EchoLink is a VOIP program that allows licensed Amateur Radio operators to talk to other operators using the Internet as a link. Unfortunately, the current version on their website (version 2.0.908) uses an InstallShield installer that causes some serious harm to Windows installations when it is uninstalled — namely, it will remove the tiles from your Start screen and All Apps screen, as seen here.
It’s important to understand that this isn’t a flaw in the EchoLink operating software itself. Rather, it’s an issue with the version of the InstallShield installer that they are using to install the software, and that this only happens when you try to uninstall the software. Installing and running the EchoLink software poses no risk to your system until you try to uninstall it. The uninstaller does some (as yet unknown) mistake in removing the program which will cause the loss of your start screen after rebooting. See this post for how to fix the issue using System Restore.
Up until I started digging into this issue I didn’t recommend for anyone to use the software, as the consequences of trying to uninstall the software leave your system in an almost unusable state. I can now confidently encourage people to use it, but only if you run it as a standalone program — not when installing it using the bundled installer.
Now, I’m going to show you a way to run the EchoLink program without using the InstallShield installer, which makes it perfectly safe to use, and there’s no need to run an installer or uninstaller.
First, obtain the EchoLink installer exe from the EchoLink website. It will be named EchoLinkSetup_2_0_908.exe.
Next, based on a tip from this site, open a command prompt, change to the directory containing the EchoLink installer, and run the following:
EchoLinkSetup_2_0_908.exe /s /x /b"." /v"/qn"
This should create an EchoLink.msi file in the same directory.
Now, download and install 7-Zip using the default options. With 7-Zip installed, you can right-click on the MSI and click 7-Zip -> Extract to “EchoLink”. This will create an EchoLink folder which contains the extracted files. The files you’re most interested in are the EXE and CHM files.
You can run the extracted EchoLink.exe file directly, and from anywhere, and the CHM file contains the help documents, and they should be kept in the same folder. I don’t know if the elkbhook.dll is needed at all. I was able to use EchoLink normally and carry on a QSO without it.
I have already brought this issue to the attention of the EchoLink.org team, and they confirmed at the time that it was an issue with the InstallShield installer. This is what brought me to look at working around InstallShield. However, I haven’t seen an updated release from EchoLink.org to address the issue.
Thank you for reading, and please share this post with any Amateur Radio operators you know that run the EchoLink software.