Explorer.exe crashes repeatedly

 How-To, Windows 7  Comments Off on Explorer.exe crashes repeatedly
Oct 082012

I was given a laptop to troubleshoot last week.  The user reported that Explorer.exe would crash and restart continually while he was logged in.  Applications would continue to run after the crash, but all Explorer windows would close and his desktop was only accessible for a few seconds between each crash.

I started with the basics. I tried disabling all non-MS services and startup items, and restarted through MSconfig. No change.  I tried safe mode, and the problem repeated.  I checked Event Viewer for additional details, but all I saw in there was a fairly vague “Event 1000, Application Error. Faulting application name: explorer.exe. Faulting Module name: OPENGL32.dll”. With the virus scanner disabled, and a few other suspicious programs removed, the problem persisted. I even gave Windows System File Checker (sfc /scannow from an elevated command prompt) a shot (it came up clean) as well as Windows Defender Offline to check for rootkits or other viral issues (nothing malicious was found). Lastly, I tried logging in as a different admin user. The problem did not repeat; interesting.

At this point, I was running short on time. The user needed his laptop back, and I needed to make progress. I decided that since it was just affecting the single user account, it was likely a problem with their profile. I decided to back up his data and delete the profile.  During the backup, Explorer crashed multiple times as admin- but NOT continually. It only crashed occasionally. Now, I was certain I was dealing with bad data in his account. I finished backing up only the data that was essential for him, deleted the profile, recreated it, and copied his data into the new profile. Crash.

Now, I started looking closely at individual files. This is when I noticed that it was whenever I attempted to copy the contents of his desktop that the crashes occurred.  A 500MB .JT file (CAD related format containing 3D CAD data) caused the crash whenever I accessed it via copy, mouse click, etc. A-ha!  I deleted this file via the command prompt (it could not be deleted via Windows’ GUI as it would crash as soon as you selected the file) and the problem went away!

I’m still not certain what about that file caused the crashes, but the short story was that since the file was on his desktop, each time Windows reinstated explorer.exe and redrew his desktop, it had to access this file and explorer would crash again.  Once the file was removed, the problem was solved!  If you run into this issue, look closely for bad data, and explore the contents of the user’s heavily accessed directories closely. It could be as simple as a bad bit of user created data. The profile deletion ended up being unnecessary, and ultimately would have been futile if the bad data was backed up and replaced to his desktop.

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Mar 142012

I’m going to write a few articles on this topic I think, to avoid writing a word wall. The topic of this article is First Impressions. The file installation portion of Windows 8 is very similar to Windows 7.  It’s fast, streamlined, and simple. Most of the same menus are there, and the process felt very familiar.  That is where my familiarity with Windows Setup, a history that goes back to Windows 3.1, came to a screeching halt.

Pardon the first two ‘screenshots’, they were taken by camera on a LCD screen. I didn’t want to run this in a VM for various reasons. Mostly because I had a laptop I wanted to install it on dangit! Anyways, on with the show.

After the initial installation finishes, you are greeted by this. The idea of a ‘Local’ account is dying. What you’re creating here is a local account that is deeply tied with an online Windows LIVE account.  It will be used to sync your data between the cloud and this machine, and even your desktop settings, data, (and apps perhaps) across multiple machines. Gone also is the ‘password reminder’ field. After logging in with a LIVE account, you can set up your mobile phone to receive password reset requests.

Once you are logged in, you will be placed at your new desktop replacement.  Owners of an XBOX 360 or Windows Phone probably probably won’t be as shocked as others will be. It is a step away from the traditional Windows Desktop the same way the moon was a step for mankind.  This is a concept that will take MUCH convincing to get diehard desktop users to convert. I can see what they’re going for here though. Instead of a desktop full of icons and documents, you have a task-oriented plate of things. “What do you want to do?” instead of “Where is the file?”.  I’m not sold yet, but I’m keeping an open mind.

Apps now run Full Screen in a beautiful F11 kind of way. (If you don’t know what that means, hit F11 in your browser right now, and again to revert the change) No task bar. No context menus lining the top. I haven’t yet been able to shake the feeling that I’m missing something, like there’s not enough places to click. The two screenshots in this paragraph have not been trimmed. WYSIWYG.  Also, Apps now ‘drag’ much like you might expect in a touch interface.  For example, here is me dragging right in the Weather App. Start, A little Right, More Right.

