IE8 doesn't close completely; Explorer folder windows won't open

I have a new problem with WINXP SP3 on a HP laptop.  Although the system works perfectly on boot, once I have opened an IE8 window and then closed it, these symptoms appear

the desktop background stops updating
it is no longer possible to open any folder window using Windows Explorer (e.g. MyDocs, Control Panel, c:\Windows, etc.)
When an IE8 window is closed, it will leave the Applications window in the task manager, but the instances of iexplore.exe don't leave the Process window.  If I open and close IE8 multiple times, then iexplore.exe instances will accumulate - generally more than I actually opened
Using the task manager to End Process Tree on each Iexplore.exe instance will eventually cure the symptoms.  When the last iexplore.exe instance is closed, the desktop will refresh and explorer folder windows will open

The only recent change to the system was the installation of an Adobe Acrobat 9 update which required a reboot.  I'm looking for ways to uninstall the update as a diagnostic measure. The system will not restore to any previous restore points.  A restore point is available, but after the reload/reboot procedure, a message says that the restore was unsuccessful and that no changes were made.  (This condition is not new)  The system also includes Norton 360, which has had zero problems since its install months ago.

Any ideas about what is causing this or how to resolve it?  Thanks in advance.
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pseylerAsked:
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Sudeep SharmaConnect With a Mentor Technical DesignerCommented:
Before you could uninstall or re-install IE, try running it without addons and see if it works there

This article would help you in running IE without addons
http://www.addictivetips.com/windows-tips/how-to-start-firefox-and-internet-explorer-without-add-ons/

Sudeep
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dbruntonCommented:
Suggestions only (other experts will comment).

Uninstall IE8 and then reinstall.

>>  A restore point is available, but after the reload/reboot procedure, a message says that the restore was unsuccessful and that no changes were made.  

I would be looking at a new reinstallation and saving of hard disk image once created.  There are problems there if this is happening.
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richardcardinCommented:
I have seen some of your symptoms before with ie. Have you tried to remove ie and re-install it?
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pseylerAuthor Commented:
Interesting suggestion, SSharma.  Disabling all add-ons COMPLETELY eliminates the problem.  now the trick is identifying which one(s) will cause it to reappear.  When I disable the group of Adobe Acrobat add-ons, PART of the problem goes away:  The explorer.exe hang disappears, but the instances of iexplore.exe continue to pile up in the Task Manager's Processes window.  So clearly they are part of the problem. Some other add-ons are apparently causing the iexplore.exe processes not to close.  Haven't found which ones yet, but still trying permutations.
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Sudeep SharmaConnect With a Mentor Technical DesignerCommented:
I would say that Symantec product play a major role in such cases. In your case Norton 360 could be the culprit.

Try disabling it and see if that eliminate the problem.

Sudeep
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pseylerAuthor Commented:
Good hunch on the Symantec add-ons.  They are the ones responsbile for keeping multiple instances of iexplore.exe open, while the recently updated Acrobat add-ons appear to be causing the Explorer.exe hangs.   Because there were no other visible symptoms before the explorer.exe hangs, I can't be sure if the iexplore processes issue is new or not.  Now I have to hound the folks at Adobe for an answer about the Acrobat add-ons.  Thanks to all for the help.
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