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xp system browsers fail after a few minutes

I've been trying to clean up this system and I'm not having the usual good results in getting rid of parasites.
The browsers (IE and Chrome) will work in Safe Mode OK.
And, they will work in Normal Mode after a boot .. but not for long.
No longer will the Google page open at that point.
Also, while Windows Automatic Updates work, cannot reach the Windows Update page .. ever.  It bounces to a microsoft page about getting support, etc.
I've run all the cleanup tools that I can imagine.  Yet this persists.
Just installed SP3 as it had been at SP2 - so that's not so good.

I'm likely not looking in the right places or with the right tools.
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Fred Marshall
Asked:
Fred Marshall
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3 Solutions
 
TolomirAdministratorCommented:
why don't you save the data to an external hard disk and reinstall a clean system?
The more cleanup tools you use, the danger rises that they destroy the integrity the system.

Keep also in mind that xp is just another year supported with security updates by microsoft.
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LifeN-TiCommented:
Hi fmarshall,
I definitely agree with Tolomir above it's always better to format and do a clean install as that will resolve everything and last a lot longer, and security updates & damaging the integrity of the system is a big one - that is the best solution if possible. It may be worth it if you wanted to upgrade to a newer version of windows, Windows 8 you can upgrade to for pretty cheap if you wanted and is fairly easy to install.

If that is not a viable option in your case you can try resetting the user profiles for the browser, see below for links with instructions for Chrome and IE and just post back if you have any issues or questions!

Chrome: http://evansims.com/6425/resetting-your-chrome-user-profile/

For IE see: http://www.ghacks.net/2010/08/02/reset-web-browsers-to-factory-default-settings/
*I would suggest only use the instructions on this page relating to IE - for Chrome/etc it's always better to reset the profile by deleting them manually wen available. Good luck!
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TolomirAdministratorCommented:
just to add, if you move now to windows 8 you get Windows 8 Pro upgrade (from xp) for $39.99 ERP (regularly priced $199.99 ERP) offer valid before Jan 31, 2013.

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/buy?ocid=GA8_O_WOL_Hero_ShopHP_FPP_Null

If you want you classic shell try this: http://www.classicshell.net/
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Sajid Shaik MSr. System AdminCommented:
put the XP disk in cd rom
go to run and tyep
 sfc /scannow
run it...

all the best
it'll replace currupted system files
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nobusCommented:
if you still want to clean it, run these:
http://www.malwarebytes.org/mbam.php                         MBAM
http://majorgeeks.com/RogueKiller_d6983.html                  Roguekiller

but if IE does not run ok after that, you best have a clean install as suggested
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LifeN-TiCommented:
Windows 8 links Tolomir posted is a great deal but won't be available for long so definitely worth looking into into! And sfc command works great but if its affecting chrome and IE the problem isn't isolated to windows file as that fixes, if those are your only problem definitely do the browser profile resets as that should fix it since they were working fine in safe mode so will clear whatever was causing that but also may be worth running sfc to nab any windows issues, take care!
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TolomirAdministratorCommented:
... for long, no only 3 days left ;-)
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LifeN-TiCommented:
@Tolomir,
Haha that's why I said NOT for long ;) But even I wasn't paying attention to where it was only 3 days ha, definitely worth nabbing that while it's still available as they already stopped it for Windows 7 upgrades and it really is a good system contrary to some of the press - you still have your normal desktop which is near exact as prior and there are a lot of good new things albeit different :)
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TolomirAdministratorCommented:
Don't tell me I've got my 2 licenses + free media center.
I don't like the metro design though (running them in vmware workstation anyway)  
With start8 usable.
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Fred MarshallAuthor Commented:
While I do appreciate the suggestions that are outside the scope of the question, I did ask the question the way I did purposefully.

Reinstalling Windows is always a fallback but my main objective is to fix the thing so that data and installs remain as intact as possible.  There are situations where this has value.  So that also lets out Windows 8 if one really wants to deal with it - I'm OK with it but many do not.  But, we digress.
(There are also situations where a new install should be the FIRST thing one does because it's cheaper/better).

