Helpctr.exe runs amok

Posted on 2006-07-13
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.
Question by:JOLSOM
Welcome to Experts Exchange

Add your voice to the tech community where 5M+ people just like you are talking about what matters.

  • Help others & share knowledge
  • Earn cash & points
  • Learn & ask questions
  • 4
  • 4

Expert Comment

ID: 17105242
*** {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 

That was taken from ""

Doesnt really help, but just found it and posted it. I'll rattle my brain a bit for possible solutions.

Expert Comment

ID: 17105245
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.

Author Comment

ID: 17105383
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
Simplifying Server Workload Migrations

This use case outlines the migration challenges that organizations face and how the Acronis AnyData Engine supports physical-to-physical (P2P), physical-to-virtual (P2V), virtual to physical (V2P), and cross-virtual (V2V) migration scenarios to address these challenges.


Accepted Solution

ShadowBlade72 earned 250 total points
ID: 17106353
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.
LVL 59

Expert Comment

ID: 17107999
Perhaps this website will be of assistance (although I really believe this is a virus or other type of malware):
Reinstalling Help and Support Center in Windows XP

Author Comment

ID: 17109462
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

Author Comment

ID: 17109481
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.

Author Comment

ID: 17115974
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

Expert Comment

ID: 17116159
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.

Featured Post

Enterprise Mobility and BYOD For Dummies

Like “For Dummies” books, you can read this in whatever order you choose and learn about mobility and BYOD; and how to put a competitive mobile infrastructure in place. Developed for SMBs and large enterprises alike, you will find helpful use cases, planning, and implementation.

Question has a verified solution.

If you are experiencing a similar issue, please ask a related question

Disclosure: Use this tutorial only when no other options helps to get Windows XP running without any problems and you don't want to format the drive. The back up of the data is the responsible of the user, however there is a description of how t…
Are you unable to synchronize your OST (Offline Storage Table) file with Microsoft Exchange Server? Is your OST file exceeding 2 GB size limit? In Microsoft Outlook 2002 and earlier versions, there is a 2 GB size limit for the OST file. If the file …
Two types of users will appreciate AOMEI Backupper Pro: 1 - Those with PCIe drives (and haven't found cloning software that works on them). 2 - Those who want a fast clone of their boot drive (no re-boots needed) and it can clone your drive wh…
This video Micro Tutorial shows how to password-protect PDF files with free software. Many software products can do this, such as Adobe Acrobat (but not Adobe Reader), Nuance PaperPort, and Nuance Power PDF, but they are not free products. This vide…

734 members asked questions and received personalized solutions in the past 7 days.

Join the community of 500,000 technology professionals and ask your questions.

Join & Ask a Question