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No icons or programs after both a normal boot and a safe mode boot

Posted on 2008-10-26
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Last Modified: 2008-11-02
im using an IBM ThinkPad T30 with XP PRO SP2 installed. after booting the laptop i can only get as far as seeing the desktop. there are no error msgs nor is there anything else on the creen. ive tried starting explorer using the task manager but i only get a dialogue box saying

 "windows cannot find 'explorer'. Make sure you typed the name correctly then try again...."

ive already done a full windows repair however there was no change.  any help would be great, thanks :)
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Question by:beefstu123
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by:ltxda
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If you're able to, create a new user within the Administrators group and login with that user.  See if things change for the better.
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by:jazzIIIlove
jazzIIIlove earned 100 total points
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Hi there;

0th way:
Have you tried safe mode? What happened in safe mode?

1st way:
Hit ctrl-shift-esc to bring up task manager. Go to the processes tab and close all instances of explorer.exe then go to file.. run... and put in explorer.exe

2nd way:
Do a WIN+R to get your Run dialogue up and type in regedit. Click OK.
Go to this particular registry key...
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon
Look for the 'Shell' setting and it should have Explorer.exe as the data. If it doesn't, put explorer.exe in there.
This ensures that Explorer loads on startup as normal.

3rd way:
Which virus protection are you using? Iff AVG:
If Explorer was modified so AVG it quarantined it doubt it deleted it unless you told it to. Boot in safe mode hit the F8 key after power up several times choose safemode no network support. Re run the AVG scan

4th way:
You might have some infection(s) on that PC.  Run hijackthis util (google name and download latest version) and post output....Don't fix it yet...

5th way: a little risky, repairing windows: A comprehensive guide:
http://www.webtree.ca/windowsxp/repair_xp.htm

Best regards..
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by:jgmontgo
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There is another thing that can happen. jazzIIIlove mentions AVG possibly quarantining Explorer, there is another thing that can happen/
Almost regardless of the Antivirus program you are using, many of them have the ability to block suspicious software. I discovered this was true of some versions of Trend Micro's PC-cillin. The original instructions I created to deal with this problem, if you are using Trend, are below. If you have a different Anti Virus the concept will be the same, the procedure will be different:
This problem is created when a rescent Windows update made a "suspicious change" by replacing a specific file on the subject PC. A variety of applications that are designed to protect our systems saw this change and either blocked access to the offending program, or asked for permission to block the file. These programs include AVG, Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 2007, and ZoneAlarm. I have not tested the solution for anything other than Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 2007, but the basic concept will be exactly the same.
The solution if you have Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 2007:
  1. Boot the computer normally, not in safe mode.
  2. If the blue pill (for Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 2007) is running in the notification area of the task bar (lower right corner) right click on it and "Open Main Console"
  3. If the blue pill is not present in the notification area of the task bar you will need to manually start Trend. Press Ctrl-Alt-Del and open the task manager. From the Task Manager select the File Menu and then "New Task (Run...)" this will open the "Create New Task" dialog. Type "C:\program files\trend micro\internet security 2007\pccmain.exe" (make sure you include the quotes). The Trend console will open.
  4. From the Trend console click on "Virus and Spyware Control"
  5. Click on "Suspicious Software Alarm System" and go to the EXCEPTION list.
  6. In the exception list look for explorer.exe and you will probably find it is Denied. Change this to Allow.
  7. Check the exception list to make sure no other common or imporntant files are Denied, if they are change them to Allow also.
Once you have completed these steps things should be completely back to normal.
Jon
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by:orangutang
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Also, even if explorer comes back, there's still a chance that you're infected. Try Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware (http://www.malwarebytes.org/mbam.php) and send us your HijackThis (http://www.trendsecure.com/portal/en-US/threat_analytics/hijackthis.php) log.
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torimar earned 250 total points
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If you receive the message that explorer.exe cannot be found, then I agree with jgmontgo that the most plausible explanation would be its being blocked or quarantined by a "security" application. Not only AV software and internet suites could do this, but also some modern firewalls (like Comodo) that come with an integrated malware scanner, and that are dreaded for their many false positives.

