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Programs not starting on boot

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August 17, 2012 7:00:26 AM

Win 7 Pro 64

I've seen some other threads on this, and I've been searching the 'Net all evening. But I haven't found a solution, yet.

Starting a couple of weeks ago, (around Aug 3) I booted and noticed that a bunch of programs didn't start with Windows as they should. I'm pretty sure the only change that had happened since the previous boot was a Windows Update. Since I was in the middle of something for work, I decided to try a System Restore. That worked, so I put off researching the problem until I had more time. Then, a few days later, a new update came down that installed itself. In addition, it threw away the previous Restore Point. So, no going back, now. I limped along like that for a few days. Then, for no reason I can find, for two boots it worked perfectly. Tonight, another update, and it's back to not working. That's where I'm at now.

Running the programs manually works. No UAC warnings or anything like that.

In addition to none of the programs in my Startup folder starting, when I bring up the Task Manager immediately after a boot, only about 15 processes are running. Normally, there's more than a screen-full. So, I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of other things that are not getting fired off, too.

There are some things that are running. Under HKCU\Software\Microsoft\CurrentVersion\Run I see some items that are running and some that are not. Actual Multiple Monitors, GFI Backup, and Input Director are running and visible in the System Tray. AutoVer, Steam, and WallpaperChanger are not running. I just searched Autoruns for every mention of Actual Multiple Monitors and do not see anyplace else that would fire it off (it's mentioned in a context menu handler.) After a quick skim, it appears that all of the services are starting.

This system has been running under Avast. I downloaded Malwarebytes and ran a full scan. It did not find anything. I ran HijackThis and pored over the log, and recognized or searched to find everything. I ran sfc /scannow. No errors. The items do show up in msconfig, and they are checked. I downloaded Autoruns http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb96390... and they show there, too. I looked in Event Viewer, and nothing jumps out at me, there. I do *not* see a slew of messages telling me about things that didn't run.

Does anyone have suggestions on where to look next?

Thanks,

Drake Christensen

More about : programs starting boot

a b $ Windows 7
August 17, 2012 7:51:17 AM

Anything untoward in msconfig? ie all the boxes in Startup and Services checked as normal?
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August 17, 2012 7:57:10 AM

Yep. Every box checked in both tabs.

Drake
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Related resources
a b $ Windows 7
August 17, 2012 8:08:58 AM

Can only suggest you remove Updates since beginning of August (You'll find them in Update History) and then re-install them as that's the only significant change apart from the Restore...
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August 17, 2012 8:22:44 AM

The one time I did do that, the reinstall broke it, again. So, I'm not confident that's going to produce any better results this time.

And, without restore points, can I even remove them? Since they're altering the OS itself, I don't think I can simply remove them. That's basically the purpose of restore points, to save off the system files prior to the update altering them.

Drake
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a b $ Windows 7
August 17, 2012 9:32:51 AM

Think we may be edging towards a clean re-install... I'm seeing about 6 recent updates for Windows (Pro 64 same as you) and a few slightly older. Reasonable to assume one of them is the culprit, if you CAN uninstall, select individual updates to re-install till you find which one is causing the grief and prevent it from installing in future. Going to be time consuming whatever...
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August 17, 2012 10:15:24 AM

Obviously, a clean reinstall is what I'm trying to avoid. It would take quite a while to get this machine reconfigured the way I like it.

The fact that it was working for a couple of boots gives me hope that it's fixable. Also, a few threads I've found around the InterWeb tells me that I'm not the only person who's seen this. Hopefully, I'll find one where someone came back and posted a solution that will work for me.

Or, hopefully someone on this board will see this later today.

Drake
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a b $ Windows 7
August 17, 2012 12:24:14 PM

Do any of the other threads link it to Windows Update? Guessing there must be a conflict between your setup and one of the updates which could well reappear if/when you re-install Windows. Need to identify which update somehow...
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August 17, 2012 12:40:47 PM

Seem you might have a rootkit and no not all AV's can pick them up.
Download kaspersky rescue cd and burn and boot the iso and run a scan.
Download combofix and under avast shield control disable perm then run combofix.
After combofix is done restart your computer and see if your programs are now starting and re-enable your shields on avast.
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August 18, 2012 9:50:10 AM

Kaspersky currently running. 17% through and it says 10 more hours to complete. It has already checked the boot section.

I predict that's not going to be the problem. We'll see.

Drake
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August 19, 2012 9:37:16 PM

It found Exploit.Linux.Lotoor.g, which is a false positive. That's the rageinthecage exploit that's specific to rooting my Android phone. So, I know what it is, and I know why it's on my machine, and I know it's not the culprit.

