Microsoft

How do I... Return the Address bar Windows XP SP3 removed?

One of the features we liked about Microsoft Windows XP was the optional Address bar you could dock to the toolbar section of the desktop. But Service Pack 3 for XP takes away that option ostensibly for legal reasons. Well, Mark Kaelin says nuts to that and shows you how to get it back.
When I am running my PC under Windows XP, I like to take full advantage of the toolbar options (Figure A) available on the desktop. The Address Bar is one of my favorite features, and I always have it attached to a taskbar somewhere. It is a convenient tool for navigating to places on the Internet or on my personal computer with addresses that are faster to type than they are to find with a mouse.

Figure A

Address Bar is available before SP3
But according to forums on Microsoft TechNet, the company is concerned that integrating the Address Bar may be construed to be in violation of certain antitrust rulings, especially in the European Union. The idea of Microsoft being bullied into removing useful features strikes me as disingenuous at best. I suspect there are ulterior motives at work. But that doesn't help us with the fact SP3 removes the Address Bar from the available options (Figure B).

Figure B

Address Bar is not available after SP3

Getting it back

Getting the Address Bar back requires what I would call a small hack. That being said, if your psyche can't handle a little backdoor manipulation, you might want to weigh the risks of this technique with the safety of leaving it be.

By the way, I cannot take credit for this trick; I saw these steps posted on a Microsoft Community Forum. I am merely expanding on it with some more detailed instructions and some imagery. I also want to thank and acknowledge Kenneth P. Grush who e-mailed me about the controversy this morning and posted a comment in my previous blog entry about Windows XP SP3.

The file modified by Windows XP SP3 is browseui.dll. The trick, put simply, is to replace the SP3 version of this file with an SP2 version of the file. The older version of browseui.dll can be found in the following directory of a non-SP3 Windows PC:

C:\Windows\System32\

Copy the browseui.dll to the root directory of the SP3 machine or to some other location that the SP3 PC can access.

Okay, here is where its gets a little tricky. The browseui.dll file is a system file and is therefore protected whenever Windows is running. That means you cannot just copy the SP2 version over to the SP3 version. You will have to start the SP3 PC in Safe Mode. In fact, I would suggest starting the SP3 PC in Safe Mode with a command prompt.

Here is how you do that:

  1. Restart the SP3 computer.
  2. When it starts the reboot process and before Windows starts to load, press the F8 key, which will load the Advanced Boot Options Menu.
  3. Choose to start in Safe Mode with a Command Prompt option.
  4. At the Command Prompt, type this copy command:
    xcopy C:\browseui.dll C:\Windows\System32\
  5. Reboot the SP3 PC normally.

If all went according to plan, you should now have the option to add the Address Bar to your desktop (Figure C).

Figure C

The Address Bar is back

Third party

Several third-party companies have rushed to the rescue and are also offering their particular solutions to the missing Address Bar problem. Niversoft is the one I am most familiar with, but I am sure there are others. If replacing new system files with old system files is not your cup of tea, perhaps a third-party option is more to your liking.

Politics

When the threat of legal ramifications causes features to be removed from software, I begin to question just who the plaintiffs are actually trying to protect. As a consumer, I want those features, and many times I want them integrated right into my operating system. The innocuous Address Bar would seem to be safe from such political fallout, but apparently that is not the case. But as with any bureaucratic nonsense, it is up to the people to find a way.

About

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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