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Problem with my DELL Dimension 4100

Last response: in Windows 95/98/ME
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March 17, 2006 6:49:44 PM

ok here is my gf's Dell Dimension 4100. This computer works fine until last night. When my gf turned on the computer, after windows start up and wallpaper loaded. I saw there a little window saying windows is updating itself (you know the little drum roll window), then all of a sudden the computer ask me to accept user agreement and I think what the hell is going on here. And then it asks me for Window Product Key. Me and my gf were both unable to find the windows user manual so there is no product key. I have no way to go pass this point after several restart. So I try to restart the computer in safe mode. As safe mode load up to that Safe Mode Notification, Windows say it has explore.exe problem. And nothing can be load beyond this point. So I bring my own copy of Window 98 and type it the product key of mine, of cause the computer saying this product key is incorrect. So I think, maybe I should reboot the computer with my copy of Windows 98 CD in CD ROM and type in the product key as Windows start. I did that and that register product key window disappear as if it is okay. But then another window pops up saying EXPLORE.EXE problem, and the whole Windows are unable to load anything beyond Wallpaper. There is no start icons, no Windows task bar, there is absolutely nothing. I try to hit Ctrl+Alt+Del, there is nothing show in the list, no program running what so ever.

The explorer error message as follow

EXPLORER

Explorer caused an invalid page fault in module Explorer.exe at 0187:0401f31
Registers:
EAX=00000000 CD=0187 EIP=00401f31
EFLGS=00010246
etc....

Later I find out I the Windows Product Keys is a sticker on side of the case, So now I have the Dell's original product keys, just that Windows no longer ask for product key and continue to give me explorer.exe error message. And it is unable to open anything beyond wallpaper.
Since this computer doesn't really belongs to my gf so she does't have all necessary drivers disk for this Dell computer, so I am reluctant to help her backup the system and do a clean install of Windows 98.

My questions is how can I fix this Windows problem, where I continue to stuck in this stupid explorer.exe error message and going no where. I try to avoid a clean install unless I can find all the necessary drivers for this computer.

Thank you for your attention and any suggestions and comments are much appreciated.
March 19, 2006 1:24:43 AM

As far as drivers are concerned, you should be in luck. Look at the computer to see if you can find a sticker on it that tells the service code of the Dell. If that cannot be found, you can still search the Dell website for the drivers using the make and model of the computer. All the drivers should be able to be found at the dell support website.

I think at this point it would be time for a format and fresh install. Since you can't seem to access any of the information on the computer, I suggest you slave the hard drive into another computer, and then copy the files and folders you need to a jump drive or burn them to CD. Use a boot floppy and run format C: to reformat your drive. It also may be a tad smater this next time to use a backup program, such as Norton Ghost. Look for the version of Ghost that came with the Norton System Works/Utilities 2003 disk. It allows you to make an image of the operating system that can be either burnt to cd, or saved onto another hardrive, or even a non-operating system partition on your current hard drive. At times like this, all you'd have to do is stick in a Norton Ghost boot floppy, and restore your operating system back to the day it was freshly installed, with all the little tweaks and wallpaper items already completed. :wink:
March 26, 2006 11:27:44 PM

Reinstall original windows (try repair) type in the product key and hope. Best if you can repair...then it saves some data. Have your reinstall discs ready for everything else just in case. Trying to swith in discs from other systems windows is not good. The discs are coded to match the one computer. If no able to repair, hit reformat and start over completely fresh...Reformat wipes everything clean though...even non windows stuff. Try original discs and hit repair,,,its best bet!
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March 26, 2006 11:31:24 PM

what if he bought a cheap hard drive, put it in and ran the windows discs in it, made it master, then put other(original) drive on slave and just transferred files that he needs back? Like his lan stuff and other programs?
March 26, 2006 11:41:00 PM

You could get a 120 gig hard drive that spins at 7200 and has smart tech for around $60 bucks Its probably a pretty big upgrade on the puter your using, ...Set jumpers to master, set old one to slave, Run windows to the master, then transfer all other files from old one back...Just make sure your formatting the right disc before windows install,,,pick the right letter...or you erase the wrong one...directions are simple to follow.

Then you have a dual drive computer which is pretty decent upgrade...while your in there check the ram slots and make sure you got enough ram,,,thats another cheap upfgrade...But for now a nice 100 or 120 gig hard drive would fix you up. Worry about ram later.
!