk space on your computer?”). I decided not to pursue these “get help” options.
I returned to msicuu2.exe. Even after reboot, the attempt to install it ran into a repetition of the earlier error: “Error 1327. Invalid Drive: W.” There was no longer any drive W. But apparently the installer was reading from somewhere on the computer that I used to have a drive W. This, I thought, could be rectified: I would just have to create a temporary drive W, and then try running msicuu2.exe again. I clicked OK and got another message, “Fatal Error: Installation ended prematurely because of an error.” Using a partitioning program (I used MiniTool Partition Wizard, but could also have used EaseUS Partition Master, GParted, or others), I created drive W, a little 1.5GB dummy, at the end of a non-encrypted partition, where a bit of resizing and creating would do no harm. I did have to use Disk Management to make sure it was labeled as drive W.
Then I re-ran msicuu2.exe. This time the installer ran OK. It did not seem to have done anything. I went to Start > Windows Install Clean Up. It gave me a dialog that said this:
Windows Installer Clean Up
Continuing further will make permanent changes to your system. You may need to reinstall some or all applications on your system that used the Windows Installer technology to be installed. If you do not want to proceed, please press the ‘Exit’ button now. Choosing ‘Remove’ will make the permanent changes.
Then it listed a boatload of programs, possibly representing every program I had installed on the computer, and four buttons: Select All, Clear All, Remove, and Exit. I guessed that Remove would apply only to the programs I had selected. I found that Shift-clicking and Ctrl-clicking would allow me to select multiple contiguous or noncontiguous programs. I selected Microsoft Silverlight. I did not see a WPF/E program (above). I clicked Remove. It said, “Warning – All products selected will be removed from the Windows Installer database.” I said OK. After a moment, the Silverlight entry disappeared. All the other programs were still there. So that seemed to have worked as expected. I exited the Windows Installer Clean Up. I decided to try rebooting before making another Silverlight reinstallation attempt. It was actually a couple of days before I got around to doing that reboot and reinstall. This time it got to 99% . . . but it still failed.
It occurred to me to look into Firefox’s menu entry for Tools > Add-ons > Plugins. I did not see Silverlight listed there. I wasn’t sure whether it should be. I went to Mozilla’s Addons page and searched for Silverlight. It wasn’t there. I wondered whether maybe I had a bad copy, or maybe a previous version would work better. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for here, but I’d had good experiences with downloads from Softpedia, so I tried theirs. Their download page said, “This particular technology . . . is applicable to both 32-bit and 64-bit systems.” That was different from the supposedly x64 version I had been trying to install. It was 6.63MB rather than the 12.4MB of the x64 version. I tried installing it. I got an error:
Unable to install Silverlight
A 64-bit version of Silverlight is already installed.
I looked in Control Panel > Programs and Features again and, well, they were right. I hadn’t actually tried running Netflix on Firefox since that last install attempt. I tried now. No joy: Firefox still wanted me to install the Silverlight plugin. I killed and restarted Firefox and tried again. No! Back in Programs and Features, I uninstalled the 64-bit version of Silverlight. Again I tried installing the smaller version from Softpedia. Installation successful! The message said I might have to refresh the page to see the results, but this time I’d killed Firefox before attempting the install. Not sure whether I had done that every previous time. Whatever — it worked! I was back in business. Problem solved.
Or, no, not so fast. Netflix started to show the movie and then said this:
Whoops, something went wrong…
Digital Rights Management (DRM) Error
To resolve this issue, please follow the steps in our Help Center.
Error Code: N8156-6013
I followed that link. The resulting Netflix page (referring to “Netflix Playback Error N8156 6013”) said, “The error you’re seeing is related to the Silverlight plugin . . .” They offered a Microsoft Fix It tool link. I tried that. It offered to download or run silverlight.diagcab. I had previously downloaded and run that file; this time I let Windows open the file, by default, using Diagnostics Troubleshooting Wizard (default). The wizard said it was uninstalling Silverlight. Then it gave me an option to install Silverlight. I went with that. The wizard continued for quite a while. I went to bed. Next morning, the troubleshooter (i.e., wizard) said this:
Troubleshooting has completed
The troubleshooter made some changes to your system. Try attempting the task you were trying to do before.
