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XP Start menu and MS Office 2010 context menus quickly disappear

Posted on 2011-05-09
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
System: Microsoft XP SP3, MS Office 2010, Dell Vostro desktop for business with MS Updates kept up-to-date. Used for basic business: MS Office plus a few other basic app’s.

No recent installs/uninstalls or other system changes, other than perhaps MS updates.

Problem: On clicking the Start Menu button or tapping the Windows key the Start menu appears for about 0.5 seconds, then disappears. You can select a program if you’re quick enough, but can’t keep the menu active. Reverting to "classic" menu is a work-around, but did not fix the context-menu problem, described next.

In MS Outlook applications, right-click context menus behave the same: they disappear after 0.5 seconds or less.

In IE and Windows Exporer the context menus work. However, the main menus (from the menu bar) work except for the “Favorites” menu. When the “Favorites” menu is clicked the menu options appear, then disappear after a fraction of a second.

On-line searches for a solution came up dry.

Thanks,
Steve
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Question by:EfficiencyAnalyst
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Author Comment

by:EfficiencyAnalyst
ID: 35720545
I should have added: we did a full system Kaspersky AV scan and did not find a problem. Virus strings are up-to-date.
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Author Comment

by:EfficiencyAnalyst
ID: 35720626
We just discovered that a drop-down selector in Quickbooks, and a dropdown selector in MS Word (to select a printer) also disappear after a fraction of a second. However, if you hold the Shift key down when clicking the dropdown selectors, they remain active. (The PC user discovered this by happenchance - not something I would have tried.)

In Window Explorer the "Favorites" menu works if you use a Shift-click, like for the dropdowns.

We did try a reboot - didn't help.

(Unfortunately this kind of bug doesn't seem all that weird for MS Windows XP...)
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Expert Comment

by:Carlito985
ID: 35720706
Sounds like a problem that a had before, try to change the keyboard ;)
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Expert Comment

by:Don Thomson
ID: 35720820
By default, the Windows Desktop, Taskbar, and Explorer run in a single process usingmultiple threads. You can modify the registry so that the Taskbar and Desktop will run inone process with each instance of Explorer in a separate process. Start Regedit Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \Explorer  Create a DWORD value called DesktopProcess Give it a value of 1

Don't know if it will work but you can try this
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Expert Comment

by:ocanada_techguy
ID: 35722935
I've seen some "speed up your computer" utilities/hacks mess that up.  Check with regedit _CURRENT_USER/Control Panel/Desktop the value for MenuShowDelay  Value 0-999 in miliseconds,  400 is the default, 200 works for most people, 0 is no delay.  That might fix it.
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Author Comment

by:EfficiencyAnalyst
ID: 35725326
Carlito : I haven't tried swapping the keyboard yet, will try that tomorrow (though it happens when only the mouse is used).

DTHConsulting : I tried your registry fix, but not luck. Did not reboot, but didn't think that was needed. The problem is not limited to Win Explorer, so didn't expect this to fix it.

Ocanada : MenuShowDelay was set to the default 400. I tried setting it to zero, didn't make any difference.

New info : I found that in the Run dialog if I typed my "regedit" command too slowly it reverted from "input" mode to "overwrite" mode.  In other words, type "reg", then when I type "e" the "e" overwrote the "reg". The same happened in regedit when I tried to create a new key - I had to cut/paste the key name into regedit to be fast enough, otherwise it would revert to the default "NewKey" name.

Also when I click/drag the vertical scroll bar in regedit, it only scrolls for about 0.5 sec, then stops, as though I let up on the mouse key.

Also, when I went to shut down at end of day, the "shut down" dialog disappeared after a fraction of a second - too funny. I had to quickly hit Enter to start the shut down.

So some kind of core UI driver, I'm guessing. I'm going to try an SFC, and maybe a system restore, in the morning when I'm back at work. And swapping the mouse/keyboard, just in case.
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Expert Comment

by:Carlito985
ID: 35726786
Do you have the same problem in safe mode ?
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Expert Comment

by:ocanada_techguy
ID: 35727311
Hmm, well a short in the wires or malfunction of your mouse could be causing "clicks" and if the pointer were off-menu the menu would disappear.  Are these cordless because low battery can definitely cause strange behaviours.  Are they PS/2 or USB, if the system supports PS/2, try switching.  USB mice come with or for $2 you can get a little green USB to PS/2 adapter.

The when slowly typing switches to overwrite is weird, almost sounds like you've turned on "Click-lock" (Enables you to highlight or drag without holding down the mouse...) in Control Panel Mouse Properties.

I'd be wondering if third-party keyboard mouse software is installed, such as Logitech, and if so, is it an older version.  In Control Panel for Keyboard, Mouse, and Game Controller see if the settings are normal to other machines and on the Hardware tab what does it think it has detected.

Lastly, the weird behaviours makes one concerned that key-logging spyware or the like might be on the machine.  Did you install some VNC or remote control software of the gotomypc kind that might be messing up.  Have you ruled-out keylogging.  When did this problem start happening?  Go into System Restore and see if it noted anything being installed that triggered a restore point (although many things install without triggering one)  Try using System Restore to put the system back the way it was before the problem started happening.
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Author Comment

by:EfficiencyAnalyst
ID: 35737800
Carlito : I do not have the problem in safe mode, both with and w/o network (though I can't test the Office app's because "cannot verify the license for this application").

