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Earthlink Total Access icon and programs disappeared from laptop twice.....

Earthlink Total Access icon and programs disappeared from laptop twice.....
(Note I have 26 years IT experience and have never seen this-I feel like a dope). Trying to help eldery guy in my neighborhood.

Computer: HP Laptop, Wireless Router to laptop. Standalone PC in home.

This occurred coincidentally after (I performed these actions for him):
*upgrading from Sygate Firewall free version (I have a call into them) to Sygate Firewall Pro paid version,
*then installing IE Cumulative Update SP1 and Directx 9.0b on Windows XP Home from WinUpdate.

The Earthlink Total Access DESKTOP shortcut icons and even the "Start
Programs" icons were gone..

I then had to get on the phone with Earthlink for my neighbor. It took 2 hours to remove the programs via the registry and deleting a few subdirectories. Could not reinstall prior to doing this-too many errors. Strange…

I do indeed have a call into Sygate. I also called up Earthlink 3 times who said they never saw this issue. So little help there. Am trying to find the cause of this……

The Earthlink Total Access icon changed shape (program missing) and the program taskpanl.exe (something like that for Earthlink) was missing entirely from the computer (The elderly neighbor is super frustrated).

Not sure how an entire program could be uninstalled like that.

I reinstalled this TotalAccess per Earthlink’s instructions and went home.

He turned off his PC last night and went to bed.
This morning he turned on his computer and Earthlink was fine. He read his email. Then he shut down Earthlink.

Then he went into Quicken for 45 minutes.

Then he tried to click on Earthlink Total Access icons were gone.

He told me he did not run ANYTHING else.

He still has an Internet Connection and can run IE but not Earthlink’s part which includes email and a toolbar and such that he finds simple to use and wants it.

He is not savvy enough to remove programs, reinstall them or even delete or rename icons.

The following programs are on the HP Laptop (Win XP SP1), Adaware, Spybot, Norton Systemworks Pro 2003 including Norton AV and WinDoctor-these are run pretty frequently.

There are no viruses on his PC that have been found. All spyware is gone as far as I know as I run these programs for him from time to time and ensure they are always updated.

I ensure his PC is clean by also running Regclean (not Microsoft’s) which shows what is
Really running on Startup (like MSCONFIG), among other things.

I even have his registry backed up via a special program called WinRescue (www.superwin.com) and after restoring it, the Earthlink Icons when missing did return but the Taskpanl.exe program was not anywhere on his PC.

System Tray:
In the system tray sits my Internet Access icon (two computers talking to each other), Norton AutoProtect (against viruses and malicious scripts), Spyware Stormer, Sygate, NoAds-a Pop-up stopper, and the volume control. All of the above are very popular and used in a  widespread nature on PC's as you know. This is a standalone PC.

He has used a computer for months with no problems even with Sygate Personal (free) version and Norton and Adaware and SpyBot and Spyware Stormer-all the above.

Earthlink and all of its icons were fine until as mentioned, we downloaded and installed  Sygate Firewall Pro version and Microsoft Directx 9.0b and a cumulative IE sp1 update.

Perhaps Quicken is causing a conflict but I use Quicken and have no problems but I do not use Earthlink. May be Sygate is not configured properly but in any event how can a program or process delete files and icons????

Thanks for any ideas, log files to review in various programs and on computer, etc... This puzzles me to no end.

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1 Solution
I'm dumbfounded over this problem too... so I've been trying to find out what in the world could possibly do this to a computer!  My instincts keep leaning toward something in the firewall is not configured correctly.  I went to Sygate's user manual (you'll find this interesting... some of the pages are actually missing out of this manual!)http://smb.sygate.com/support/userguides/pspf/pspf55_userguide.pdf

Here's what some of the PDF said...
What should I do if experiencing a slow or non-existent connection after
installing the Personal Firewall?
This is all listed on page 97 of that PDF.

On the Sygate site... I found this...  Sygate® Personal Firewall build 4.2.872 or SPF PRO 4.2.872 or higher will support Windows XP. However, Sygate® Personal Firewall build 4.10.814 or earlier does not support Microsoft Windows XP.
What version is your Firewall?  Maybe it's a version that is not compatible with XP...?

Another thought... what if he has a firewall installed with his Earthlink connection?  If so, maybe Sybase and Earthlink are not playing nicely together. :)

I would uninstall everything that you have installed and just make sure the computer is stable (backing up the registry was a good idea!)  I would let him use his computer a few days with everything uninstalled and if nothing happens, I would then install one thing and let it go for a few days and see if it happens again.  

If worse comes to worse a fresh install of Windows may be needed.  

I hope I've been able to help! :)
pacummingAuthor Commented:
Thank you. We have Sygate version 5.53. I also have it on my Win 2k machine and am trying to duplicate the problem. However he is on XP and I am not. He also has a Win XP version of Erathlink Total Access taskpanl.exe and I have a Win 2k version. He also has Spyware Storemer and I do not. We both do have AdAware, Spybot and Norton. Ran them all including WinDoctor. Tried to run everything at once, rebooted, ran Earthlink again, ran AdAware and Spybot again and WinDoctor. Icons still working.

I was thinking and posted in EE for a recommendation on a free Filemonitor. I tried Filemon and it works okay BUT it does not show what process/program source launched a program. But it perhaps could show previous programs launched prior to perhaps an anomaly if he writes the time down of the anomaly and the date.

Thanks for your advice. I was thinking of just reinstalling his Earthlink and then shuttdown down some of the memory resident stuff.

I know everything that is running, services looked good, no Virii unless it is hidden/attached cause then only TDS may catch it.

Sorry I wasn't able to help you out... maybe someone else will know where you can get a file monitor program... ?

Good luck! :)
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