Microsoft Silverlight may be corrupt . . . fixed
I closed the troubleshooter, opened a Netflix tab in Firefox, and tried to play a movie. I got the same Netflix page as above, telling me, “Install the Microsoft Silverlight plug-in now — it only takes a minute.” I clicked the Install Now button. Once again, it offered to download a copy of Silverlight_x64.exe. I clicked Save File, made sure that all Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer processes were killed in Task Manager, as above, and ran the download. Once again, it said, “Unable to install Silverlight. Installation failed.” I confirmed that Netflix would not get past the Silverlight page in Firefox.
I closed Firefox and tried viewing Netflix in Internet Explorer. It, too, told me to install Silverlight. I clicked the Install Now button. The instructions there were to run Silverlight_x64.exe rather than download it. I verified that Silverlight was not listed in Programs and Features. I clicked Install Now. The name appearing in the IE tab changed momentarily from Netflix to go2.microsoft.com, but then returned to Netflix. Otherwise, nothing happened. I closed IE.
I noticed that, after running the troubleshooter, I had forgotten that there were more instructions on the Netflix page (above) referring to Netflix Playback Error N8156 6013. Those additional instructions read as follows:
If the Fix it Tool didn’t clear the error, or if you’re running Windows XP or Vista, try the troubleshooting steps below.
- Delete the mspr.hds file (Windows XP)
- Delete the mspr.hds file (Windows 7/Vista)
- Delete the mspr.hds file (Windows 8)
- Make sure your Windows user account can access Netflix.com
- Uninstall and Reinstall the Silverlight Plug-in
I clicked on the Windows 7 option to delete the mspr.hds file. It had me navigate to the %programdata% folder by typing “start %programdata%” at a command prompt or simply “%programdata%” in a Run box (i.e., Winkey-R, or Start > Run). On my machine, where all programs had been installed in default locations, the %programdata% folder was located at C:\ProgramData. There, the instructions were to close all open browsers and then go into the Microsoft > PlayReady (or PlayReadySilverlight, or both if applicable) (on my machine, C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\PlayReady) and delete mspr.hds, and then try playing the movie again. If there was no such folder or file, they would have me log in as administrator and then re-run the Micfosoft Fix it Tool on that same page or follow the instructions on another page.
But I did have mspr.hds, so I verified that all browser processes were closed in Task Manager, deleted mspr.hds as ordered, and then opened Firefox and tried again in Netflix. Once again, I got the page telling me to install Silverlight. Once again, I clicked the Install Now button. I opted again to download Silverlight_x64.exe. With all browser processes closed, I ran that file. Once again, I got “Installation failed.” Once again, Windows Update offered Silverlight as an optional update; once again, that update failed with a Code 643 “unknown error” message.
I contacted Microsoft tech support and named Internet Explorer 11 as the product on which I was seeking assistance. (I verified once again that it was still stopping at the “Install Now” page.) Then I noticed the “Don’t see your product?” box and tried instead to enter Silverlight there. It offered Microsoft Silverlight for Windows. I chose that. They gave me the phone number of their Answer Desk ((800) 642 7676). I groaned inwardly. This was going to require another hour or two of the same steps that I had already tried. Fortunately, it was the middle of the night, and they were only open from 5 AM to 9 PM PST.
I was about ready to give up. But I really did want to see that movie … someday … maybe. I tried another Google search. Meanwhile, it occurred to me to try Netflix Help, so I started a chat there and buried that poor tech with a link to this post, assuming that would keep her busy for an hour or two. I was wrong there: the tech, Kerry-Ann, said she didn’t have access to the Internet, and thus could not look at this post. Her supervisor, David, said that nobody there had Internet access. He claimed it was due to security concerns. I suggested just using a separate device, realizing that he probably did have a smartphone tucked in his pocket. He said no, he couldn’t use his cell at work. I begged off the chat, which was going very slowly, and called back at the Netflix phone number. This time, the tech said that, if I had already uninstalled and reinstalled Silverlight multiple times, I should call the Microsoft Silverlight people at 866-234-6020.
