There are a number of tutorials and “How To’s” for doing a clean install of Second Life Viewers. Several viewers have their own instructions in their wiki or forum. I’ve read through a bunch of them. In general they seem to be written by a one-viewer user with some minor concessions to the possibility one may be using more than one viewer. I’ve had over 15 viewers simultaneously installed and working. I’ve also had things horribly balled up. So, I’ve experimented with several different clean install processes. This is what I’ve learned about Second Life Clean Installs.
Warning: This is Windows oriented. I don’t do Mac, sorry. And I don’t have any running Linux boxes.
Is an SL Clean Install Necessary?
Most of the time, a clean install is not needed. Even more rare is the need to do a mass clean install, which is where you uninstall all the SL related viewers on your computer. However, a clean install is a quick easy solution for tech support types. It is much easier for them to tell you to do a clean install and have you do all the work than try to figure out what you did and try to fix it. It is much easier for a techie to help you when they know the state of your computer. A clean install gives them a good place to start.
So, if you are have having a go-bald-day, a clean install will likely make it easier on you and the person helping you. So, it may be beneficial if not necessary.
However, before you go to all the work of a clean install, reboot the computer then manually clear the cache* and the viewer settings. Try logging in. You may find your viewer has recovered and save yourself the pain of a reinstall. So, how to manually clear the cache and settings? To save time, effort, and aggravation you need to know a bit more first.
Two Types of Second Life Clean Install
There is a Scorched Earth approach which is uninstall ALL viewers and delete all viewer related files and folders. For someone like me with over a dozen viewers that is time consuming. I’ve found I usually don’t need to go that drastic. But, if someone is helping you, they may recommend this method. You have to make a decision. I hope this tutorial will help you with your decision.
The other Clean Install is for doing just a single viewer. This method is often avoided because one has to find all the freaking files among all the other viewer files and I suspect most people don’t know where they are anyway. But, it is not that complicated.
I’ll explain what you need to know to do either style of Second Life clean install.
Multiple Viewer Considerations
When you have installed multiple viewers you have files in many locations that are not mentioned in most clean install tutorials. So, let’s get clear about how most viewer developers handle their files. Hopefully you will be able to find all your files no matter which viewers you have installed.
When I put a folder name in [ ] it is a description of a folder name not NOT the actual name. So, [viewer_name] would mean SecondLife, Imprudence or another viewer name.
Also, there are files and settings you are likely to want to keep. Chat logs and Windlight settings are examples. I’ll get to how to save them later.
Program files are typically installed on the C: drive in the Program Files folder.
UPDATE: For Apple users there is a Firestorm/Phoenix page on doing a clean install that gives file locations and steps for revealing hidden files.
There are two basic caches. Some viewers place objects, textures, and sounds in the same cache. Call this The Cache. Some viewers also use a Sound File Cache and place the sound files in it. The Cache is found here:
The sound folder, if it exists, will be nearby, if not adjacent. The Sound Cache seldom, if ever, needs to be cleared.
Clearing the main cache often repairs many problems*. Delete the folder to clear the cache.
This gets tedious and most clean install tutorials don’t bother to explain about settings files. Also, how different developers handle the settings files varies. So, the files are in different places depending on the viewer. The typical location is:
There are more than just settings in the settings folder. The in-viewer browser has a cache here in a subfolder named browser_profile. Various viewer logs are in logs. Chat logs are in the folder [avatar_name]. The actual settings are in a folder labeled user_settings.
This is where things vary from viewer to viewer. Some viewers place their settings and various files in the SecondLife folder and others put some of the files in a [viewer_name]\user_settings folder. So, if you do not find a [viewer_name] folder in Roaming, the files are likely mixed in with the Second Life files. So, if you are doing a single viewer removal, find the file settings_[viewername].xml. Look through the various folders in \Roaming\SecondLife\ for files with your viewer name. These will be files that need to be removed to make a clean install.
The important file to get is Roaming\SecondLife\user_settings\settings_[viewername].xml. Except for the SL Viewer’s settings, which are in settings.xml. Most of the other files are usually not a problem, so deleting them is optional. When one is using viewer 1.x and 2.x viewers chat can also be a problem**. So, it is a good idea to remove the chat files too.
Because some viewers include their settings file in the SL folder wiping the entire SL settings folder wipes the settings for all those viewers too. So, for a single viewer reinstall wiping out all the settings files is over kill. But, accidental deletion of another viewer’s files is only a minor issue. You can delete the entire Roaming/SecondLife folder if you chose. The other viewers will recover. You will have to redo your settings in each of those viewers when you next use them. No biggie but it can be tedious.