Overall, I’m cautiously excited by this big change in Windows.  The one thing many people may be asking is ‘How do I access the normal desktop?” Click the ‘Show Desktop’ tile, and you’re there.  It’s a little different though. Notice the complete lack of the start menu. I have to admit, this is the thing I have the most trouble letting go. I truly love Vista/7’s method of hitting start, typing the first few letters of what I want and up it comes. That functionality still exists, and I’ll cover it next time when I write about the Apps Menu, the PC settings menu, and how exactly you move around in Windows 8.

Apr 072011

This one had me chewing my teeth for a few days, but it looks like it’s been worked out.  The issue is that a user will try to insert a PDF into a PowerPoint file (any version 2003/2007/2010), and they receive the following error:

The Server Application, source file, or item cannot be found, or returned an unknown error. You may need to reinstall the server application.

PDF to PPTX Error

You can try to insert via Insert Tab—>Object—>Adobe Acrobat PDF or dragging and dropping the PDF directly into the PowerPoint file.  The fix for this I found after posting to the Adobe forums. Disable Protected mode if you are running Adobe Reader X. (this is accurate as of v 10.0.1)

Disable protected mode manually by choosing Edit > Preferences > General tab and deselecting Enable Protected Mode. The fix wasn’t immediate for me oddly enough.  It made the “Create New” button work for inserting, but not “Create From File”.  This behavior ended after a day, perhaps a reboot is in order after changing the setting.  Either way, it worked!

Let me know if you’ve had a different experience. More importantly, update the Adobe forum threads discussing this if you have additional info to add.

Jan 272011

The Operation Failed: Outlook 2007

So, I had a lot of fun troubleshooting this one. The user has a new HP ProBook laptop running Windows 7 and Office 2007. The symptom is that they can not consistently send an email with more than one addressee. When the user sends an email with more than one address, as soon as they hit Send, they receive the error “The operation failed.” This symptom persists on both email accounts associated with the Outlook profile. (A POP3 and an Exchange account)

Searching on this error, I found many variations to its cause, and a lot of proposed solutions. What worked for me, was uninstalling the entire HP ProtectTools suite, and then performing a Repair operation on Office from Add/Remove Programs. I think that approach might be a bit heavy handed, but I was short on time at the moment, and the suite was only interfering with the user’s work, not augmenting it.

If I have the opportunity to work on this again, I’m going to start with HP’s Privacy Manager that hooks into Outlook and installs a toolbar.  Many of the posts I read seemed to have the common theme of killing a third party application that was trying to augment Outlook. If you have this problem, and come across a more elegant solution than nuking HP ProtectTools from orbit, let me know!

Aug 112010

I recently had cause to need the MAC address of a Windows XP machine on my network that was logged into by another user, so I couldn’t do my usual laborious Remote Desktop—> CMD —> Ipconfig /all.  That’s right. I had to learn how to get it the easy way, and I thought I’d share it with the class.

It involves using the ARP (Address Resolution Protocol) command, which I’m dreadfully unfamiliar with. If you open a command shell and just type ARP, the results aren’t all that fascinating. I get the IP and MAC addresses for my internal DNS servers, and my gateway.

Now, ping the computer you need the MAC for.  You can ping it by name, or by IP. Do ARP –a, and the same servers are listed, but in addition you get the server you just pinged in the list. Handy! Depending on your recent network activities, multiple computers besides the ones I specified may be included in this list.

Thanks to ‘UberGeek316’ for the tip!