It was still the middle of the night, so I didn’t try that. Instead, I browsed the results of that Google search. One page suggested trying to install Silverlight with my antivirus program temporarily turned off. That wasn’t it; installation still failed. Someone on another page had the poor user run various diagnostic tools that I’d never heard of, and then instructed him to go into Services (i.e., type services.msc in a Run box or at a command prompt) and then disable Windows Update and then Background Intelligence Transfer (BITS) via right-click > Properties > Disabled > Apply > OK. The advice seemed to be to just disable and then reset those back to Automatic (Delayed). That’s where they had been in the first place. I didn’t understand what difference that would make in my case, so I tried installing Silverlight while those were disabled. Installation failed.
I noticed that some webpages were linking the 643 error with Microsoft’s .NET Framework. That seemed plausible. A Lifehacker article seemed to describe the .NET Framework as a complex, multipurpose programming environment. The article said that older versions of .NET could cause problems. I thought I had installed all available versions, but a look at Control Panel > Programs and Features said that I had only version 4.5.1 installed. I didn’t seem to be getting specific .NET-related error messages. I decided this was probably not the issue.
I vaguely recalled that someone, in one of my earlier searches, had searched his/her registry for all references to Silverlight, and had manually deleted them all. Living dangerously, but why not? I had a recent Acronis image of my drive C; I could afford to reinstall the system if necessary, and if I hadn’t been trying to find the answer to this problem, I probably would have done that by now. A search for “Silverlight” in my registry using O&O RegEditor turned up 324 entries. That was interesting, because according to Programs and Features I did not actually have Silverlight installed at that point. Many of those 324 entries appeared to be related to various languages, judging by the ending letters appearing in the Value column in RegEditor. Those, I suspected, would probably not be affecting my situation and might thus not have to be removed. But I decided to postpone the registry surgery for the moment.
A search in the Microsoft Developer Network forums turned up numerous hits. One of them suggested deleting the Silverlight folder. A search of my computer indicated that my only Silverlight folder was at C:\Users\Ray\AppData\LocalLow\Microsoft. I deleted that. This same hit also suggested deleting a specific Silverlight registry key, at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Silverlight. I deleted that key as follows: O&O RegEditor > main pane > right-click on that key > Clear. Then I closed all browsers and ran the Silverlight_x64.exe download again. Sadly — you knew I was going to say this — installation failed.
Silverlight was not listed in Programs and Features at this point, so I didn’t need to uninstall it from there. Another Microsoft page — they were all starting to look alike at this point, but evidently I had somehow failed to review this one at least three times — offered code to delete certain registry keys; but since I was already looking at them in O&O RegEditor, I thought I would just delete them that way. The keys in question:
Unfortunately, I got as far as the second item in the list and realized that it wasn’t among those containing a reference to Silverlight, at least not according to my O&O RegEditor search. Hmm, a quandary: whom to believe? On one hand, we have O&O RegEditor; on the other hand, we have instructions from Microsoft, which has been so helpful so far, referring to an unspecified version of Windows. This will shock some, but I decided to go with O&O. I closed most programs, highlighted all of those 300+ Silverlight-mentioning registry keys in O&O, right-clicked, and selected Clear. I ducked into a trench and waited for the explosions to subside. Then I rebooted. Actually, everything seemed to be running OK. I figured the damage from that radical registry surgery would only appear later, in a moment of crisis, when I desperately needed the machine to function perfectly, and suddenly nothing would work.
For now, it seemed the thing to do was to make sure all browsers were closed, and then to try running Silverlight_x64.exe again. Ah, but I had almost forgotten: that Microsoft code was also going to delete some folders, namely, the Microsoft Silverlight folders in %ProgramFiles% and in %ProgramFiles(x86)%. On my machine, these were simply C:\Program Files and C:\Program Files (x86). But these contained no Silverlight or Microsoft Silverlight folders. Presumably the uninstall had at least taken care of that. So, then, on with the installation! But oh, my heart, the sucking thing failed once again.
There was another possibility. What version of Silverlight were we talking about? I got the idea to ask that question because a Silverlight developer found that he needed to install Silverlight 4.0 instead of 5.0. His solution, for some reason, was to download and install Silverlight_Developer.exe (i.e., the Silverlight Developer Runtime). Fortunately, he provided a link to do that, because otherwise I would have had to join the lost souls who could not seem to find it anywhere, becoming thoroughly baffled on the discovery that, judging from Microsoft’s own downloads webpage, there did not actually seem to be a runtime anymore (never mind that the developer’s link, which worked for me, was a link to a Microsoft page). The link turned out to be for Silverlight 4 for Developers. What in the world was this going to do for me? No clue. But I installed it anyway. And let me just tell you how nice it was to see those words, “Installation successful,” even if they were for the wrong product. Or maybe not the wrong product after all. Suddenly, Programs and Features showed that my installed programs included nothing like Microsoft Developer, Microsoft Silverlight Developer, or Silverlight Developer — but what’s this? I now had Microsoft Silverlight installed, version 4.1! Developer includes Silverlight! I am blessed!
