XP computer refuses to execute downloaded .exe files.

Charlie Weston
Charlie Weston used Ask the Experts™
I have a Windows XP desktop computer in my back office that runs certain administrative tasks on my office system.  It has been functioning more or less normally until recently, when I had to download a software update for the postage printer.  I downloaded the exe file to my desktop, but when I double-clicked on it, it refused to execute.  I moved the software to another computer, and was able to update and run it.  

But the problem persists with the backroom machine.  Today I had a problem with a vendor-supplied module which is married to that machine by a certificate, so impossible to move to another computer.  I called the vendor's help desk, and they asked me to download and run a Webex screen sharing program.  Again, I downloaded the file, but it would not execute. If I right-click on the file name, no drop-down menu appears.  It's as if the computer has been set not to run exe files.

Can anybody suggest a solution to this problem? Could it be just a setting that needs changing?
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Look at properties by right clicking and check properties.
Does it say Blocked?  If so click on unblock and you should be good to go.


When I right-click the file, nothing appears.  Same when I right-click Computer on the start menu!
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018

XP is now so firmly out of support that it has become a major security risk. Check for viruses and Malware.
Also try using a new, test Windows User Profile (Account) to download. The main user profile could be corrupted.
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ste5anSenior Developer

Well, when you need XP, then don't run it with any connection to the internet. It's too dangerous.
dbruntonQuid, Me Anxius Sum?  Illegitimi non carborundum.

Test the mouse on another computer and see if the right click works there.

Also test a mouse that is known to work correctly on this computer.  At this stage the problem may only be the mouse or right click not working.


I ran a Mcafee Virus Scan, which found nothing.  

I also downloaded a free copy of Malwarebytes and was able to install it.  Oddly, when I double-clicked on that exe file, it executed.

Anyhow, Mcafee turned up nothing at all, Malwarebytes detected no malware, but identified 377 PUPs (potentially unwanted programs) after a lengthy scan.  I deleted them and restarted.

The problem about running the ece download remains, whether I right-click or double-click the filename or the icon.

JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018
Try running TCP/IP Reset

Open cmd.exe with Run as Administrator
Then  netsh int ip reset c:\resetlog.txt
Also, ipconfig /flushdns followed by net stop dnscache followed by net start dnscache
Then restart the computer
dbruntonQuid, Me Anxius Sum?  Illegitimi non carborundum.

If you've got PUPs then run AdwCleaner as well  http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/download/adwcleaner/

And test your mouse on another machine and a new mouse on this machine.
Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software Engineer
Since no XP updates are going out any more, this was caused by something that got into the system.  If the system has full backups, for preference I'd go back to the most recent one that worked properly, and then keep a very close eye on what goes into it and what runs on it.

The fact that it is not possible to right-click to start EXE files strongly suggests a virus in the system.  Personally I don't trust McAfee. I'd run several more of the downloadable online scanners such as the Trend Micro scanner.

Suggest also running Spybot - Search and Destroy.

Context menus can be disabled in XP.  Suggest having a look at these articles, which may give you a lead on seeing if this has been done on the affected machine:




It should always be possible to start a task manually from the Task Manager using CTRL-ALT-DEL.

XP task manager
Top Expert 2013
test if it happens with other exe files also - to be sure the problem is caused by the pc - or by the program
you can also run sfc, or a repair install :
http://www.updatexp.com/scannow-sfc.html                        SFC use in XP
http://www.michaelstevenstech.com/XPrepairinstall.htm            Repair install  XP


Thank you all for these suggestions.

I have personal business to attend to for the next couple days, and then I will have another go at this.

Assuming that the download you tried to run IS actually an EXE file, first try and restore the EXE association:
You are looking for the 9th link down entitled:
EXE File Association Fix (Restore default association for EXE files)

The link is to a ZIP file: http://www.dougknox.com/xp/fileassoc/xp_exe_fix.zip

This is a ZIP file.  You should be able to unzip it to reveal a Registry File (xp_exe_fix.reg).  If you cannot Unzip the file, then I have attached "xp_exe_fix.reg" at the end of this comment.  It is probable that you will not be able to merge this *.REG file using the Right-Click > "Merge" option.  In this case, do as shown on the page where you downloaded the ZIP file:

"If your EXE file associations are corrupted, it can be difficult to open REGEDIT, or to even import REG files.  To work around this, press CTRL-ALT-DEL and open Task Manager.  Once there, click File, then hold down the CTRL key and click New Task (Run).  This will open a Command Prompt window.  Enter REGEDIT.EXE and press Enter."

Once REGEDIT is open, you can use the File menu > IMPORT option and browse to "xp_exe_fix.reg".

RIGHT-Click on this link and choose "Save Target As" (Internet Explorer), "Save Link As" (Firefox) and save it somewhere easy to locate.  Follow instructions above when saved.

If the download you were trying to execute is something other than an EXE file, for example an *.MSI file (Windows Installer), then use the fix entitled:
MSI File Association Fix (Restore default associations for MSI files)
on the page I directed you to.
dbruntonQuid, Me Anxius Sum?  Illegitimi non carborundum.

BillDL for resetting exe and MSI
Dr Klahn for context menu suggestions and running files from Task Manager
John Hurst for checking for malware (Malware was found)
nobus for sfc and Repair Install

Points awarded according to what I felt were the most valuable suggestions in solving this problem.

Note problem may not have been solved (questioner not responded) but these methods are good troubleshooting methods for this type of problem.
Cheers dbrunton

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