Apr 142010

Associating Javascript in Command ShellI ran across this error a few days ago while setting up a PHP server on my Windows XP Pro SP3 box for testing purposes.  As part of this setup, a script needs to be run that associates the .php extension with php-cgi.exe. Here is the script:

cscript %windir%\system32\inetsrv\fcgiconfig.js -add -section:"PHP" ^
-extension:php -path:"C:\PHP\php-cgi.exe"

The problem, is that when I tried to run the script, I got the error: Input Error: There is no script engine for file extension “.js”. It took me quite a bit of searching before I found the fix that worked for me on this IBM forum. Hopefully, if you’re facing this issue, you find my article before the 100 other articles talking about the 99 other fixes that didn’t work for me. :) Continue reading »

Apr 062010

specificitywars Today, I ran into a problem with some CSS code I was modifying.  I was making what I thought was a simple change, but the change refused to show up when I refreshed.  Changing the declaration type from a class to an ID, and stripping out some HTML selectors made the problem go away, but I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do.  That’s when I ran across this article at hungred.com.

Selector Order Priority

I knew CSS favored more specific over less specific.  However, I mixed up what that meant. I thought more specific was just to have MORE information pointing at the item in question. It’s not quite so simple. Compare the following two samples:

p .bordered {
border: 1px black solid;
.bordered {
border:	5px red dotted;
	<p class="bordered">Bordered?</p>
p.bordered {
border: 1px black solid;
.bordered {
border:	5px red dotted;
	<p class="bordered">Bordered?</p>

Continue reading »

Enabling new regional themes in Windows 7

 How-To, Just BS, Windows 7  Comments Off on Enabling new regional themes in Windows 7
Mar 292010

Win7ThemeDir Did you know that Windows 7 shipped with at least four regional themes that you can’t see by default? Me either until this week!  It’s pretty simple to install each one, you’ll be done in seconds.

Paste each of the following lines into the address bar of a windows explorer window, and hit enter. (see pic to the left for clarification) Once you are inside the folder, double click the XX.theme file in there to install it. If you browse the folders manually instead of using these links, you will need to disable hidden files and folders.


I’ve also seen that some of the following country themes exist, though I don’t have access to them on a US licensed version of Home Premium. If you want to see everything you have available, just browse back to the MCT folder, and see what’s in there!


Each time you double click a theme file it will open your personalization control panel, so you may as well leave it open until you’re done. Once all your themes are installed, enjoy all of your new choices!


How to switch MSOL Exchange Hosted from External Relay to Authoritative mode.

 How-To, MSOL Exchange Hosted, W2K Migration  Comments Off on How to switch MSOL Exchange Hosted from External Relay to Authoritative mode.
Mar 262010

Authoritative OK. Of the approximately 6 people who have seen this site, everyone bailed about halfway through that headline except the guy I worked with who wrote this how-to. No problem, I’ll just press on. :)

So, what did that headline mean? In one of my previous articles on Exchange Hosted, I mentioned ‘email coexistence’. What this means, is that we weren’t ready to shut our Exchange server down. There were accounts on that server that either has not been migrated, or were not ready to be disabled. So what Exchange hosted allows you to do is set up your Exchange server as an External Relay.

Continue reading »

Mar 252010

Backup error Some of you (that have a specific setup) might have noticed that you have an extra profile in your Windows 7 C:\Users directory.  MCX1-%COMPUTERNAME%. I noticed mine when it started adding the following line into my backup results:

The backup completed but some files were skipped.

Backup encountered a problem while backing up file C:\Users\Mcx1-CPL-SHOE\Contacts. Error:(The system cannot find the file specified. (0x80070002))
Backup encountered a problem while backing up file C:\Users\Mcx1-CPL-SHOE\Searches. Error:(The system cannot find the file specified. (0x80070002))

I wasn’t sure why that profile existed in the first place, and didn’t appreciate it mucking up my backups. I was poised to just delete it, when I realized that might be a silly move. Research twice, delete once. (see item #9 under ‘Set up Xbox 360 as a Windows Media Center Extender’)

So the profile was legit, it was created when I connected Media Center to my Xbox 360. So how do I make my backups quit complaining? What if I just made the folders? Would that satisfy it?  It turns out it does.  I created two empty folders named C:\Users\Mcx1-CPL-SHOE\Contacts and C:\Users\Mcx1-CPL-SHOE\Searches, and it was happy.

After all this, I ran across this Microsoft article which goes into much more detail about why backup wants to back up those folders despite their non-existence. But in my humble opinion, just create the folders and move on unless you want to spend your weekend optimizing your registry.