Solving setup errors by using the SubInACL tool to repair file and registry permissions
A while back, I wrote a blog post about a .NET Framework 2.0 beta 2 installation problem that was caused by incorrect access control list (ACL) permissions on some registry hives. In that post, I described how to use a tool in the Windows Resource Kit named SubInACL to reset file and registry ACLs to help solve this problem.
Ever since I wrote that post, I have run into installation errors for several other products that have been solved by using the SubInACL tool. Therefore, I wanted to write a standalone set of instructions for how and when to use the SubInACL tool because the previous blog post is specific to the .NET Framework 2.0 setup and does not always appear in search results when people run into this kind of a problem and search the Internet for assistance.
How to download and run SubInACL
Here are some steps that can be used to download and run the SubInACL tool to repair file and registry permissions that are often needed to successfully install programs on Windows, particularly for MSI-based (Windows Installer) setups:
Download the SubInACL tool and install it. By default it will install to c:\Program Files\Windows Resource Kits\Tools
If you are running Windows Vista, click on the Start menu, choose All Programs, then Accessories, then right-click on the item named Command Prompt and choose Run as administrator
If you are running an OS other than Windows Vista, go to the Start menu, choose Run, type cmd and click OK
In the cmd prompt, type notepad reset.cmd and click yes to open Notepad.exe and create a new text file named reset.cmd
Copy and paste the following contents into reset.cmd (or download it from this location on my file server and rename it from reset.cmd.txt to reset.cmd):
Change the values named YOURUSERNAME to be the Windows user account that you are logged in with.
Note: The YOURUSERNAME value should match the name of your user folder at c:\Documents and Settings (or c:\users on Windows Vista and higher). You can also find the value to use for YOURUSERNAME by launching Task Manager and looking at the user name listed in the User Name column of the Processes tab.
Save and close reset.cmd.
In the cmd prompt, type reset.cmd and press enter to run the SubInACL tool. This tool will take several minutes to run, and it requires that the user account you are using has administrator privileges on the system. This is why it is necessary to run it from an elevated cmd prompt on Windows Vista. Step 2 above can be used to start an elevated cmd prompt on Windows Vista.
After reset.cmd completes, try to install the product that previously failed to install correctly on your system.
Note: There are a couple of scenarios where installing or running SubInAcl can fail. For example, some non-English versions of Windows have the name of the Administrators group translated to another language, and the command lines listed above will fail in that case. I have posted workarounds for the issues that I know of in this separate blog post.
Also note: Running the above command lines will cause SubInAcl to create a log file named %temp%\subinacl_output.txt. If you see any errors reported in the cmd prompt after running SubInAcl, you can look in this log file for more detailed information about what file(s), folder(s) or registry value(s) are causing the errors. To open this log file, you can click on the Start menu, choose Run, type notepad %temp%\subinacl_output.txt and click OK.
When looking at this log file, you may see some errors reported with error code 5. That error code means Access Denied, and it is typically caused by Windows or some other program running on your system that is holding files, folders or registry values in use so that SubInAcl is unable to update the permissions for them. Most of the time, that type of error in the SubInAcl output can be safely ignored, but you may need to try to reboot and then manually fix the permissions for these files, folders or registry keys as a workaround.
When is SubInACL useful
I have found that the SubInACL tool is most useful when a setup package fails with error code 5 or 0x5 or 0x80070005. All of these error codes mean Access Denied, and this type of error code is often caused by missing ACLs for the Administrators group or the built-in System account. The Windows Installer service runs with System account permissions in most cases. If the System account does not have sufficient permissions to access the file system or parts of the registry, an MSI-based setup package will fail with an Access Denied error.
SubInACL can also help resolve Internet Explorer script errors caused by incorrect access control permissions for specific user accounts on the system.
Example of a setup failure that was fixed by SubInACL
A customer contacted me with a problem installing Visual Studio 2005. I looked at the main Visual Studio log file located at %temp%\dd_vsinstall80.txt, and I found that Windows Installer 3.1 setup was failing. Then, I looked at the Windows Installer 3.1 setup log file located at %windir%\KB893803v2.log. It showed the following error:
30.844: DoRegistryUpdates:UpdSpInstallFromInfSection Failed for MSI.Reg.Install: 0x5
30.844: DoInstallation:DoRegistryUpdates failed
30.875: Access is denied.
I had the customer run the above steps to use the SubInACL tool to update the file and registry ACLs on their system, and then they were able to install Windows Installer 3.1 and Visual Studio 2005 with no further problems.
<update date="11/15/2006"> Updated subinacl command lines to include recursive ACL updating for folders and files under %windir% </update>
<update date="3/22/2007"> Updated the steps to make them easier to follow by moving the directory change into the batch file. </update>
<update date="9/25/2007"> Updated the notes to indicate that some Internet Explorer script errors can be resolved with this tool as well. </update>
<update date="5/30/2008"> Updated command lines based on customer feedback regarding their experiences on Windows Vista. </update>
<update date="6/16/2008"> Updated command lines to cause SubInAcl to create a log file in the %temp% directory in case it is needed for troubleshooting afterwards. </update>
<update date="6/17/2008"> Added a link to a blog post where I describe a couple of workarounds for problems that can occur while trying to install and/or run SubInAcl. </update>
<update date="6/20/2008"> Updated command line to include a backslash after %SystemDrive% in the 2nd to last command. </update>
<update date="6/24/2008"> Updated wording of link to the post for troubleshooting SubInAcl errors to try to make it more visible. </update>
<update date="7/29/2008"> Updated directory ACL command lines to not affect the Documents and Settings sub-folders. </update>
<update date="3/12/2009"> Fixed broken link to reset.cmd. </update>
<update date="4/7/2009"> Added clarification about how to determine the correct value to substitute for YOURUSERNAME in the sample SubInAcl script. </update>
<update date="5/18/2009"> Added clarification about where to run reset.cmd after creating it. </update>