I did get five "Processing Error" "Read error"s. They were all within the QuicktimeInstaller.exe in my /mnt.../Downloads folder. Plus one more for the folder itself. I searched on that, and from what I can gather, that appears to point to various bugs within Kaspersky itself. My impression is that it is *not* indicative of a dying hard disk. The scan continued to run after these errors and went on to report a couple of more instances of the same Linux exploit I mentioned above, within the .zip file that I originally downloaded it.

If someone insists I'll run it again over night. But, I think that points away from a virus/trojan, and I'm pretty sure it's not flaky hardware.

Who has ideas on where to look next?

Thanks for the ideas so far,

Drake
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a b $ Windows 7
August 20, 2012 5:41:50 AM

Have you tried running the viral software in safe mode? You might have something that is preventing the scans to read it. Also if you have CCleaner check your registry files and there's also a startup, like msconfig that might be able to tell you something.
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a b $ Windows 7
August 20, 2012 6:47:05 AM

Did you try Startup Repair from your Installation disk yet??
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August 20, 2012 7:53:29 AM

MidnightDistort said:
Have you tried running the viral software in safe mode? You might have something that is preventing the scans to read it. Also if you have CCleaner check your registry files and there's also a startup, like msconfig that might be able to tell you something.


The Kaspersky Rescue Disk runs completely outside the OS, so it's basically "Safer than Safe Mode."

Also, in my original post, I mentioned running msconfig and autoruns. All of the programs are listed, and all are checked.

Quote:
Did you try Startup Repair from your Installation disk yet??


I'll give CCleaner a try, and then I'll look into Startup Repair.

But we're starting to get a little drastic at trying destructive repairs without knowing what it is we're dealing with. I had seen some discussions of similar issues on this board, but never a resolution. Someone on another board turned off UAC, which I don't want to do. Both for security reasons, and because this was working fine just a few weeks ago. And, running each program manually does not generate a UAC warning.

Can anyone think of any more diagnostics I can run to narrow down why none of the items in the Startup folder run, and some of the items in HKCU\Software\Microsoft\CurrentVersion\Run run and others don't? As I said, I looked at the Event Viewer and I do *not* see a slew of error messages about programs that can't be run. I don't know if the OS is even trying to run them. Is there some other form of logging I can turn on (I've already turned on boot logging from the F8 menu and there's nothing noteworthy there) that will tell me more about what's going on during the boot process?

Drake
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August 21, 2012 6:40:08 AM

The latest oddity is that it straightened itself out, again, briefly.

I was doing some surfing on it and had a bazillion tabs open in IE. At one point, it got confused and there was little I could do. The Windows button didn't work. So, I did a hard reset.

When it came back up from that, all of my Startup programs had loaded. Albeit, on the first boot I didn't have any network. For the next two reboots after that, everything loaded. On a third reboot, as a test, it failed, again.

Just now I did a restart from the Windows button and it failed. From there I did a reset and no joy. Still not working.

You know. It almost acts as if it thinks the Shift key is being held down. I did recently add an Xarmor wireless keyboard. And my old Logitech wireless is still plugged in. There's no reason those should interfere. There's nothing lying on a key on either keyboard. Hmm. That's probably not it. I just checked and the keyboard had been installed for a couple of weeks before I started seeing this problem.

I just unplugged the Xarmor adapter and rebooted and it worked. While logging in I tapped both shift keys on the Logitech a few times. It didn't feel like there was anything stuck under the keys. But, it could be that the keyboard got confused about the state of the shift key. I haven't touched that keyboard in a few weeks.

Next, I'm going to unplug the Logitech and plug the Xarmor back in.

And it worked.

I'm not going to take time to plug both back in and narrow it down any further. It could be interference. Or, it could be dust or something under the shift key on the old keyboard. Doesn't matter that much to me.

Thanks for helping me think this through. I'm glad it was something simple, and I'm glad that I found a specific cause. I hate magic solutions.

Hopefully someone in the future with this issue will stumble on this thread.

Drake
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August 21, 2012 9:35:51 AM

Hmm. That wasn't it. Or, that wasn't all of it. It now works some of the time. Maybe 3 out of 10 tries. One could say that's an improvement. But apparently I'm still searching. Next, unplug all of the wireless keyboards and try a wired keyboard.

Drake
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August 21, 2012 9:52:08 AM

Nope. Still fails. The only keyboard plugged in at the moment is the wired one.

