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.

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!


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!



Windows 7 sleeps like a newborn… It wakes up every few hours.

 Just BS, Windows 7  Comments Off on Windows 7 sleeps like a newborn… It wakes up every few hours.
Mar 272010

It wakes up whenever it feels like it, and offers me no answers on why.  When checking the event viewer, I see the following entry:

The system has resumed from sleep.
Sleep Time: ‎2010‎-‎03‎-‎27T06:09:43.164534500Z
Wake Time: ‎2010‎-‎03‎-‎27T10:03:03.591291200Z
Wake Source: Unknown

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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.


The Windows 7 Taskbar- How to make it work for you

 How-To, Windows 7  Comments Off on The Windows 7 Taskbar- How to make it work for you
Mar 222010


A great new feature in Windows 7 is the taskbar.  It can be a bit of a shock though, and many people want to revert back to the ‘old way of doing things’. Allow me to explain what you have to gain by leaving it as-is, and show you some tricks to make it even better. Then, if you still don’t like it, I’ll explain how to put it back to Windows XP behavior.

First. what is it that’s going on down there?  You used to just have a clean taskbar, maybe a little area with quick launch icons that stayed tucked out of the way and left room for all the program windows. Now they’re huge, and when you launch them, you don’t get a program window at all, it just glows!

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Windows Search. Kill it with fire?

 How-To, Windows 7  Comments Off on Windows Search. Kill it with fire?
Mar 192010

Indexing[1] I wanted to take a moment and talk about this feature Windows added awhile back.  I know quite a few people who when ‘optimizing’ a computer will go through a ritual of setting certain things up, and removing other processes/programs. I have a ritual like this, and I’ll admit some of it might be voo-doo or superstition. One of these often targeted programs is Windows Search, and I don’t think it necessarily deserves to have its service disabled as a setup measure.

Windows Search 4.0 has a purpose, and it can be pretty handy, depending on how you use your computer. First, it only indexes a few common places (Desktop, My Docs/Pics/etc, Email). What does it mean to index vs. plain old search?  When you search your hard drive with Search Companion, your computer is taking the time to look at each file, determine if it meets your criteria, and moving on. With Indexing, it searches beforehand (this is the thing people complain is slowing their computers), and places all the relevant data into a database. When you perform a search with Indexing, it can sort the database, and find your answer MUCH faster. The key is to limit how much work it is to maintain that database. Continue reading »


What to do with Windows 7 libraries?

 How-To, Windows 7  Comments Off on What to do with Windows 7 libraries?
Mar 112010

Windows 7 LibraryThey’re one of the neatest features of Windows 7.  They’re in your face, all clickable, and …useful?  What do you DO with them? Is it just a fancy name for My Documents and My Music? How do I make Windows 7 Libraries do something new? I was right there with you when I started using Windows 7.

First, however… They are not new!

Believe it or not, the core functionality of a library (known as a virtual folder) first entered the Windows environment with Vista, where they were known as Search Folders. They operated a little differently, and were less in your face.  Couple that with the fact that next to no one used Vista, and you have all you need to know about why they feel all fresh and new.

Libraries are virtual folders that don’t actually exist in the folder tree on the hard disk. Their job is to run a constant search, index the results, and display them to you inside the virtual folder. So… what do you do with them?

Give your C:\ some room to breathe!

The simplest and best use for libraries is to allow you to store data  on another drive without having to look elsewhere to find it later. I’ll use the Music library as an example.
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