In order to get a working system again, in the taskmanager try running Explorer from one of those alternative locations:
c:\windows\servicepackfiles\explorer.exe
c:\windows\system32\dllcache\explorer.exe

If this works, immediately deactivate your AV/firewall software and open its configuration dialogue to put explorer.exe in the list of exceptions or trusted software. and to unblock/unquarantine it (Note: Before you unblock/unquarantine, check the file path; if it's anything BUT c:\windows, don't restore, because that most probaly will be malware!). Should you find no way of doing so, consider uninstalling the AV/firewall software altogether, and copy explorer.exe manually to c:\windows.

You might want to make sure that no other system files have been suffering from the same fate by inserting your Windows OS CD and typing:
sfc /scannow
in the run box or dos prompt.
(Note: You will only be able to do this if your Windows CD corresponds to the servicepack version of your installed OS!)

Good luck.
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by:beefstu123
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ok...update time.

i cant create a new user since i dont have access to the control panel or computer management windows, i might try making a new user further down the track. thanks lxda.

i already tried safe mode and i get the same symptoms....i used task manager and there were no instances of explorer.exe running before i tried to start a new one....the registry is fine as far as explorer.exe is concerned, the "shell" setting is there just as you said....im not sure wat virus protection, if any, is on the laptop...i'll try and figure out if i can run some virus scans even tho all i can see is the background display picture. thanks JazzIIIlove

if i can get into the programs i'll check if any antivirus programs are blcoking or quarrantining vital files. thanks igmontgo
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by:orangutang
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You should be able to run most programs from the task manager. Instead of putting explorer.exe, put in something like iexplore.exe so you can access the internet.
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by:jgmontgo
jgmontgo earned 150 total points
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Not only can you run most programs from the task manager but you can also browse through the installed programs (look in the Program Files folder). This is where you would determine if an Anti-virus is installed and then run it if applicable.
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by:torimar
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The easiest way to check for software installed will be to type:
control appwiz.cpl
in the taskmanager's run box. This will open the Add and Remove Software applet of the Control Panel.
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Do you know the main threat actor types? Most attackers fall into one of four categories, each with their own favored tactics, techniques, and procedures.

 
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by:jgmontgo
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@torimar: I agree but the point is also to take him to those applications so that he can actually run them (especially if the problem is being caused by something like an Anti Virus).
 
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by:jazzIIIlove
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Hi there;

Are you under a DC?

So, it is possible that your rights are restricted...I am doing the same thing in my department that students won't change the settings and finish the windows...Check it please...Ask the sys. admin...if job env. of course...

Best regards...
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by:jgmontgo
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@jazzIIIlove - Good question, definitely need to know if he is under a DC.
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by:beefstu123
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thanks for tips regarding task manager, i was able to run malwarebytes anti malware and remove 8 infections. after the restart explorer.exe is starting the way it should :) there are still many more viruses/spyware oin the computer so i'll be running som scans and removing them.  if you want i can post a hijackthis log before i start the scans.

also, im quite sure that there are no policies or settings in place to restrict my privileges
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by:jgmontgo
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Yea it looks like it is likely malware related. This is a bit of an alarming situation to be happening as a result of malware.
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by:beefstu123
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yup seems that way. its very alarming, especially since another computer will be ariving here soon with the same sysmptoms...
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by:jgmontgo
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Yea, if there is more than one with the same alarming symptoms, I really suspect Malware. Lets try something:
Download SysClean from Trend Micro, and run:
http://www.trendmicro.com/download/sysclean.asp
Follow the instructions in the readme_sysclean.txt that is linked from the download page. You will need to make sure you download and uncompress the pattern files before running this program.
If you can place your hard drive into another computer, as a second drive, it is best to run SysClean from that computer. This helps to ensure your malware is not running when you do the scan.
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by:beefstu123
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i just started workin on the other computer and it turns out that its just a userinit.exe problem, no worries :)
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by:jgmontgo
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Good to hear the other computer is a simple issue.
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