But I think this idea that Windows thinks the Shift key is down is an idea I wish I knew how to chase down. I wish Microsoft had provided some sort of indicator that it was bypassing Startup programs.

(I would have designed that entire thing differently. I would provide some sort of menu at the logon screen for the user to quite specifically and very visibly choose to suppress the Startup folder.)

I suppose the next thing to unplug is the new Logitech G700 mouse that I got at the same time as the Xarmor keyboard. I don't think I have a working wired USB mouse, at the moment. I'll have to use a different wireless one.

I'll also unplug my hub. I think the only working device plugged into it right now is the mouse receiver. I think everything else is just a dangling cord.

Drake
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a b $ Windows 7
August 21, 2012 11:13:01 AM

The intermittent nature of the bug is a thorny one, hubs can produce strange results, I use a non-powered one, and though peripherals are recognised when plugged in, they don't always perform. At least it would appear to be a hardware problem and negate the necessity of Startup Repair etc.
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August 21, 2012 11:52:47 AM

I dunno. I would have bought the idea of a hardware problem except I've swapped out or removed pretty much every component. The hub was disconnected and the only USB devices were a simpler Logitech wireless mouse and a generic wired keyboard. So, I've seen this behavior with four different keyboards and two mice.

Also, thinking it through a little further, my idea of Windows being confused about the shift state doesn't really hold up. Otherwise, I'd be seeing shift behavior all over Windows. I'd see caps when I'm typing, shift-click when I'm using the mouse, etc. I'm not seeing any of that.

So, it's more like the "Shift is down" flag is being set during the boot process, even though the keyboard driver doesn't actually see the shift being held down.

Or, it's something else entirely. That just seemed like a pretty good fit when it came to mind.

And my success rate has fallen back off. After those few good boots a few hours ago, I've booted the machine to about 7+ failures in a row.

Windows just installed *another* update. Just rebooted and it's another failure. So, I guess I'm at a loss, again.

Do you, or anyone else, have any more suggestions?

Drake
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a b $ Windows 7
August 21, 2012 6:14:40 PM

You'd think if it was software it would affect every boot, and in the same manner. Which brings you back to hardware. Could try testing memory, perhaps one area dodgy, causing the startup to be misread, or possibly a bad sector on your HDD? Simple enough to run checks and rule them out of the equation...
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August 22, 2012 6:32:16 AM

memtest86+ v4.20 had made it 86% of the way through when I bumped the Esc key. Doh! I'm letting it run again to completion. But, if the problem were bad memory then I would expect it to show up by that point. So, that's probably not it.

Is there a current favorite non-destructive hard disk tester?

Drake
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August 22, 2012 7:04:45 AM

Thanks for those links. I'd actually saved a link to Hiren's before, but of course, that was probably a couple years ago, so I don't even remember doing it. Looks like there's a lot of stuff in there.

I understand about letting it run a few passes. But, I think that the way to bet is that if it's failing, then it'll fail pretty quick. Still, doesn't hurt to let it run while I sleep. I'll let it finish this pass (94%) and then I'll reboot and give a hard disk diagnostic a chance.

This problem that I'm seeing is so specific that flaky hardware just doesn't seem very likely. If the hardware were failing then I'd expect to see all kinds of wacky behavior and some BSODs. I expect it's going to be some off setting in Windows, or some obscure interaction with something early in the boot process. I just wish I could get more information on what it's actually attempting to do and what it's bypassing.

Drake
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a b $ Windows 7
August 22, 2012 7:33:16 AM

I tend to agree with that, and we're clutching a straws a bit, but have to rule it out.
Startup Repair still an option, but still poses the question, what is the variable which allows some boots to work and others not? Whilst I don't have a great deal of faith in the Repair options, it's one step to take in desparation rather than a complete re-jig...
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August 23, 2012 9:06:12 AM

FYI, Memtest ran overnight and finished 10 passes with no errors. Currently running the Hitachi Drive Fitness Test. It's about halfway through, so it probably has a couple of hours to go.

While searching on this issue I saw a couple of threads over on sevenforums.com, so I posted this over there, too. They pointed me at their Troubleshooting FAQ. I had already completed most of the suggestions there. But, there was a link to one program called Process Monitor that says in the description that it can be used on the boot process.

So, after this disk test finishes, that'll be tomorrow's task.

As always, if anyone else can think of anything else that might help, I'd love to hear it.

Drake
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August 25, 2012 5:02:31 AM

The disk diagnostic finished without error.

