Ultimate fix for a Firefox update failure

After a lot of futile trial and error, the only way to get version 3.0.5 of Mozilla's Firefox browser on my PC was to uninstall version 3.0.4 first.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
2 min read

Sometimes, it pays to go with your first instinct.

For the last couple of weeks, every time I opened the Firefox browser on my PC, the program attempted to update but failed. I didn't sweat the error message at first, thinking that it was likely a widespread problem that the good folks at Mozilla would address soon enough. And besides, version 3.0.4 opened right after I closed the error message, and everything appeared to be working normally.

I kept, however, getting that same error message every time Firefox loaded. It struck me that one of the things viruses do is block your security and other programs from updating. I didn't think that this failure was a sign of a virus, but I couldn't be sure.

Mozilla Firefox Software Update Failed dialog
Opening Firefox 3.0.4 generated this cryptic error message after failing to update to version 3.0.5. Mozilla Foundation

My first inclination was to uninstall version 3.0.4 and then install Firefox 3.0.5 manually. But on second thought, this struck me as too extreme. After searching the Internet for information about failed Firefox updates, I chased many a wild goose as I disconnected my Webcam, rechecked my firewall, and followed many other useless pieces of advice recommended by reputable Web sites.

All to no avail. So I opened Vista's Programs and Features (the equivalent of XP's Add or Remove Programs applet) by pressing the Windows key, typing appwiz.cpl, and pressing Enter. I uninstalled Firefox 3.0.4, closed the applet, and opened the Opera browser so I could visit Mozilla.org to download Firefox 3.0.5.

This is where things took a slight detour. I don't use Opera very often, so it wasn't a surprise to see a prompt to download the latest version 9.63. I'm sure that Opera 9.62 would have downloaded the Firefox 3.0.5 executable just fine, but I figured that I might as well keep the update thing rolling.

But then Opera wouldn't update. The error message said something about my G: drive. I opened Windows Explorer and saw that I had no G: drive. Then I remembered that I set Opera to run off a USB thumb drive, which I had recently disconnected. I retrieved that drive and tried the Opera update again. This time, version 9.63 installed without a hitch.

And wouldn't you know it, so did Firefox 3.0.5, once I downloaded it from the Mozilla Foundation site. I suppose that I should be curious about why the browser wasn't able to update itself in the first place, but I'm satisfied just to have the latest version in place.