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Helpctr.exe runs amok

Posted on 2006-07-13
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Last Modified: 2010-08-05
Periodically, when I turn on my Dell Inspiron 5100 laptop, i get multiple beep tones, and when windows finally boots, 50+ instances of helpctr.exe are running in the task manager processes.  Completely stalls my system, I get messages about virtual memory being too low...  eventually it freezes altogether.  Help Center screens sometimes appear, but mostly it just stalls out.
I went to services.msc and changed helpctr to manual, and the next boot, I got about a 100 beep tones before windows ever loaded (trying to start helpctr?), but it booted (finally) with no instances of helpctr running.

I'm pretty good about security and spyware, I have AVG, Counter Spy, Ad-aware, and run CCleaner bi weekly

Help!  I've googled the heck out of it, and only found one instance of this problem, with no answer, on an HP site.
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Question by:JOLSOM
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by:ShadowBlade72
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*** {01.48.017} Win - helpcntr.exe URL overflow
An advisory has surfaced indicating that a remotely exploitable buffer
overflow exists in the helpcntr.exe application, which handles all
URLs using the 'hcp' protocol. It may be possible for a malicious Web
site or e-mail to execute arbitrary code under the user's privileges.
This vulnerability has not been confirmed.
Source: SecurityFocus Bugtra
http://archives.neohapsis.com/archives/bugtraq/2001-11/0179.html


That was taken from "http://www.sans.org/newsletters/sac/sac1_48.php"

Doesnt really help, but just found it and posted it. I'll rattle my brain a bit for possible solutions.
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by:ShadowBlade72
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Addition to the above. I would suggest a paid antivirus service such as Mcafee. If you have comcast, you get Mcafee for free, so if your a comcast suscriber, then go download and install it.
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by:JOLSOM
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thanks for the quick response...I saw that advisory, but wasn't sure how it applied to me, or what to do next.  I'd appreciate any more noodling you could do on this - I'm stumped.

BTW, I have used AVG for years and been very happy with it...iI find the McAfee's and Nortons of the world carry too much resource baggage.  I'm afraid this is more a systemic problem that virussy - but I have been wrong before :)  

thanks again
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ShadowBlade72 earned 250 total points
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Are you getting any error messages when you bootup your computer, or just these beeping sounds?

One thing that I would try is go to: Start > Run > sfc /scannow

That will scan your system and ensure that all the windows files are intact and in their original unaltered states (As they should be).

Thats not really a solution, but it may lead you down some new paths to figureing this out. If it finds any problems, it will prompt you to put in your Windows XP CD so that it may pull the needed files from it and install them.
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by:LeeTutor
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Perhaps this website will be of assistance (although I really believe this is a virus or other type of malware):

http://windowsxp.mvps.org/rebuildhelp.htm
Reinstalling Help and Support Center in Windows XP
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by:JOLSOM
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Thanks for the reponse - the helpctr multiple entries are really limiting what i can run, even in safe mode.  I am running sfc /scannow, and it did find some changed files - I'm keeping my fingers crossed!  Crap - where is that original CD?!

I'll let you know what happens
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by:JOLSOM
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Oh - and no, no error messages - it starts beeping like crazy even before the Windows XP splash screen appears, continues beeping through the windows load, and when I get into windows, there are 50+ instances of helpctr.exe running in the Task Manager processes window, with no user associated with the process.
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by:JOLSOM
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Finally - it seems to be solved!  The sfc did replace some files, and it seems to be running fine now after multiple restarts, spy scans, etc.
Thanks for weighing in.

One hitch - I had to reactivate the copy of Windows after running sfc - and it didn't recognize the product key that came with the computer - and I know I had the right CD.  Does this always happen with a OEM CD - I've never had this problem with real MS windows copy of XP
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by:ShadowBlade72
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I've never heard of it asking to reactivate your copy of windows. Best bet is just to call microsoft, tell them about it and they will issue you a new CD key. I've had to call a few times when I reformatted my HD. They usually dont put up much of a fight and just issue a new CD key.
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