How Akamai Download Manager hides your downloads (VS 2008 downloaders take note)

Yesterday I downloaded the hot new release in the Microsoft development community: Visual Studio 2008.

At least I thought I did. I used the MSDN “Top Downloads” feature, which promises:

… a more direct way to initiate a download of a limited set of selected products

The service uses a plug-in called the Akamai Download Manager. This guy is annoying, especially if you use Windows Vista. First, it doesn’t seem to work at all. Then you realize that you have to disable the IE pop-up blocker. Next, you try to select a download location but it will not let you. It respects some setting in IE that restricts downloads to “safe” locations. You had better have lots of space in your user directory, otherwise this is not going to work.

Fortunately, I do have lots of space, so even the 6GB or so I was downloading should have been OK. I gave in and let it choose the location it wanted. The next thing you see is curious – see here for a screenshot. A message appears telling you the file has been saved (note past tense, though the download is just starting) to the Temporary Internet Files folder, and invites you to open it. I knew the file could not be downloaded yet, but opened it anyway. You get an Explorer window onto a weird location that claims to be in the Windows folder (it isn’t) and shows a single folder labeled C. If you are like me, you shrug, and close it. Don’t do that.

Why not? Well, after several hours or perhaps overnight, the download completes and you look for your files. Where are they?

I looked in Documents, the supposed location. Not there.

I looked in IE’s Temporary Internet Files folder. Not there.

I looked in my Virtual Store, a feature of Vista that supports legacy software which tries to write to locations like the Windows folder. Not there.

I performed a search of my entire User folder, set to show hidden files and folders. Not there.

Before giving up, I opened an administrative command prompt, navigated to the root folder, and typed:

dir *.iso /s

Ah! There they are, in (wait for it):

C:\Users\Username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Virtualized\C\Users\Username\Documents

where “Username” is the current user.

Why didn’t the Explorer search find it? The problem is, you have to have the option:

Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)

set to unchecked in folder options, passing the dire warning that tells you not to do it.

Why do I normally have this checked? The dire warning doesn’t bother me, but I do mind that having this unchecked shows files like desktop.ini on the Vista desktop. Ugly. So I normally have this checked.

Hey, wouldn’t it be good if Microsoft had a single checkbox in its “Advanced” search: to just search everywhere?

What is this nonsense?

So I found the downloads. But honestly, what is this nonsense? The truth is, Akamai Download Manager is not really Vista-compatible; why is Microsoft using it on its premier developer site, for its premier developer product? Ironically, this is the community most likely to be running Microsoft’s latest and [possibly] greatest.

Further, what it is the message here? That Vista adoption is so modest that Akamai can’t be bothered to fix its utility? Or that Microsoft’s own in-house developers can’t build a decent download manager? Or offer to fix the Akamai one?

Excuse my temper. It is no fun to complete a long download and then lose the files.

Update: I also sent a comment and query to the email address given for feedback. It was msdnreply(at) Guess what? Bounced with “User unknown”.

23 thoughts on “How Akamai Download Manager hides your downloads (VS 2008 downloaders take note)”

  1. Thanks and amen!

    I got it to work at home (on Vista), after several head scratching failures and trips into IE7’s settings.

    Couldn’t get it to work at all with Firefox.

    At work (also Vista), I get this error: “There’s a persistent network connectivity error preventing a problem with your connection to the Internet.” Probably has something to do with our proxy, but IE can access the Internet just fine.

  2. Tried on Vista and XP. On my 4th attempt. Gets to 48% and 98% and then WHAM…Network Error. And I have to start all over again.

  3. Me too. After jumping through the same vista hoops, my 3rd attempt just failed at 95% with a “persistent network connectivity error”. Connectivity seems fine to me. Disappointing, Microsoft.

  4. It’s kind of working for me, but it is a heap of junk. Why doesn’t it appear in the task bar? I keep losing the damn thing.

    Even more confusingly, the download manager MS used to use was fine, why did they change it?

  5. Hi all,

    The Visual Studio 2008 release is an interesting one as within minutes of the RTM, it was made available for download to a large number of subscribers and in order to provide higher scalability and performance (considering the breadth and size of the product), the Akamai service was used as an additional delivery mechanism. This has helped the MSDN team in delivering the product to a large number of users within the first few days after the RTM.

    As with any other broad and large distribution, some users may experience issues, which could be down to the network/environment settings of the client machine, transient nature of the Internet traffic, some restrictions applied by the ISPs, etc. In the Top Downloads section, there is a link to the FAQ page, which includes an illustrated guide to show how to address the common issues. As a subscriber to the MSDN, you can also use the normal support routines if the issue is not addressed in the FAQ section.

    Alternatively, if you are trying to download the Team System or Professional SKUs of the product, you should be able to use the traditional way by going to the subscriber downloads area (follow “Manage My Subscription” link).

    Hope this helps,


  6. Thanks for the comment Mehran. But I don’t think anyone has a problem with Microsoft using the Akamai service as such. It is the quality of the download utility, and its fitness for Vista users, which is the issue here.