So, to just clear settings and restore a viewer to its default settings, one only need delete the viewer’s settings file. Often this will restore a viewer to perfect operation.
If you are planning on a Scorched Earth Clean Install you can save or delete all the other user created files. To save them; just move or copy them somewhere.
The additional user created files you may want to save are Windlight settings. You can find them here:
It is a good idea to have a backup of your Windlight settings if you use lots of them. Create a folder to copy them into. Call it Windlight Archive or whatever and put it someplace easy to find. As you get new settings you can copy them into the archive folder.
Skins you use are saved in:
After a reinstall you can copy saved files back into the viewer. The same with chat logs.
WARNING: With the release of Viewer 2 and even more so with the release of Viewer 3 trying to save skins is pointless. The new viewers so radically changed the interface that entire new skins are having to be designed. With the variety of User Interfaces in Third Party Viewers (TPV) skins are NOT interchangeable. So, unless you have customized a skin for a viewer you will be re-installing, forget saving skins.
The Second Life Uninstall
The order of install is not particularly important except for one consideration. The viewers have DLL files. These files have to be registered or included in the viewer’s program files. Different developers do this differently. If they include the DLL’s they may not register them in which case the install order won’t make any difference. However, if they are installing DLL’s install your most used viewer last. Otherwise, to get DLL registration right I suggest the Second Life viewer always be the first viewer installed and the last viewer removed when you are uninstalling them all. If you are doing a single viewer only, none of this matters.
When you plan to do a clean install for all the viewers you should remove them using its uninstall program. Several viewer’s uninstall programs do not remove all the viewer’s files. They also often skip or forget files in other locations. If you are doing a clean install, it is smart to check for and delete all the viewer’s files after running uninstall. Above I’ve listed them. With that list you can uninstall all or a just one or two viewers.
WARNING: If you are only removing one viewer for a clean install, avoid using the un-install program. Several remove files that other viewers need. The Lab’s SL Viewer’s un-install program is bad about wiping out files other viewers need. It also removes chat logs.
When doing a clean install for a single viewer the best method is to manually remove the files.
Once everything is uninstalled and files deleted, reboot the computer. This restart is needed when you use the un-install programs. It is not so much needed when you do manual un-installs.
Quicktime and Webkit
If you do not have the Safari Browser or QuickTime installed. Install them now. This will save you problems with Webkit and SL Media down the road.
The Second Life Clean Install
Regardless of which viewer you plan to use, install the standard Second Life Viewer. This viewer needs to be installed first, regardless of which viewers you plan to install. The reason is it makes the DLL registrations and other Windows Registry entries needed. It also downloads some files and installs them. You may need those files as a fix for other viewers.
Install the other viewers you plan to use. Install your favorite viewer or the viewer you plan to use most last. If you plan to use the SL viewer most that means, install it gain over the top of the previous install. By doing this little step you should end up with the Windows Registry correctly setup.
If you only remove one viewer and re-install it, you still need to reinstall the SL Viewer last, even if you did not remove it.
Not all the viewers handle the registry entries intelligently. If they did the last viewer installed would be the viewer your web browser automatically called when clicking an SLURL. So, this order of install makes a difference.
If you rebooted after the uninstall it is not necessary to reboot after the install. If not, reboot before starting a viewer.
If you saved Windlight settings or chat logs you should wait to restore them. Login and see if the problem is fixed.
Hopefully all works well. Then copy your saved files back to their respective folders.
Viewer Problem Tip
Geeks tend to forget to tell you to reboot. Anytime you viewer goes into 0.5 FPS or in and out of Not Responding, blinking black screens, or other obvious video problems, close the viewer, if possible. Clear the cache* and reboot. These two steps can fix an amazing number of mysterious problems.
* Clearing the cache is much less a cure all now, 2012, than it was when this article was written. Seriously consider whether your reason for doing a clean install is a data corruption issue. If not, leave the cache in place.
If your problem is more likely a connection issue, clearing the cache means your system will be putting more load on the connection and possibly complicating your problems. So, leaving the cache in place may help or hurt in these cases. I’m sorry I can’t give a better answer on point. However, I suggest you leave the cache in place and read: Troubleshoot Your #SL Connection.
** Chat files are seldom a problem now, 2012. Almost all the viewers have standardized on chat files. Some viewers keep their chat files in their Roaming\[viewer_name] folder. Others use the SL default location. In general, leave the chat files in place. If you really think they are a problem, move the file to another location or delete them. But, it is really unlikely they are the problem.
However, as the chat files get larger, there is a tiny bit of performance loss. Also, they are difficult to use, if you open them in external editors. From time to time you need to delete or rename them.