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May 4, 2005, 5:50 am
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May 3rd, 2005
Answer Line: Stop Boot-Up Error Messages
by Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector
I get the same error message every time I boot my computer, but
everything seems to work okay after that. What's wrong?
(Name withheld by request)
Something has changed in your computer, for better or for worse, but
the change wasn't complete. The most likely reason is that you removed
a program that Windows is still attempting to load.
First, grab a pencil and paper and boot your computer. Write down the
full text of the error message; the correct path and file names are
especially important. Also, make sure that you get the spelling right.
Once you're back in Windows, select Start, Search (in XP), Start,
Search, For Files or Folders (in 2000 and Me), or Start, Find, Files
or Folders (in 98). Enter the error-message text in the "file name"
field (the exact name of the field varies from version to version of
Windows), select your hard drive in the "Look in" menu, and click
Search or Find Now. If the file appears in the results window, make
note of the file's path; you have the option of fixing, rather than
deleting, the file's automatic loading tendency. I'll discuss that
Whether or not the file is still on your hard drive, you should
research this mysterious program. If you enter the file name in Google
or your favorite Web search engine, you're almost certain to find some
useful information about the program that it's associated with. If you
don't find anything, there's a very good chance that the file's name
was randomly generated (especially if it more closely resembles an eye
chart than a word or a name). If that's the case, the troublesome file
is almost certainly related to a virus or similar pest. But don't
rejoice too much over having figured out that it's part of an
uninvited guest; even if the file is no longer there or if you delete
it now, a copy could very well still be lurking on your hard drive
under another randomly generated name. Make sure your antivirus and
anti-spyware programs are up-to-date, and use both programs to scan
your hard drive.
Whether or not the file is malicious, chances are you're better off
not loading it. After all, your computer works fine without it. Either
way, you'll still want to stop that error message. To do so, select
Start, Run, type msconfig, and then press Enter. Click the Startup
Note: Windows 2000 lacks the System Configuration utility, so with
this OS you should use Mike Lin's free alternative, Startup Control
If you see a listing for the error-producing file, delete it.
If no such listing appears, try cleaning the Registry. Stand-alone
Registry cleaners like Easy Desk Software's RegRepair (free trial, $30
to keep) can do the job with one click:
Alternatively, you can use Windows' own Registry Editor to fix the
glitch. Start by backing up your Registry; for instructions, see "How
Do I Restore My Windows Registry?"
With your backup in place, select Start, Run, type regedit, and press
Enter. In the Registry Editor, press F3, enter the file name in the
"Find what" field, and press Enter. If you find an entry for the file
in the Registry, delete it, unless the path described in the entry
points to the same folder as the file that you found during your
previous Windows search. In that case, leave the Registry entry alone.
If you're using Windows 2000, type regedt32 to open the Registry
Editor. To launch the search, select View, Find Key. You will have to
search separately in each of the five windows.
So what should you do if the problematic program is one that you want
to continue to autoload? Your best bet is to follow the instructions
above for cleaning the program from your Registry, and then to try
reinstalling it. This solution is simpler and surer than trying to fix
the existing file. Browse to "Windows Rejuvenated!" to read my
instructions for clearing all the cobwebs out of Windows:
Then visit our System Resources Tune-Up page to see a list of freeware
and shareware system utilities, including several that rank among PC
World editors' favorite Registry cleaners, uninstallers, and hard-disk
From Old App to USB Printer
I have an old DOS-based database program that will print only to the
LPT1 or LPT2 ports on my PC. My new printer is strictly USB. How do I
print to it from my database application?
--Walter Mueller, Regina, Saskatchewan
I'm becoming more and more convinced that you simply should not buy a
printer that doesn't include a parallel port. USB printers have too
many limitations; see "How Do I Share a Printer on My Small Network?"
for another example:
Fortunately, there's a workaround for this problem in Windows XP and
2000 that involves printer pooling, which is meant to allow one
logical printer to print to two actual devices.
First, you'll need to open the Printers applet in Control Panel: In
Windows XP, select Start, Control Panel, Printers and Other Hardware
(if you are using XP's Categories view), Printers and Faxes. If you
use Windows 2000, click Start, Settings, Printers. Now right-click
your printer's icon, and select Properties, Ports. Check Enable
printer pooling near the bottom of the dialog box; then select LPT1:
at the top of the port list, and click OK.
Windows 98 and Me have what appears to be a built-in remedy--an option
named Capture Printer Port on the Details tab of each printer's
Properties dialog box. Unfortunately, this function works only for
printers on a network, not for those connected directly to your
Spybot vs. the DSO Exploit
Every time I scan my PC for spyware using Spybot Search & Destroy, the
program lists DSO Exploit as a problem. I instruct the program to fix
the entry, but the next time I run Spybot, the same thing happens.
What's going on?
--Christopher McHenry, Portland, Oregon
You're actually contending with two bugs. The first one, which
Microsoft has addressed, resided in Windows. The second one, as I
write this, is still in Spybot.
Let's start with the Windows problem. The DSO Exploit was a security
gap in Internet Explorer that allowed a malicious program to take over
your PC. Microsoft plugged that gap, and if you use Windows Update to
keep Windows nicely patched (as you should), it's no longer an issue.
Unless you're using Spybot Search & Destroy, that is. When you scan
with this popular spyware-detection utility, it looks for the DSO
Exploit. If it finds it, the program alerts you and gives you the
option to fix it--as it should.
Unfortunately, due to a bug in Spybot, the program doesn't delete the
exploit, so it continues to tell you that the bug needs fixing. And it
will still tell you this after Windows Update has plugged the hole.
In short, if Windows is updated, you don't have to worry about the DSO
Exploit at all. Just ignore Spybot's warnings. The program's designers
at Safer Networking know of the problem and plan to release a fix.
Visit the Spybot FAQ page to read Safer Networking's explanation of
BTW, you can download a free copy of Spybot Search & Destroy here:
Make a Backup of Your CMOS
Is there any way for me to back up the CMOS chip on my PC's system
board? Its data, some of which is necessary to boot a computer, will
disappear if the motherboard's battery runs out.
--Charles Ruggles, Phoenix
The most reliable tool I've been able to find for creating a CMOS
backup is Super Win Software's $25 WinRescue:
This program backs up all your system files. Be sure to download the
edition of the program that's designed for your particular version of
The CMOS backup is in WinRescue's Boot Disk feature. Begin by opening
WinRescue and clicking the Boot Disk tab. If you're running Windows
2000 or XP, select DOS Boot Disk from the pulldown menu; the other
option produces a disk identical to the emergency boot floppy I
described in my November 2003 column, "What to Do When Windows XP or
2000 Won't Boot":
Click the Boot Disk button and then follow the prompts.
If that fateful day ever arrives when you find that you need to
restore your CMOS, all you'll have to do is boot to the floppy disk
that you just created and then click the Restore CMOS button.
Send your tips and questions to:
answer at pcworld.com
Read Lincoln Spector's regularly published "Answer Line" columns:
"Until last October, Christ had a very limited involvement in my life. I
believed in God; I just never had to prove I believed. Belief is an absence of
-- Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling