The Ford IDS, Part 2: Installing the Software

Jan. 1, 2020
Since Part 1 of this series was published, I have received several messages from readers. It is clear that many of you are absolute experts with your scan tools.
TECH EThe Ford IDS, Part 2: 
Installing the Software 
Since Part 1 of this series was published, I have received several messages from readers. It is clear that many of you are absolute experts with your scan tools. 

However, rather than get too far into the minutia that we techies love, I have decided that there are far more of you that are trying to determine either if you want a factory scan tool or how to make it work. So let's stay on topic, and make this tool work for you. 

This software has a considerable amount of CYA - standard legal language - built into its install routine, and it generally does not tell you much about what it is doing either during installation or anytime thereafter until around version 48. Long pauses that look more like a computer lock-up are not uncommon. 

It is built for an environment where the user is familiar with its layout. But because that doesn't include us, I am going provide you with some tips and pictures of some of the things you will see during installation. 

Figure 1(All photos: D. Seyfer)

First and most importantly, you will need the installation DVD that came with the VCM tool. See Figure 1. This disc will be outdated, as Ford is constantly updating this software and seems to have a program update just about every week. But you must perform the initial installation from this disc so that all of the reflashing and calibration databases are on your machine. Don't worry; we will get you updated to the most current version after the initial installation is complete. 

When you put the disc in the machine, the installation program should launch automatically. You are going to be told to turn off your virus protection, firewall, etc. This is one of the CYA things I mentioned. I have not found this step necessary in any installation that I have performed, but if you want to do it their way, just make sure that the machine is not connected to the Internet until after the installation is completed. 

You will need to be sure that you have adequate hard drive space to install this program - with all of its calibration files, it is quite large. It will take up around 900 megabytes (MB) for IDS and another 1.1 gigabytes (GB) for the calibration files on your hard drive. It does not install Adobe Acrobat Reader, but does use some PDF files. You should consider installing it prior to installing the IDS software. You can find a copy of Acrobat Reader on the VCM DVD under "Other Tools." 

Figure 2

Now, let's look at what happens when you put the disc into the machine. 

A window will appear that looks like Figure 2. You will select "IDS" from the options. You will then be asked to make sure there is space on your machine and what language you would like to use. Then you can begin the installation. This will take some time, so be patient.

Figure 3

This screen will be up during the installation. See Figure 3. There are many files that it will sit on for what seems like forever. That is OK. Don't try to stop the installation. Your computer has not locked up. After IDS installation is complete, you will restart the computer. 

Next, you will repeat these instructions, but this time you will select "Calibrations" from the DVD menu. These are the files that will be used to "reflash" a vehicle's Powertrain Control Module (PCM). Once this is complete, you will restart the computer again. 

Figure 4Activation Now it is time to activate the software, and connect to the Internet. Ford has a small utility built into the program, but your best bet is to launch your Web browser and make sure that you have Internet access. 

Once you are connected, click on the IDS icon on the computer's desktop to launch the program. If all goes well, you should see a window pictured in Figure 4. Now, click on the left tab at the top, which is a little blue IDS icon (see inset). 

Next, click on the little Swiss Army Knife logo at the bottom of the screen. A new screen will come up that looks like Figure 5. Under the "Set Up" menu, select "Network Options." 

Figure 5

This will bring up another small screen called "Internet Service Provider." See Figure 6. Your network is already working; just click the "Activate" button at the bottom left of the screen. You will get a confirmation that the software is activated. 

Figure 6

Go back to the "System Utilities" screen (Figure 5) and choose "Set Dealer Information." Enter your name; your phone number (without dashes) as your "Code"; and choose your country. If you don't provide this information, the program will ask you to do it during updates, and you will have to do this all again after the update to Version 49. At this point, you can close the IDS software and click on the green checkmark because you will have no vehicle sessions to save.

Get the latest version Presently, the latest update is Version 49. If your VCM software is not the current version, you will need to update it via the Web. Do this before you do anything else with the program. 
Figure 7

To get the most current update, launch Internet Explorer 6 (or newer) and go to the Motorcraft Web site. The page will look like similar to Figure 7. Under the "Non-Subscription Resources" menu along the left side of the screen, select "Diagnostic Tool Support," and then select "IDS."

A new window will open. Choose the "Download Software" option. On the next window that pops up, select "IDS" again; here, it will give you the whole story about turning off all of your computer security software. 

Figure 8

You do need to turn off your pop-up blocker, and it would be a good idea to turn off your anti-virus software. However, from my experience with this installation, you should not need to disable anything else, but your set-up may be different. 

At the bottom of the screen is the link to the newest version of IDS. See Figure 9.

Figure 9

Once you click on this link, there will be a window that will come up that looks like an installation program. You will get a message about installing an ActiveX program, and a yellow bar will appear near the top of the Internet Explorer screen. To continue with the update installation, you must click on this yellow bar and authorize the installation of the ActiveX control. See Figure 10. After the first time you authorize it, you should not have to do it again at this site. 

Figure 10After authorizing, an "Install" button will appear on the screen and you can proceed. Follow the instructions and choose to "Run" the program rather than saving it to your computer. I have had some problems with the program terminating with the "Save" option.  You will receive a security warning that the certificate for the page you are on is not one that Internet Explorer is familiar with. Choose to "Trust the Site" and proceed.  It takes some time for some of these screens to move forward, so plan to sit with the computer for a few minutes until you see it installing files. Check back periodically, as you may have to make some choices along the way, too. One more time Once the installation is done, you will need to restart your computer again. Then launch IDS because we must make one more update before using it.  Go back to the "System Utility" screen again by choosing left tab at the top with the IDS icon. Then select the Swiss Army Knife tab at the bottom and enter your dealer information completely. Note, this is your shop's information, not the Ford dealer you do business with. Again, use your phone number for the PA code. 
Figure 11

Next, double-click on the "Update Software" link and choose "Install the Updates from the Internet." This will update your calibration files and anything else that has been released since the last update. You will get several updates. See Figure 11. Items with updates will be flagged with a green checkmark; items that have no updates are flagged with a red X. 

If the update says it cannot run, go to the "Network Options" on the System Utility screen and click "Activate." If your Internet access is working properly, that should be all you need to do. 

If there are updates to the Tech Tips, I recommend that you read them. You will learn things that are brand-new from Ford's Hotline that are not even in manual or TSB form yet. 

If you recall my first article about a 2006 Lincoln that was giving me trouble during reflash, you will find that there are now three related articles in the Tech Tips section. This update stems directly from the NASTF information request I submitted (along with, no doubt, the complaints from several Ford dealer techs who ran into the same thing). For those of you who doubt the system, this is proof that Ford will respond if you take the time to write and share your knowledge. 

With that, I am going to leave you to play with your new toy - I mean tool - until next month, when we will discuss some of the things you can do with this software. I am sure you won't be able to wait a month, so just be sure to read the manual before you go flashing software on every car in sight. And DO NOT flash any 6.0L diesels until we talk again. 

Oh, and when you connect the VCM for the first time, expect to walk away for a while as it updates and syncs with the IDS software. Make sure your laptop is plugged in and the car you are connected to has a good battery.