Almost. I had to run the official test: start Firefox and try Netflix. Well, we had progress of a sort. I was now seeing a different Netflix page. Instead of giving me an Install Now button, they were giving me an Upgrade Now button: “Upgrade to the latest version of the Microsoft Silverlight plug-in for better video quality.” Was there a way to avoid having to upgrade? The answer: not unless I chose to use a really old version of a browser. Damian at Netflix chat led me to a Netflix help page listing the browsers that could use Silverlight 4. Examples included IE 9 and below and Firefox 3, when the current version was 33.
I wondered how Firefox Portable would fare. The current version, there too, was 33, but I was using 24. In version 24, no, I still got the Upgrade Now button. It wanted Silverlight 5.
Let us review. At this point, with Silverlight 4 installed, I could not view Netflix in Firefox 33. In Opera, too, I got the Upgrade Now button. I could view Netflix movies without a problem in Chrome. Internet Explorer 11 did not seem to find any version of Silverlight installed: it was giving me the Install (not Upgrade) Now button. IE also provided a message at the bottom of the screen: “Silverlight was blocked because it is out of date and needs to be updated.” I clicked the “Run This Time” button, but that led to an error: “Silverlight Installation Problem. Error Code 2104.” Midori produced that same 2104 error code. I didn’t experiment with other browsers.
It was time to post an inquiry. A search led to numerous forums in which people had recently been talking about Silverlight-Netflix problems. I posted a question there and sat back with a drink. Seriously, I restored my most recent Acronis drive image, to get back to proper functionality and also to see if that would give me any clues on what might have gone wrong. After that restore, Programs and Features said that I already had Silverlight 5.1.30514.0 installed. When I tried to view a movie in Netflix, because of some Firefox add-on, I got a little icon that said, “Activate Silverlight.” I hadn’t seen that before. I clicked on it. I got a pop-up that asked, “Allow http://www.netflix.com to run ‘Silverlight’?” I clicked “Allow and Remember.” That led to the “Whoops, something went wrong … ” error noted above.
Surely I was not having this problem in multiple browsers just because of some cranky Firefox add-on. I killed Firefox and tried its Safe Mode icon in my Start Menu. That wasn’t the solution. I was really at a loss. The Acronis backup that I had restored was only a week old. The one before that was much older. I would have had to spend more time upgrading the system if I restored that one.
While I was in troubleshooting mode, I decided to fix another, seemingly unrelated problem. As detailed in another post, Firefox was having a problem signing into Microsoft’s live.com websites. I thought that maybe some of the troubleshooting steps I took with respect to that problem (e.g., clearing the cache and cookies; disabling hardware acceleration) would also incidentally fix the Silverlight problem. Unfortunately, they did not.
At this writing, the responses to my posted question were not helpful. It appeared that we were getting into more radical solutions. I decided to try using a portable version of Firefox; but as described in another post, that made no difference. Nor should I have thought that it would; as I say, the Netflix problem had also cropped up in other browsers.
It seemed that I did have to go to the next step of restoring an earlier Acronis backup of drive C. I tried that. This restore was several months old. This sort of process can take hours if not days, by the time you’ve gotten into updating and tweaking various programs. I’m not sure why I postponed checking Netflix until I had gotten well into the restore and update process. At that point, Programs and Features said that I did have Silverlight 5 installed. I tried running Netflix on my newly installed portable Firefox. And it still did not work.
As far as I could tell, I had exhausted my options. I did not know why Silverlight 5 would have been working fine until the past few days, and then suddenly stopped working with Netflix. It seemed that it must have something to do with Netflix. I probably should have concluded that earlier. I probably would have, if this problem had not arisen at about the same time as several other issues. Somehow I got drawn into this extensive troubleshooting effort. I attempted to send Netflix a link to this post, in hopes that they would be able to resolve the problem on their end. And then, at least for the time being, I let it rest.