Thursday, September 02, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Installing Lotus Notes 8.5.2 on Windows 7 – a cautionary tale

I wonder what Pseudolus would have thought if he had encountered this “gotcha” while installing Lotus Notes 8.5.2 (assuming that they had PCs in ancient Rome, of course).

If you’re not sure who Pseudolus is, go take a look into A funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and have a giggle or two, because you shouldn’t take life seriously all the time. There are some video snippets listed on this Google search results page, here’s one of them:

Anyway, let me now amuse and divert you. Here’s something for everybody, comedy tonight! …
Last weekend I eagerly downloaded IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.2, uninstalled version 8.5.1 and proceeded to install the new version of each.

The Lotus Domino 8.5.2 server installed like a dream, in the usual 5 minutes or so that it takes – it certainly is painlessly easy, a dream ride (especially compared with installing many other server products).

Then I moved on to installing Lotus Notes Client, Designer, Administrator desktop product. I expected this to take a little longer, perhaps ten minutes or so (including the Lotus Symphony productivity suite). I had no problems with any of the beta versions of 8.5.2 and expected no issues with the gold code version. But this is where I suspect Pseudolus or one of his zany associates must have decided to add a bit of spice to my weekend!

The normal initial dialog box showed up, namely:

As an aside, this is one of the very few installer panels out there which clearly and explicitly explains what it’s going to do with the extracted files. There are some installers which do not make it clear whether they’re merely going to extract the files into a program directory from which they are executable without any further ado, or whether the extracted files will be used to install the software (and also what will happen to the extracted files once the installation is over, for example automatically cleaning up by deleting these files). So congratulations to IBM for coming up with a perfect example of how this installer dialog box should be worded. Other developers of installer dialogs should take note.

As you can see, I decided that I wanted to keep the installer files and replaced the default generic name with a meaningful name (LotusNotesDesignerAdmin852) for the folder where I could finf then for subsequent installations. Note that my Windows temporary directory is on the F: drive and this drive has about 50 GB of free space, far more than the Notes installation should require, so I expected no dramas to ensue.

But guess what? I was wrong! A few seconds later I got this:

At this stage, clicking the OK button caused the installer to exit.

Now, I simply couldn’t understand why the installer wanted to use the C: drive when I had told it to extract the files to the F: drive, but took a look at the C: drive nevertheless. It’s a logical drive (on a far bigger physical drive) which currently has more than 23 GB free of its total 80 GB size.

So why on earth did the installer claim “There is not enough space on drive C:\ to extract this package” since the extracted package is much smaller than this?

Still very puzzled, and in no mood to spend more time that Saturday trying work out why this contradictory fatal error had occurred, I went to my secondary Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit) system and extracted the package there. As I had hoped and expected, this time the very same extraction phase proceed to completion, so I copied the extracted files over the network and was able to install the Lotus Notes 8.5.2 clients (with Lotus Symphony) in the expected ten minutes or so without further drama, and get on with some development/testing work. I’m still not sure why it worked on the secondary Windows 7 system but not the primary one (a subtle difference in Windows security configuration has crept in, or some such thing, I suppose).

Later on, I examined the C: drive’s contents for any possible cause for the wayward drive space claim. While this has nothing to do with Lotus Notes, I discovered to my chagrin that there’s a folder C:\Windows\winsxs that holds more than 30 GB of executables. I kid you not. Talk about Windows systems becoming  bloated!

It turns out that this folder, introduced with Windows XP, is the container for the “side-by-side” assemblies used to ameliorate the “DLL hell” issue for which Windows is infamous. Read more at Wikipedia or here. And mine holds over 20 GB in total contents. ... Crikey, fair crack of the whip, and stone the flaming crows (to coin three Australian sayings).

But this still didn’t explain why the “not enough space on drive C:\” error message was raised, and I remained puzzled. Until this morning, that is, when it suddenly hit me that this is one of those misleading messages, the wording being a “red herring” that causes you to waste time looking for causation in the wrong places.

It wasn’t an “out of space” error, but an authorization problem. It’s one of those situations, all too common with Windows 7 (and I suspect Windows Vista too, but I skipped over this Windows release so have no direct experience).

I find that Windows 7 can be extremely fussy about what you can do with folders and files on the C: drive, and any software you develop should be careful about what you expect your users to do with the C: drive (actually, with the Windows “system drive” which might not always be the C: drive). Always carefully check that you application will work properly (without failing due to authorization issues) if it touches a Windows 7 system drive!

The solution to quite a few Windows 7 errors is to execute a program using the “Run as administrator” capability, like this:


If you encounter the same error, this is all you have to do to get back on track. I hope this tip saves you some heartburn -- and that you enjoyed a look at “A funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” too.


  1. Well I'm glad that my scribblings above have assisted at least one person! Let me share part of an e-mail message that I received today from Ed in California (an expatriate Aussie from Melbourne too, no less) ...

    A sincere Thank You:

    I appreciated your insight in the blog above as that's the only place on the web I was able to deduce why I kept getting the 'not enough space' error while installing my new legit license for Quickbooks 2011 on an XP machine. I called cust svc 4x, and you know the limits of India and Phillipines tech support when it comes to their written procedures.

    They were sure unhelpful, even disdainful. The whole temp file with read-only status and your revelation solved it, as Run As admin was the problem. Intuit Tech Support was close, as they said to do Run as Admin, but they didn't realize XP doesn't have those words, only Run As and then the radio button to select to sign on again as the Admin.

  2. Thanks! Helped us with the same issue on a Domino 9.0.1 installation!