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New iTunes, Almost the Same Installation Annoyances

I'm happy to have Apple's iTunes as the default music player on my Windows machines, but I'm not so thrilled about this program when I need to update it. It's not the 81.2-megabyte size of the latest such download that bothers me--although anybody on dial-up will need to leave their computer online overnight to grab these files.

Nor is it much of a chore to get new releases of iTunes; the Apple Software Update program included with iTunes finds, downloads and installs revised versions with a minimum of clicks.

I'm just tired of having to clean up after these installs. Each new copy of iTunes has left the same desktop litter, courtesy of the QuickTime media-playback software that underpins it: QuickTime Player icons on the desktop, in the Quick Launch toolbar (to the right of the Start Menu) and in the system tray (at the bottom right corner of the screen).

I always delete these icons because a) Windows is cluttered enough already, and b) I almost never run the QuickTime Player anyway. I've performed this cleanup so often, I can almost do it with my eyes closed: Select icon, hit the Delete key, click past the idiotic "Deleting the shortcut only removes the icon. It does not uninstall the program" warning (thanks, Microsoft--after a decade of seeing that warning, I think I've grasped that distinction), repeat as necessary. Yet the QuickTime developers--like too many Windows programmers--act like their little application is the Most Important Software In The World.

(Strangely enough, iTunes itself doesn't act this pushy. And I never have to deal with any of this garbage on a Mac, where software developers are not in the habit of treating the user's desktop as their personal billboard.)

At least the latest QuickTime update, 7.2--finally!--seems to have given up on trying to implant itself in the system tray. (To zap that icon, follow these directions)

Am I asking too much to want a program to respect my clearly expressed preferences? It can't be that difficult to write an installer that first looks for shortcut links to a program on the desktop and the Quick Launch bar--then, if it finds none, refrains from putting new ones in those spots.

This is a little thing. But it only adds to the sense that computers, no matter how smart they may become, will never, ever learn to be nice to you.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 13, 2007; 12:33 PM ET
Categories:  Gripes  
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I'm with you Rob. Why can't they give us a chance to opt out of all those icons at the beginning of the download for the update?

Posted by: Rohnert Park, CA | July 13, 2007 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I couldn't agree with you more. It's so annoying when software does this and QuickTime was one of the worst. All of Apple's Windows software has annoying quirks (like not respecting UI conventions) that would never be tolerated by the Macerati (of which I am 50% one). It's also buggy, as evidenced by the fiasco that was iTunes 7, and some of those bugs as of 7.3.1 are still there (like the occasionally disappearing video window after leaving full-screen mode). It's just hypocritical considering the guff Apple gives Microsoft for these kinds of failings.

Posted by: Boyd | July 13, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

QuickTime is one of the worst, I agree, but Microsoft itself takes the cake. Not only does it leave icons all over the place, it will install software arbitrarily just to make sure you have it. I gave up trying to uninstall Outlook Express. It kept coming back like Lazarus or a phoenix.

If it is good enough for Microsoft, might as well be good enough for everyone else.

Posted by: slar | July 13, 2007 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I would like to have itunes on my collection

Posted by: maria | July 13, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

What's really nuts is the QuickTime 7 Windows site license:

"...each installation of the QuickTime Software must result in the QuickTime Player icon residing on the desktop of each authorized user."
[, page 2]

So technically it's against the license for an IT administrator to delete that icon as a courtesy to their users.

As for OS X, you might recall that when you first get a Mac it has the QuickTime Player icon in the dock, so it complies with the spec above.

Posted by: BR | July 13, 2007 4:13 PM | Report abuse

What annoys me about iTunes installs is the extra copies it leaves of its installer in your Documents and Settings folders. On my machine, in the \Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Apple Computer\Installer Cache folder, are copies of all of the previous QuickTime installers back to the first iTunes 7 version. Due to the way Windows uninstalls/repairs programs, I'm afraid to delete these extra copies, but I do have a hunch they're not needed anymore.

Posted by: PK | July 13, 2007 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Is there any reason at all for iTunes and Quicktime to be bundled in the installer? I mean, if I want iTunes or Quicktime, why can't I get it without the other?

Posted by: LB | July 13, 2007 4:40 PM | Report abuse


iTunes requires QuickTime for playback capability.

If you just want QuickTime, you can download it standalone from Apple but you have to read all the options on their site carefully. I missed it the first couple times I tried downloading QuickTime and ended up with iTunes too.

Posted by: BR | July 13, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I agree that icons on the desktop are a bad thing, but where the heck else can Apple put it? In the start menu? No one can find anything in there, that's why almost all Windows installers (not just Apple's), put icons on the desktop in the first place.

