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Windows XP Applications Stop Working!

Posted on 2004-03-20
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Last Modified: 2008-02-01
I have an extremely frustrating problem with my machine.

Basically, on bootup, I can run applications as normal.  However, after an undefined time ranging from 5 minutes to 2 seconds, no new applications will load, save for command prompt, and then only when run from the "run" dialog as "cmd".  I can click on icons etc., and I get a little bit of hourglass activity, but nothing happens.

Any applications already running when I try this are likely to crash.  The only exception is MSN Messenger, which seems to run happily at any time from the system tray where it's loaded on startup.  However, this too will crash when anything else is run.

This problem affects everything down to the Ctrl+Alt+Del Task Manager and shutdown/restart/standby/hibernate as well, so I end up having to kill the computer with the power button.  Windows seems stable throughout this nonsense otherwise.

One oddity is regedit, which instead of not reacting produced a message saying that memory at "0xx0000005" or something could not be read.

I have tried System Restore back to a point well before this started happening, I have tried turning things off in msconfig and Services.  A NAV virus scan found nothing and got through the whole c: drive before I clicked on an application and it crashed whilst on my small backup partition, so I am fairly sure it isn't a virus.  I have also tried resetting the BIOS (after seeing the regedit error) and this hasn't helped either.  This problem does not occur in Safe Mode.

I know a fair bit about computers but this has, for once, stumped me completely - I've never seen anything like this happen before!

Fingers crossed someone knows the answer!

Many thanks

Phil
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Question by:comphil
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by:LeeTutor
ID: 10642241
Well, if not a virus, it might be another type of malware, like a trojan or worm, etc.  There are a number of viruses that mess up the Registry data for running executable (.exe) files, so this can cause nothing to happen when you double click an .exe file in My Computer or try to execute one by putting the name in the Run dialog box off the Start Menu.  Various authors have come up with .reg (Registry) files to restore the proper contents.

For Windows XP, you can find one this way: go to the following page and click on the link for item number 12, "EXE Fix for Windows XP":

http://www.kellys-korner-xp.com/xp_tweaks.htm

You would need to download the .reg file to someplace convenient where you can access it, such as your Desktop, then double click it to merge the contents into the Registry and reboot the computer.
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by:LeeTutor
ID: 10642248
If you can get the applications to work with the above .exe fix, then you might consider this:  Different AV programs are not equally effective at detecting viruses.  You could try the free online virus tool at http://housecall.antivirus.com    I find that it isn't always able to CURE every virus it detects, but it is good at detecting and identifying them.  

A couple of other free online virus scanners:

http://www.pcpitstop.com/antivirus/default.asp 

http://www.pandasoftware.com/activescan/com/activescan_principal.htm 

Also try these free programs to rid your system of spyware, trojans, and other malware:

http://download.com.com/3000-2144-10194058.html?tag=lst-0-1
Spybot - Search & Destroy can detect and remove a multitude of adware files and modules from your computer. Spybot can also clean program and Web usage tracks from your system, which is especially useful if you share your computer with other users. Modules chosen for removal can be sent directly to the included file shredder, ensuring complete elimination from your system. And for advanced users, it allows you to fix Registry inconsistencies related to adware or malicious program installations. The handy online update feature ensures that Spybot always has the most current and complete listing of adware, dialers, and other uninvited system residents.
Version 1.2 adds a variety of new and updated features, including an immunization option that allows you to block many spyware downloads before they get to your computer, and improved detection mechanisms for morphing files.

http://download.com.com/3000-2094-10045910.html?legacy=cnet
With its ability to scan your RAM, Registry, hard drives, and external storage devices for known data mining, advertising, and tracking components, Ad-aware can easily rid your system of these tracking components, allowing you to maintain a higher degree of privacy while you surf the Web.
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by:comphil
ID: 10644784
Nope, no play.  Put the file into the registry and the only difference is a remarkable increase in speed, which seems odd!  But it does load Mozilla etc. a lot faster, just before everything stops working again.

Interestingly, running command prompt from a shortcut on the start menu causes the whole computer to lock up completely instantly.  This seems very odd.