  7. Well, I have used a number of download managers for various services in the past and they all have their own way of displaying windows, storing the output, limiting access to certain folders, etc. I feel more comfortable when I use Microsoft File Transfer Manager simply because I have used it more frequently so I know how it works and how to address the common issues.

    I can see your point in terms of the user experience. The user feedback plays an important role in driving product improvements so if you want to do so, please send your feedback to this MS alias: cscott.


  8. I agree. I’m using XP SP2 in a corporate environment and thus have no control over our proxy/firewall stuff. The akamai downloader simply doesn’t work in this environment (I get the “persistent network error”… message)
    Microsoft really need to do something about this. This basically renders our MSDN subscription here almost worthless…

  9. Thanks Tim

    I was just about to go mad with this issue. From the useless user experience on Vista, all the way through to the proxy issue on other window installs. After using your notes about file path I have final got it after 6 tries, thanks.

    As someone who talks about user experience, this may even get into a presentation of what not to do.


  10. Hi Tim,

    Akamai are rolling out a new version of the Download Manager, which addresses some of the issues highlighted in your post, namely the ability to choose the target location. I just installed the new version and gave it a try. I was able to choose the desktop as the target location and by the way, the user interface has a Windows Vista look and feel now 🙂

  11. I too was getting nowhere with the Akamai manager under Vista. The problem I had was that although the manager ran correctly when I clicked the ‘Download’ button on the MSDN site, no files ever showed up in the list. It was always blank and just sat there on my desktop doing nothing.

    Well, I found the way around it.

    Tools > Options > Security tab

    Uncheck ‘Enabled Protected Mode’ and restart the browser. Now that I have the manager running under Vista, I’ve come to realise how the two products are ideally suited: nobody really needs either of them 😉

  12. What did we do before the Internet? Thank you very much, I eventually found it in the folder you mentioned.

    I used a command prompt from C: using –

    dir /s *.7z

    It was a 7zip installer of 2Gb I was looking for. But the ‘Virtualised’ folder didn’t show up in the ‘Temporary Internet files’. It only showed when I copied the path from the command prompt into the explorer bar.

  13. Yeah, I feel your pain. Thank you fo publishing this. Hunting for it with search would have really sucked. Akamai needs to step up to the plate and fix this or in my case adobe needs to make their downloads not require the retarded download manager. Not sure why they force that trash on their users in the first place.

  14. Holy smokes, THANK YOU for writing this. I was *losing my mind* because Adobe now uses the Akamai Download Manager, and no matter how many times I downloaded the files – I simply could NOT find them. Now I see them

    Thanks again, huge help.

  15. I went to C:Documents and Settings\Application DataDownload Manager and had the following file there called VS2008TeamSuiteENU90DayTrialX1429235.iso_f4e18af_53500bd0.dmc. I opened it in notepad and found the url which I copied and have started downloading using a download manager like Flashget.

  16. Mehran,
    It’s a nightmare to download VS 2008, in Vista.
    Obviously, I am not alone having this trouble. The amount of different suggestions of how to fix it doesn’t help either.
    You sound as working for Microsoft.
    I have a suggestion: instead of writing a PR messages claiming how great download is, can you write a concise instruction that WORKS.


  17. There is absolutely no point in complaining to Microsoft Customer “Service” (WHAT “service” ?) about ADM problems. All you’ll get is a cheat sheet response telling you Microsoft can do no wrong and that it’s all your or your ISP’s fault. (Perhaps the swarm of complaints on Google don’t show up too well on Bing.)

    ADM failures while trying to download the RC cost me more in wasted bandwidth than the price of 3 copies of Windows7 Professional, but “Frankly my dear, Microsoft doesn’t give a damn!”

  18. @rodzilla: Microsoft’s offshore trained seals are taught how to convince you it was your fault that the latest MS update smoked your network, but expect blank stares and silence if you complain about the Akamai Download Manager or anything else outside the mainstream. They won’t know what you’re talking about, but it will be your fault anyway. It sounds like you’re hundreds out of pocket, but my advice based on past experience is to move on and don’t waste any more time trying to get a fair break. You can’t win.

  19. After more than $800 of wasted bandwidth on Windows7 RC download failures (which probably sounds a bit silly considering thousands of WaReZ sites had Windows7 downloads coming out their ears at the time, but I needed a guaranteed legitimate copy fast and was prepared to pay to get it) does Microsoft REALLY think I’m stupid enough to risk even more money on their “download manager” crap to get the Office Professional Plus 2010 Beta ?

    Despite hundreds (perhaps thousands) of complaints like mine, dating back years, Microsoft STILL won’t allow a plain vanilla download and STILL won’t let you use any of the dozen or more FAR SUPERIOR aftermarket download managers … you either use their crap or you go without! What’s wrong with that picture ?

    To add insult to injury, Microsoft’s “Customer Service” is an oxymoron! A complete waste of time! Their cheatsheet canned responses basically translate into “You’re an idiot and it’s all your fault!” … which when decrypted reads “If you’ve got any sense, you’ll buy a Mac next time!”

  20. Akamai DM sucks! Failed thrice at 99%! Such a big waste of time.

    I don’t what are idiots at Microsoft doing!!

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