Coming from a DOS/Windows background I always hated QT, in fact installing QT completely *destroyed* my Windows installations many times during the 90's and early 200's ( I was a big win 95 supporter back then).

Then I recently found out the truth, which is that MS actively conspired to make QT on Windows fail and purposely set it up so that if you use QT, it will hose your entire system. So my Win 95 was being screwed up by MS themselves at the same time as I was posting to news groups about how great an revolutionary Win95 was! Oh, the irony!

If you are having problems with Apple's products on Windows, the majority of the time it's more likely to be a Windows problem than bad coding on Apple's part. Apple is certainly not perfect, but they are a 100% closer to perfect than anything MS puts out.

If you want an amusing factual read about how all this went down, look here:

I would not touch Windows with the proverbial 10 foot pole today.

Posted by: Jeremy | July 13, 2007 4:56 PM | Report abuse


I don't like the Start Menu much either--see how much rearranging I have to do to get mine organized efficiently--but it's the only viable option.

(As an aside, I hate having to redo those menu edits after I install an updated version of a program--there doesn't seem to be an installer smart enough to keep up with changes to the Start Menu.)

The desktop doesn't work; it gets covered up too quickly by open windows and accessories like Google Desktop or Windows Vista's Sidebar. The Quick Launch toolbar and System Tray are even worse. And only hard-core geeks will type .exe filenames into the Start Menu's "Run..." command.

The Start Menu could be much more useful if developers would only follow Microsoft's guidelines. But not even Microsoft's own programmers can be bothered to do that.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | July 13, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Jeremy: Some programs actually ask if you want a desktop icon and if you want a program group on the Start menu. I wish QT would do that (I don't use iTunes), and I wish QT, RealPlayer, and about a million other programs would ask "Do you want this program to start every time you start Windows, whether you plan on using this program every time or not?" just to be clear. Getting rid of the systray icon doesn't prevent QT from starting up with Windows. You have to use msconfig or a program like Autoruns to make that stop. (Well there might be other ways, but you see what I mean.) I loved Rob's comment about how so many programs think they're The Most Important Program In The World.

Posted by: Cate | July 13, 2007 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Every so often I go through my list of startup programs to get rid of those I don't want running. I noticed a Quicktime file had checked itself after this latest update, so I unchecked it. But now there are two identical items in the list for qttask. Is there any way to remove the extra one? I noticed the same thing with Java's jusched--there are two identical ones! That clutters up the list and makes it harder to police.

Posted by: A | July 13, 2007 7:02 PM | Report abuse

It's a pretty trivial exercise to clean up the Windows start menu. Everything I use regularly gets pinned to the top, and the rest get sorted by function on the All Programs list. Most utility/driver/OEM stuff that I never invoke directly gets thrown under a single menu folder.

I also delete items like Windows Catalog or duplicates of Windows Update/Microsoft Update.

iTunes has had a long record of taking over file associations without asking, and then if you reassociate the file extensions, would grab them back every time the program ran. It also goes through and touches the headers of all MP3 files without warning. This can have the effect of making the file headers incompatible with other media management software.

Apple is doing all of these things a decade after any supposed shenanigans during the Windows 95 era.

Posted by: Mike | July 14, 2007 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Ah Rob, you may be a great technology writer, but you're rusty on your history. Throughout history all battlefields have been 'messy' affairs, why should the Window's desktop be any different?

Posted by: Bruce | July 14, 2007 10:08 AM | Report abuse


Funny that of all the things you mentioned you do "not mind having iTunes as the default music player." If iTunes is the default, and you double click a music file elsewhere on your computer than the iTunes music folder, iTunes will make you wait while it imports it to your iTunes folder before it will play it (at least in Windows). Windows Media Player, as the default, would just play it when you double click a music file. I love iTunes and use it for everything musical except as the default player. Sometimes you just want to play a file quickly, and don't want to wait for the import.

I agree that having to delete the Quick Launch icons is annoying, but I agree more that this is a very minor annoyance, since it takes about 10 seconds and we can all do it in our sleep. I have Windows XP and have to do it both for iTunes and Quicktime; I'm not sure why you don't get an iTunes icon in your Quick Launch area.

Posted by: daviddc | July 14, 2007 5:07 PM | Report abuse

This is one of the MOST ANNOYING THINGS EVER, right up there with the Windows Genuine...blah blah blah tool (the one that proves you're not a criminal, over and over again).

Adobe Acrobat used to do this as well, and you used to have to go into msconfig to dig it out as well, but I noticed that update 8.1 didn't require that. I was pleased that SOMEONE FINALLY RESPECTED MY WISHES ABOUT MY OWN DANG COMPUTER.