Anyone got any more ideas before I get the Windows CD out and nuke the disk??  It needs it anyway, but now is not the time!

Many thanks

Phil
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by:LeeTutor
ID: 10644823
You "put the file into the registry".  How about the online virus scans and the spyware removal programs?  Did you try them?  The reason for "the remarkable increase in speed" is probably that the registry fix for .exe removed the running of spyware, viruses, trojans, etc. that had hijacked the .exe command in the registry.  But you still may have a lot of other malware causing your problems...
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by:comphil
ID: 10644844
Yes, I am running Spybot now, but I do run these programs on a regular basis anyway so my reaction at the time was to assign them a low priority on the list of "things to try"...however...Spybot has found a registry change which was done through a security hole in Internet Explorer (good old Microsoft - I wonder why I never use that browser.....) so that may help.

I wasn't saying that I'd tried everything - just that the registry thing hadn't worked!  It's worth knowing what works and what doesn't if someone else has the same problem....I'll let y'all know if anything works.

Thanks for the help so far

Cheers

Phil
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by:comphil
ID: 10645002
Right, well, I've run Spybot and Adaware, spybot's discovery made no difference, a registry adjustment to compensate for that registry change it found did nothing (spybot did it itself anyway) and adaware just found the usual generous helping of tracking cookies.

I can't run the online virus checkers because it all goes pear shaped before I can even start the scan, let alone finish it!  I can't run them in safe mode because it doesn't load drivers for my wireless network connector so I have no Internet connection.  I must say I would be very surprised if Norton AntiVirus had missed it - I have been using various versions of it for years and it's never let me down.  My definitions are completely up to date as well.

I've been quite virus-consciece since a virus wiped out all the documents and exe's on another computer I tend to occasionally, so this is very annoying!

This is truely a pain in the backside - I cannot think of anything else that might help this beyond a total reinstall, which I will probably do as and when I can offload all my stuff via network cable to this wheezy old laptop if there isn't a solution.

Thanks a lot for your help - I'll be grateful for any more advice but I'm looking forward to an evening of feeding an endless stream of CDs into the computer soon otherwise!

Many thanks

Phil
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Accepted Solution

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LeeTutor earned 125 total points
ID: 10645035
Are you thinking of doing a full format and reinstall?  How about trying an over the top install first?  This is how to reinstall Windows XP over itself:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;315341
How to Perform an In-Place Upgrade (Reinstallation) of Windows XP

Here is a nice visual walk through of the procedure (but unless you have a fast connection, it will take a little time to load the page!):

http://www.webtree.ca/windowsxp/repair_xp.htm

Click on the link for: How To Repair Windows XP by Reinstalling

Here are a couple of Microsoft Knowledge Base articles you should read which concern possible data loss when you reinstall/repair XP:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;EN-US;312369
You May Lose Data or Program Settings After Reinstalling, Repairing, or Upgrading Windows XP

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;EN-US;312368
Data Loss May Occur After Reinstalling, Repairing, or Upgrading Windows XP
 
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by:comphil
ID: 10645112
Good thinking!  I've not thought of that as a solution to persistent problems since Windows 3.11!  But it's kinda obvious I suppose....

Thanks for that, I'll see if that helps.  Will probably do a full format/reinstall soon anyway for maintenance purposes but if this works it'll keep the machine going.

Many thanks

Phil
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by:comphil
ID: 10645318
I don't want to tempt fate and say for sure YET, but that does seem to have done it!

Better than before, in fact, because everything loads so much faster now!  I'd forgotten how quick my AMD Athlon 2600+ should be - it was getting a bit sloooow.

Many many thanks - you get the points.

Cheers for stopping an early death from heart failure...

Phil

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by:comphil
ID: 10672605
Thought I'd point out for other people's information that doing a recovery install (i.e. installing Windows XP on top of itself) is not always recommended.

I have ended up nuking the partition and starting again anyway because Windows reset all the drivers and made a complete, unrecoverable mess of my ATI Radeon drivers amoung other things.

I have known other people say the same, although others have said it worked ok for them.

Cheers

Phil
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