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Author Topic: My Computers Latest Woes - Seeking Advice  (Read 2007 times)

J-Mac

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My Computers Latest Woes - Seeking Advice
« on: September 27, 2009, 06:24:15 PM »
My big, beautiful, expensive custom-built PC is limping again, unfortunately. It now freezes the taskbar and most system activities at least every time I am running it, requiring a reboot. It is running XP Pro, SP2. Box has a 2.2 AMD Athlon processor on an Asus mobo, 4GB RAM.

Symptoms:

  • It appears that explorer.exe is what freezes things, but that's just a guess at this point.
  • Most or all activities that that involve explorer.exe definitely result in a required reboot.
  • Task Manager cannot be opened.
  • All taskbar/systray buttons are frozen with no tool tips. The clock is stuck at the time it froze.
  • Any programs that are running are usable - if I can access them. Alt+Tab doesn't work. Taskbar doesn't work. If programs are minimized I cannot restore them.
  • Opening LaunchBar Commander with a keyboard shortcut works but starting any program with it gets a short hourglass and then nothing. Same if DOpus is open - I can double-click exe files but no programs can start or close.
Triggers for this behavior that I know about so far:

  • Running any installer - if I install an update to a program - any program - when I'm done the taskbar and system tray cannot be clicked anymore.
  • Opening and using some Windows utilities. E.g., it has frozen twice when I was configuring Windows Updates in the General Policy Editor using Computer Management.

Other times it has frozen before I noticed it, and I can't determine or remember exactly what I was doing when it occurred - remember, the program I am in continues to run fine so I might not notice the problem until I try to click on a taskbar button or systray icon.

This all started while I was installing Nuance PDF Converter Pro 6. PDF Converter Pro 5 was already installed; I purchased V.6 via a Nuance promotion. Since Nuance uses an activation scheme and checks for a previous version installed on the computer, I left V.5 installed. Documentation says to do this and that the installer will remove the previous version after it checks it. The installation never quite finished. It froze up the taskbar and systray during installation. Arrgghh.  That was the first time it occurred. First, the Nuance installer installed MS Visual C++ Redistributable package, even though it was already installed via a recent MS Auto Update. Then it froze the taskbar et al. removed whatever parts of PDF Converter Pro 6 that were installed via Add/Remove and also used System Restore to restore the point I set immediately prior to starting the installation. All OK again except now the taskbar and systray keeps freezing as described above.

The next day I uninstalled PDF Converter Pro 5 using Revo Uninstaller and then tried to install V.6 again after a reboot. This time I selected Custom Installation and deselected the MS Office components - I saw that as a suggestion on the MS Technet forums to another user and it worked for them. V.6 installed OK this time, though the installer froze everything again requiring a forced (power switch) reboot. However the program was installed and working. Yay! Nope - Too soon.

The taskbar freeze-ups started again almost immediately, and continued quite often. After several days of trouble=shooting I used System Restore and restored to the point before the initial PDF Pro V.6 again. But this time it did not restore PDF Pro 5. It also left behind a number of files from PDF Pro 6.

Oh - and yes - the taskbar and systray freezing is still here.   :(  :mad:

BTW, nothing - and I mean nothing at all - appears in the Event Log about any of this. I am guessing that's because the Event Log probably freezes up at the same time everything else does. I cannot find ANY reference at all anywhere on my machine that gives any hints or clues as to exactly what is messing up. A missing DLL? Driver? What could PDF Converter Pro 6's installer have messed with to cause this? I am running Process Monitor now to see if it can catch anything when it next freezes, though I might have to examine a kazillion line items and still not get a clue from them.

I would normally have just given up and reinstalled Windows but I refuse to do that now and then again in three weeks when Windows 7 is released. I am contemplating going beck to another Restore Point, maybe a few days before any of this started, though I am certain that will screw up other installations and or updates. Or I could try mounting an Acronis image - I have two of my C:\ drive that pre-date the PDF Converter Pro 6 initial installation. Though I haven't tried to restore an Acronis image - ever.

Thanks!

Jim

cmpm

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Re: My Computers Latest Woes - Seeking Advice
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2009, 08:22:57 PM »
If you can get into safe mode. remove both programs and any MS Visual C++ Redistributable package. Reinstall what you want later.

If you can't get into safe mode with f8 or whatever, shut off the computer while it's loading with the loading graphic of the green dots moving from left to right. That should trigger the options to load safe mode.

I also would use acronis after this action and before loading the pdf program and MS Visual C++ Redistributable package.

If you have a registry backup of right before the problem, that might help to restore it as well.

Or all this might make it worse, darn windows.
My 2 cents.

Then see what you have after each step.