Posted by: Bob | July 15, 2007 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Rob - did you try running iTunes and Quicktime in a limited user account?? Without a registry hack, Quicktime will not even launch. iTunes takes tens of seconds for each launch, displaying a popup saying "Please wait while Windows configures iTunes". Apples installer just seems to be limited user ignorant.

I'd say this is a major security issue as it forces users to do the insecure thing of running with administrator privileges. Far more crucial then stupid icon placement. (Which I agree with you about.)

Posted by: Clem | July 15, 2007 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I don't have the problems with iTunes that you do Rob. The upgrade went very smoothly without any clean up when through. Of course, I am running OS X on a Mac Book, so I avoid all the issues attendant with Windows.

Posted by: Larry M | July 15, 2007 6:45 PM | Report abuse

How about the totally unuseful processes running all the time: iPodService and ITunesHelper? Some versions ago you could just kill them, and rename the executables, so they would not run in the background at the next boot. Now that is not possible, the program plants those everytime you run iTunes. Question for Apple: What if I want to use iTunes but I don't want the iPod? Why my PC should keep waiting for an not-existing one to be plugged in?

I used to like iTunes, but now it is becoming as bloated as any windows player. I am waiting for the porting of the soon to be released AmaroK for Windows (I already used it and love it in Linux).

Posted by: NickF | July 15, 2007 10:49 PM | Report abuse

Jeremy, nobody is really discussing iTunes to be buggy. Its problem is not being buggy (although some version were), but trying to be omnipotent. It's just a player, and I don't see why it should have icons all over the places and tons of processes running at all time. It's a design problem that I have a problem with, which is typical of Apple products for Windows. Why not just make a simple player, that runs only when you want it? Try VideoLan or AmaroK and you will immediately understand what I mean. Until then, I will consider iTunes a perfectly executed, bug-free piece of bloatwasre.

Posted by: NickF | July 15, 2007 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Man, listing to all these issues folks have downloading Apple software on their windows machines confirms my choice to go with mac all they way.
No hype here, Mac users simply have WAY FEWER issues (I didn't say any, just significantly fewe) Than windows users.

Posted by: chris | July 16, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse


ITunes is in version 7.3x, not just 7.2. I wish I had installed 7.2 instead of 7.3, as 7.3 has known issues with being unable to back up -- which I discovered after I bought an iPhone and HAD to use ITunes on my PC.

-- Mike

Posted by: Dr. Michael W. Ecker | July 16, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Get rid of iTunes.
Get Songbird instead.

Posted by: KH | July 16, 2007 5:00 PM | Report abuse

If you have a wish list for Apple software, like things you'd like changed in iTunes, you can always select "Provide feedback" or find the product feedback pages on Apple's Web site. At least Apple listens to what people want. And I'd bet that most of the iTunes/Quicktime problems are more a Microsoft thing than an Apple thing. Of course, I use Macs now 100% because I got tired of all the Windows crap...

Posted by: Mark Boltz | July 18, 2007 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I bought an iPod for my husband, so had to install iTunes on his Windows-based laptop so he could interact with the iPod. I hated the way iTunes took over and vowed to never install it on any of my computers. Obviously that's knocked me out of the market for an iPod for myself, but refusing to buy a product is the only way the consumer can protest.

Posted by: Charlene | July 18, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I fully concur with you.
There are apps I call good citizens, that don't act as if they were alone on your computer and that get uninstalled cleanly.
Since long I decided to keep my desktop clean and it irks me went an app puts stuff on it, as well as, since I'm on a Mac, puts its icon in the Dock.
AFAIK iTunes core is not an Apple development but comes from Gracenote (that keeps the CDDB too). It would explain why it misses some of the basic Mac UI interface, like the drag and drop.

Posted by: Nick | July 19, 2007 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Is this just me? I'm using Windows XP. Got a prompt to upgrade to iTunes 7.3.1 which I accepted, but then iTunes won't start. Uninstalled and reinstalled the older version (7.3) which was working before, but to no avail. I wonder what went wrong. Now I'm unable to synch with my iPod :-(

Posted by: Alexie | July 22, 2007 5:38 PM | Report abuse

The other annoying thing is that if you do want a quick launch link, your existing one will not point to the new instalation unlike most other applications. You must install it again. In general, I'm in the habit of keeping my existing shorcuts and just saying "no!" to any additions from software updates.

Posted by: Brooks | July 24, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Not being an iTunes user, there is something else that annoys me even more about it: Whenever a person installs QuickTime without iTunes, the Apple Software Update keeps trying to trick the user into downloading iTunes new by listing both "QuickTime" and "iTunes + QuickTime" as checked items to be updated instead of just "QuickTime". Even when you check "Ignore This Update" it comes back again with the next iTunes update - which has been about 3 times in the last 3 weeks.

Posted by: Jim | August 6, 2007 7:57 PM | Report abuse

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