I tried to suggest that I have plenty of experience doing this kind of thing.
I'm not having the usual good results
So, I've already used:
sfc
Malwarebytes
and *many* other really good tools of that sort.
Not Roguekiller though... I'll try it.

I'm more interested in what this could be and how to mount a focused attack.  I've never seen anything quite like this before:
- the browsers work ... and then, after a time or after being in use, don't in Normal mode.
- I beleive they work in Safe Mode.
- there were signs of browser hijack as URL were turned into legit IP addresses (automagically)  but still didn't work.
- because of the delay, it's hard to wade through msconfig startup and trim things and and then test .. because the test takes a while.  But I may resort to that.
Big question: what can it be and/or where to find it or a focused tool to fix it?

Also, I don't get the feel that this is a broken OS as compared to an infected OS.  Time will tell on the former.
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LifeN-TiCommented:
Hi fmarshall,
Definitely understand, thats what I figured when I initially posted how to reset your browser profiles - did you give that a shot? I would lean towards that solution as far as focused on the browser issue because you mentioned its working fine in safe mode where it doesn't load the user profile, so give that a shot and post back. I've seen similar problems and that's resolved it, the only other possibility beyond resetting the user profiles (which stay in tact even upon browser reinstall) would be an addon or plugin causing the solution. So firstly try resetting aka deleting the user profiles for each browser, when you start the browser after doing that it will create a fresh/clean one. If that doesn't solve it then try disabling all addons/plugins - if that works then re-enable them one at a time and test until the problem reappears - if that was the case you would then have your culprit. However I'd say the best chance its just the profile having something in it, so reset as described in my initial post (#2 from top) and see what happens:)

/edit/
The user profiles store a lot of information and a lot of the time malware will attack those when possible, unfortunately cleaning tools do NOT touch the user profiles and when either malware or just a simple bug/glitch gets in there it can cause weird issues such as what you described. The best way to remedy those is to simply reset the profiles, I had a case pretty much exactly as you described last year and that solved the issue fairly easily. However one thing I failed to mention is in resetting your user profile it will clear your bookmarks, saved passwords, etc., so I would suggest back those up prior to resetting/deleting the profile or you can simply backup the profile folder before deletion and copy it back in if it does not remedy the problem. Resetting the profiles is as easy as going to a specific folder and deleting the folder(s).

And again I reiterate, even if that is not the issue, an important point is that it seems to be working in safe mode vs. normal which means it's obviously something loaded in normal which is bypassed in safe mode - pretty much that boils down to: user profile(s) & addons/plugins. Lastly it may also be a good idea to clear out your Temp folder and Temporary internet files/etc although I'm betting you've already done that. Any questions/issues just post back, but give that a shot and post back and will get it figured, good luck!

Just realized the original link I provided in my initial post to reset the google chrome profile is offline for maintenance, so to sum it up - To reset your Google Chrome user profile:

Go to “C:\Documents and Settings\Your User Name\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Chrome\User Data\” and delete all folders within it. You can alternatively just copy the "User Data" folder into your Documents/etc to back it up and then delete the profiles so you have a backup!
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TolomirAdministratorCommented:
Instead of using msconfig. Use autoruns from sysinternals/microsoft.

It will show you a lot more results.
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Fred MarshallAuthor Commented:
Problem solved.
A hint fromRogueKiller led me to an incomplete install of ZoneAlarm.
Used the ZoneAlarm removal tool and some live CD boots (Knoppix) and got rid of all the ZoneAlarm directories/files that were causing the trouble.

As far as getting to the Windows Update website:
- my tried and true www.windowsupdate.com only takes me to a Microsoft page that addresses fixing Windows update.
- a "new" URL: update.microsoft.com works fine.

As far as browser profiles: If I create a new User then the profiles for that new User should be "clean", no?  Actually that's what I had done but couldn't prove that the profile just created had not been somehow compromised during the ensuing work.
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nobusCommented:
tx for the feedback
a new profile is clean - unless you copy the old contents to it
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Fred MarshallAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the help!
Another success in preserving User's computer!
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