J-Mac

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Re: My Computers Latest Woes - Seeking Advice
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2009, 11:23:16 PM »
If you can get into safe mode. remove both programs and any MS Visual C++ Redistributable package. Reinstall what you want later.

If you can't get into safe mode with f8 or whatever, shut off the computer while it's loading with the loading graphic of the green dots moving from left to right. That should trigger the options to load safe mode.

I also would use acronis after this action and before loading the pdf program and MS Visual C++ Redistributable package.

If you have a registry backup of right before the problem, that might help to restore it as well.

Or all this might make it worse, darn windows.
My 2 cents.

Then see what you have after each step.

Oh, I can start in safe mode; that's not a problem - yet! And as I mentioned I do have 2 Acronis images from before that program installation, as well as registry backups using ERDNT. Still, since I already restored from an earlier system restore point and am still having the same problem I am hoping to pinpoint what the hell was added or removed - I suspect removed - that could be causing this. It is especially frustrating that the freezing itself seems to be preventing any diagnostics from seeing what is happening.

Thanks!

Jim

40hz

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Re: My Computers Latest Woes - Seeking Advice
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2009, 03:00:34 PM »
First set your video drivers to generic VGA and reboot. If you make it all the way to your desktop using VGA, you most likely have a video driver problem. Try reinstalling a clean copy of the most recent available for your card or mobo. (If you've just updated your video drivers before the problem started, roll them back to the previous version and see if that fixes things.)

Once you're able to rule out video driver problems, it gets more interesting. (Yeah right! Just like your first root canal...)

Here's a troubleshooting process you can try. It's tedious (multiple reboots) but it almost always gets to the bottom of such problems:

Boot into safe mode, run msconfig.exe and select diagnostic mode.

Now go to the Services tab, check Hide All Microsoft Services. Uncheck everything else that remains visible. Reboot again like you would normally. Open msconfig.exe again if it doesn't start automatically. Go to the Service tab and again check the box to hide all of Microsoft's services. Now start re-enabling the remaining services one at a time and rebooting. Sooner or later one of them is going to cause your lockup problem. That's most likely your gremlin. Uninstall and reinstall whatever is using that service and you should be all set. Reboot to make sure it doesn't continue to cause problems. If it still locks up after a reinstall, you'll either need to locate a version (older or newer) that does work - or drop the app that's causing it.

If all your services check out with no problems, leave them all enabled and follow the "enable one at a time" process for each item listed under the Startup tab. Uninstall and reinstall as/if needed.

If the problem seems fixed, but starts up again after a normal boot up (i.e. all services and startup items enabled), then you most likely have an interaction issue between two services or starup apps that don't have a problem by themselves. That's a bigger hassle to isolate, but still doable. But lets save that for later if it turns out to be the case with your machine.

Luck! :Thmbsup:

P.S. You could try testing the Startup tab items first to save a little time. If that doesn't clear up the problem, then you'll have to troubleshoot the services, but it might be worth a try.

<EDIT: just added some more stuff that occurred to me.>


« Last Edit: September 28, 2009, 06:19:00 PM by 40hz »

J-Mac

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Re: My Computers Latest Woes - Seeking Advice
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2009, 11:24:32 PM »
Thanks 40hz.

It's not anything in Startup - I use Chameleon Startup Manager and always keep a close eye on those items. Nothing was changed there, and nothing there can cause these problems.

Not a service; I did review all of them and once again, nothing new there that would cause such a problem. I am almost positive that it was the installer for PDF Converter Pro 6, either the over-installation of the Visual C++ Redistrib or the PDF program itself. It is a monster of an installer package and Nuance definitely has had similar issues in the past.

I ended up restoring another System Restore point, one from earlier that same day of the initial installation. The freezing has not reoccurred as yet, though I am now having to reinstall a number of program updates and Firefox extension updates. I never saw before where if an updated extension was installed and you go to a restore point prior, the extension is no longer installed even though the earlier version was installed and working at the time of the restore point creation. Apparently FF extensions remove the previous extension's version altogether, thus system restore is prevented from restoring those extensions.

Thanks all.

Jim

40hz

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Re: My Computers Latest Woes - Seeking Advice
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2009, 11:53:33 PM »
I am almost positive that it was the installer for PDF Converter Pro 6, either the over-installation of the Visual C++ Redistrib or the PDF program itself.

Oooo, my sympathies. I had a problem with the Visual C++ Runtime following a program install. After screwing around with downloading and reinstalling the runtime, I gave up an reverted to a restore point. Fortunately, I create one immediately before I install any new piece of software so I didn't need to go through the hassle you're going through.

Better luck going forward. :) :Thmbsup: