As you might expect, I received a flood of email about the Internet Explorer (IE) 5.01 Service Pack 1 (SP1) bug yesterday, which verifies that this is a huge problem. An overwhelming number of readers using Windows 2000 experienced the problem I described and were able to fix it using the Registry edit from yesterday's newsletter. But the feedback from Windows 98 users was so different that I decided to install that OS on an old system to find out what was going on. What I discovered leaves me even more confused by IE's convoluted version number scheme.
The original version of Windows 98 shipped with IE 4.01, which was version 4.72.3110. Note that this bears absolutely no resemblance to the version numbers for IE 5.x, but whatever. And Outlook Express had almost exactly the same version number: 4.72.3110.1. Upgrading this system to IE 5.01 SP1, which I did after applying numerous hot fixes and updates from the Windows Update Web site, however, nets completely different version and build numbers than what we see on Windows 2000, which is insane. On Windows 98, IE 5.01 SP1 is version number 5.00.3105.0106, and the Build value (53105.0106) is correctly entered in the Registry, at least on the system I tested. Thus, Office 2000 Help works fine from the get-go.
Most of the feedback I received about Office Help not being affected by this bug came from Windows 98 users, which makes some sense given my experience installing IE on Windows 98. But a small minority of Windows 2000 users has reported that Office Help works just fine on their systems as well. So it's impossible to know how this gets messed up. Microsoft has already identified this as a problem, though I haven't heard how or when they intend to fix it. If their mail is anything like mine, I'd expect that to happen soon