Carlito, Ocanada : I swapped the keyboard and mouse and rebooted, but didn't help. Both are USB. The basic wheel mouse had the same drivers, mouclass.sys and mouhid.sys (replaced Logitech with Dell). The keyboard driver changed going from MS Ergonomic 4000 (Intellisync Pro) to basic Dell keyboard, but didn't solve the problem.

Ocanada : Click lock is not on. Other mouse settings are same as for other systems, nothing unusual. No game controllers. I disabled intellitype (C:\Program Files\Microsoft Intellitype Pro\itype.exe) from loading at startup, is msconfig, a re-booted - didn't help.

System Restore to middle of last week, 3 days before the problem started, found nothing to restore - the system had not changed. The problem started Monday morning.

The behavior when scrolling or typing into a text box also occurs when dragging a window - click and drag the title bar of a window, and after about 0.3 sec the window jumps back to where you started. But if you move it and let up on the mouse before it "times out", the window will stay where you leave it. (If you move the window with the keyboard via Alt-Space > Move > arrow key, it times out if you don't hit the arrow key quickly enough, but if you're quick enough it moves as expected.)

I'm going to run a malewarebytes virus scan next.



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Author Comment

by:EfficiencyAnalyst
ID: 35738012
MS .NET Framework 1.1 won't uninstall: I doubt this is related, but I discovered while troubleshooting that a MS security update for .NET Framework 1.1 would not install (KB2416447). I tried un-installing Framework 1.1 (and it's single installed update), but could not - I get a warning that "This patch package could not be opened. Verify that the patch package exists and that you can access it, or contact the application vendor to verify that this is a valid Windows Installer patch package." I tried several on-line troubleshooting guides (including from MS) on how to uninstall Framework 1.1, but to no avail.

I think it's much more significant that the "new" Start Menu disappears like the context menus, but the "classic" start menu does not.
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Expert Comment

by:ocanada_techguy
ID: 35738240
No restore points?  Why not, is it set to use 0% of disk?  Some malware breaks and disables system restore points. http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Windows/XP/Q_27029007.html
Yeah check for keylogger, remote control, hidden VNC type stuff, or malware.

Search EE with keywords "cannot uninstall .net framework", this http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Windows/XP/Q_21409539.html seemed the most detailed result to that search.

If you had the luxury of several identical machines in a corporate environment, you could try moving the system hard disk to an identical machine temporarily and see if the problem is software/drivers that follows the drive, or malfunctioning mobo chipset/usb.
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Author Comment

by:EfficiencyAnalyst
ID: 35738877
There are restore points but they're much further back than when the problem started (Mon 2011/5/9). No VNC-type stuff on this PC. Thanks for the link on .NET framework uninstall, I'll check that out.

This is the only Dell Vostro 220 PC we have - we're a small consulting group.

malwarebytes full scan found no threats.

SFC /SCANNOW is running now...
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Author Comment

by:EfficiencyAnalyst
ID: 35739301
SFC found nothing out of whack. I'm moving on to a system restore, re-build if needed. What a pain.
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Author Comment

by:EfficiencyAnalyst
ID: 35740685
FYI, doing an XP Pro repair (from the source CD) did not fix the problem. So, moving on to a full rebuild, though I'm suspecting a hardware problem here.
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Accepted Solution

by:
EfficiencyAnalyst earned 0 total points
ID: 35753696
Reloading the op sys solved the problem, so not a hardware problem. Path of least resistance...
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Expert Comment

by:ocanada_techguy
ID: 35754187
What a pain indeed.
Anti-malware might not have "found it", could be drivers were terribly messed, but you tried reinstalling them, so I'd still be suspicious keylogging had been attempted to be injected in the machine, that is a distinct possibility.  Consider what confidential information is done on that machine.
Any credit-card or banking activity on said machine lately? If allot, consider credit limit, card number replacement or let the bank know so they can watch those cards, requesting a block or alert of any suspicious or foreign activity.
Consider tightening security, and having passwords changed for accounts around the office particularly those which use that machine.
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Author Comment

by:EfficiencyAnalyst
ID: 35754395
Thanks, Ocanada - sage advice for the information age
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Expert Comment

by:johnb6767
ID: 35759194
This is actually not that rare of a problem. Course the exact resolution eludes me. Ur case sounded a bit extreme though. If not mistaken, I wanna say there was a reg setting for explorer refreshing that gets hosed...

Also, was it affecting all users on this machine? I have seen this user based before..
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Author Comment

by:EfficiencyAnalyst
ID: 35768891
johnb6767 : This was a single-user PC, I didn't think to check if the problem happened for a different user (e.g., Admin).

As for other UI objects responding to user input, Quickbooks dropdown selectors did not persist - they disappeared after a fraction of a second. Same for Word and Excel context menus. I don't see how a Windows Explorer or IE reg setting would affect those application objects.

Thanks - Steve
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Author Closing Comment

by:EfficiencyAnalyst
ID: 35806998
I cannot see or select any text next to the radio buttons for questions "Was the solution complete?", "Was the solution accurate?", "Was the solution easy to follow?". I am using Firefox 4.
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