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Windows XP: Unable to run any executable programs "Choose the program you want to use to open this file"

Posted on 2009-07-06
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Last Modified: 2012-06-22
Gentlemen,

I'm working on a Windows XP Pro computer that was badly infected.  The infections were removed by connecting the hard drive to another computer and running virus removal tools there.  But when the hard drive is installed and booted from, the operating system is currently not able to run any programs.  

For example: Clicking on Start -> Run, typing in "cmd" or "regedit" or any other diagnostic program, then pressing the return key, an operating system popup is displayed which presents a list of available known programs that can be chosen to open this file type.

I've researched this problem and found a couple of good suggestions, like this one:
http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=837334

In a nutshell, there are a series of registry editing commands to be put into a file with a .reg extension.  Double clicking on the file will display a warning prompt that "Are you sure you want to add the information in: ... to the registry?", Yes, "Information ... has been successfully added into the registry.".  There is no change in running programs immediately after this, or after rebooting.  

Note that the System Restore cannot be used, because the same "Open With" dialog box is displayed, asking which program to use to open this file.

Are there any recommendations on how else to solve this problem, or perhaps to learn more about it?
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Question by:ChrisEddy
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by:Geisrud
ID: 24789218
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by:Geisrud
ID: 24789241
or try this from an MS-MVP
http://windowsxp.mvps.org/exefile.htm
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chilternPC earned 350 total points
ID: 24789287
I would do a do an inline install - i.e. boot off the XP install disc and ge to the point where is detects the previous installation and then repair the installtion.

the problem is not just the registry but also the services that should be running.
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by:ChrisEddy
ID: 24789289
Thank you for your quick response!

I've tried that, and unfortunately, no joy.  I did this by first creating a new text file, typing in regedit (and regedit.exe), and save the file as something with a .bat extension, and to set the file type to be "all files" instead of .txt.  Running the batch file presents the same "Open With" dialog box for the file "go.bat" (which is the name of the file I used).

Good idea, though!

Got any others???

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by:Geisrud
ID: 24789310
I'm curious if you navigate to c:\windows\system32 and try to run cmd.exe (trying to just double click on the actual exe file) what happens?
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by:ChrisEddy
ID: 24789311
Thank you also for a super quick response!

On the repair-reinstall, that's where I'm leaning now.

Unfortunately, I need to wait for the mirror to complete the "resilvering" process, because I worked  with only one disk of the mirrored pair and made it "newer" than the other, so now the "other disk" is receiving an image from the "current disk".

Once done, I'll probably need to create a floppy that contains the raid drivers on it, then proceed with the OS repair.  

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by:Geisrud
Geisrud earned 150 total points
ID: 24789323
good call on the repair install.  I've used that on badly screwed up system stuff like this before.  Be sure to reinstall service packs and windows updates after you do that.
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by:ChrisEddy
ID: 24789325
Using the Windows Explorer, navigating to c:\windows\system32, then double clicking on "CMD.EXE" produced the same "Open With" dialog box.

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by:ChrisEddy
ID: 24789437
Started the Windows XP Repair Reinstall...
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by:ChrisEddy
ID: 24789601
Looks like a big problem:

After the initial install completed, and after the computer booted from the actual OS to complete the installation, and it was proceeding through the "Collecting information", "Dynamic Update", "Preparing installation", the installation has now highlighted the next "Installing Windows" with orange - which is good, but now is presenting the dreaded "Open With" dialog box for the file "rundll32.exe".

So right now, I'm still where I was before the repair reinstall.

Any suggestions?
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by:ChrisEddy
ID: 24789624
Just for grins, since none of the applications like Acrobat or Internet Explorer or Excel will properly open this rundll32.exe file, I'm clicking on the Cancel button and will report results ...
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by:chilternPC
ID: 24789648
you will also have to reregister the update files to apply all the updates etc...
taken from another post:
open a Command window and type in the following:

    REGSVR32 WUAUENG.DLL
    REGSVR32 WUAUENG1.DLL
    REGSVR32 ATL.DLL
    REGSVR32 WUCLTUI.DLL
      REGSVR32 WUPS.DLL
      REGSVR32 WUPS2.DLL
      REGSVR32 WUWEB.DLL
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by:ChrisEddy
ID: 24789652
There were /many/ instances of rundll32.exe being launched, so I pressed and held the escape key until they were all satisfied and the repair-install is again proceeding.   (perhaps this will automagically heal the inability to run programs after all ...)  
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by:chilternPC
ID: 24789661
sorry - my last post assumes the repair install worked.  :-(

sounds like a complete re-install (i.e. reformat.....install)
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by:ChrisEddy
ID: 24789679
The one being tried to be run is regsvr32.exe, which is failing to be run.  
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by:ChrisEddy
ID: 24789704
... cmd.exe, failing to be run because the filetype isn't recognized,
... uploadm.exe failing to be run,
... locagent.exe failing to be run,
... unregmp2.exe failing to be run,
... migrate.exe failing to be run,
... grpconv.exe failing to be run
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by:chilternPC
ID: 24789724
can you try running (or clicking on) rundll32.exe ?  (jsut a guess now I think the anti virus program removed /deleted infected programs that were needed.

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by:chilternPC
ID: 24789736
a re-install will keep the registry andrebuild the system, however, it sounds corrupt
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by:Datedman
ID: 24789742
It is unlikely you will need to reformat the disk however you may need to do a complete reinstall of windows.

Don't assume that if you have to reinstall completely you need to lose your data--that is not the case.  Absolute worst case, you can put the disk in another machine and save the data elsewhere before formatting but when people tell you to format, best thing is usually to just say no. :)
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by:jmarti80
ID: 24789889
Is sounds like your system variable path is incorrect.  Check to make sure the PATH to your system variables have the following:

C:\WINDOWS and C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32

In case you've never done that:

Right click on MY COMPUTER-->PROPERTIES-->ADVANCED TAB-->click on ENVIRONMENTAL VARIABLES-->under the SYSTEM VARIABLES box scroll down and look for PATH and make sure you have :  C:\WINDOWS and C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32 listed.



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by:ChrisEddy
ID: 24790805
The Path environment variable contained those two folders, and in general looked proper.

After copying the full contents of the customer hard drive to another drive, have begun the reinstallation.
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by:ChrisEddy
ID: 24790844
On whether rundll32.exe can be run - no, this was already done earlier on when trying to do a repair reinstall, and was presented with a dialog box for choosing the application to use to open this file.
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by:ChrisEddy
ID: 24790990
OS install complete, driver install complete, established network connection.  

Beginning process of rebuilding the machine.

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by:fco_jimenez
ID: 25516622
Geisrud suggestion worked perfectly without the need to reinstall. Thanks

http://windowsxp.mvps.org/exefile.htm
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by:judgeking
ID: 26546685
I found a very easy fix by downloading exefix_xp.com at

http://windowsxp.mvps.org/exefile.htm
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