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pdfforge toolbar causes critical errors in Microsoft Office

Recently one of our customers (who has administrative access and is responsible for their own applications) chose to install the product pdfforge on their server. This server acts as a terminal server, providing Microsoft Office services for multiple users who access it remotely.

Everything had been working fine on this server when one Sunday morning it started throwing errors like this below and the whole of Microsoft Office stopped working.

Activation context generation failed for “C:\Program Files (x86)\ReadSoft\INVOICES\Bin\eiveri.exe.Manifest”.Error in manifest or policy file “” on line . A component version required by the application conflicts with another component version already active. Conflicting components are:. Component 1: C:\Windows\WinSxS\manifests\x86_Microsoft.vc90.crt_1fc8b3b9a1e18e3b_9.0.30304.0 _none_d9c474bda3593bfa.manifest. Component 2: C:\Windows\WinSxS\manifests\x86_microsoft.vc90.crt_1fc8b3b9a1e18e3b_9.0.30729. 4148_none_5090ab56bcba71c2.manifest.

We soon tracked down the start time of the office to be matching with the install of the pdfforge toolbar v4.7, so without much detailed troubleshooting we suspected this change to be the cause of the problem.

Unfortunately despite uninstalling the offending component and trying other actions like repairing MS Office, we were stuck with the same error.

Now it’s my personal opinion that troubleshooting office shared assemblies is about as much fun as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, and moreover in my experience you can waste inordinate numbers of hours , if not days, with little to no success. The same often counts for troubleshooting corrupted SSMS installs that are having .NET assembly problems. I’m not saying you can’t do it, I have done it myself, I’d just like to be able to reclaim those days and have devoted them to something worthwhile!

So what I really wanted was a quicker solution, especially after I read numerous reports of this software being considered as spyware / malware or just generally invasive and horrible. I’m not making a judgment on any of these specific points, I’m just saying that if you Google about the toolbar you will find innumerable reports of people complaining that it trashed their systems. Your mileage may vary of course, but I didn’t like what I read at all.

It would appear that pdfforge itself is well respected but that the toolbar contains the more problematic issues. Looking back through our logs we could actually see that the toolbar v4.6 had run without issue for several months. Only the upgrade to v4.7 seemed to cause the issue. What was also worrying was that no-one authorised the v4.7 upgrade, it just installed itself in the background. You can read why in this excellent article:

http://jivebay.com/2010/06/23/pdfforges-pdfcreator-sneaks-in-pdfforge-toolbar/

Anyway, we took the pragmatic approach and ran a system state restore on the server in question to a time before the toolbar upgraded itself. We then advised the customer in question to consider whether they might want to remove this software completely, or at least ensure that it couldn’t download and install upgrades without user interaction.