Managed to get Process Monitor to run after a couple of attempts. It's quite a flood of information. A needle-in-a-haystack situation. I can search and filter for "startup." I've found where it lists the programs that are in my Startup folder. I have not found anything near that which jumps out at me and says, "I'm the flag that decides to bypass the Startup folder."

I've done a net search and brought up the first eight or ten pages. I haven't really dug into them, yet.

Does anyone have any suggestions on what to look for?

Drake
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a b $ Windows 7
August 25, 2012 5:16:55 AM

Another straw to clutch at... did you try Clean Startup method of eliminating a rogue process using diagnostic startup in msconfig? (In case it's a process that is occasionally affecting startup, if that's possible...)
Meanwhile the left hand is creeping inexorably towards the Win 7 Installation disk...
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August 25, 2012 6:06:34 AM

It keeps on teasing me with an occasional successful boot, so that I keep believing that there's a potential solution. I got one last night. But the three or four since have been fails.

I'm not sure I see what a "Clean Startup" would tell me. Since the whole point is that I'm not seeing the Startup programs running. And a Clean Startup purposely doesn't run the Startup programs, right?

Are you suggesting that I disable stuff in groups to try to narrow down which one might be an issue?

The other thing I haven't done is download and run CCleaner. I keep on seeing that as a suggestion to almost every problem. It should be easy enough to try. And maybe the panacea will work for me. Maybe it is a registry issue.

Drake
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a b $ Windows 7
August 25, 2012 12:01:36 PM

Mighty said:
It keeps on teasing me with an occasional successful boot, so that I keep believing that there's a potential solution. I got one last night. But the three or four since have been fails.

I'm not sure I see what a "Clean Startup" would tell me. Since the whole point is that I'm not seeing the Startup programs running. And a Clean Startup purposely doesn't run the Startup programs, right?

Are you suggesting that I disable stuff in groups to try to narrow down which one might be an issue?

The other thing I haven't done is download and run CCleaner. I keep on seeing that as a suggestion to almost every problem. It should be easy enough to try. And maybe the panacea will work for me. Maybe it is a registry issue.

Drake

Clean startup does exactly that, object to isolate down to a single element, would be more hopefull of success if it's the same items missing when startup fails...
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a b $ Windows 7
August 25, 2012 10:46:51 PM

CCleaner IMO works better then the msconfig, as you can delete any unwanted startup items. Checking with registry items may or may not help, but i'd give it a try & go through to clean up anything off the computer.

If certain programs are not starting up while others do, maybe try reinstalling those programs. Sometimes a service could be conflicting with start up. But i've noticed that many services are needed for various functions and im not used to messing with that stuff. But if the above hasn't worked then a clean installation would be in order, or a backup image of a known working configuration. Keep a record of everything you install back on to the computer. Chances are you might have a program installation that may have caused your system to not boot your startup items.
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August 27, 2012 12:37:02 AM

MidnightDistort said:
CCleaner IMO works better then the msconfig, as you can delete any unwanted startup items. Checking with registry items may or may not help, but i'd give it a try & go through to clean up anything off the computer.

If certain programs are not starting up while others do, maybe try reinstalling those programs. Sometimes a service could be conflicting with start up. But i've noticed that many services are needed for various functions and im not used to messing with that stuff. But if the above hasn't worked then a clean installation would be in order, or a backup image of a known working configuration. Keep a record of everything you install back on to the computer. Chances are you might have a program installation that may have caused your system to not boot your startup items.


I did run CCleaner. Went over the items it complained/warned about. I didn't see anything that looked like it applied to my situation.

I suppose it could be one of my programs that's installing itself as a service. Kind of an odd interaction, though. Unfortunately, I can't tell, yet, which ones install themselves early enough in the boot process to be able to affect the flag the decides to bypass the Startup folder.

The fact that it's intermittent, but that the failure mode is so constrained, is also unusual, I think.

Drake
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August 27, 2012 12:38:03 AM

dodger46 said:
Clean startup does exactly that, object to isolate down to a single element, would be more hopefull of success if it's the same items missing when startup fails...


Can you point me at something that explains the Clean Startup more thoroughly. I think I'm still not following you completely.

Drake
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a b $ Windows 7
August 27, 2012 5:57:59 AM

Mighty said:
Can you point me at something that explains the Clean Startup more thoroughly. I think I'm still not following you completely.

Drake

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/331796

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August 27, 2012 6:05:52 AM

Yeah, okay. Just start disabling things until the behavior changes. An old colleague of mine called that "shaking the box" to see what rattled.

Of course, one complication with my situation is that it does sometimes spontaneously work. I've had four in a row within the last couple of days. It would take a large number of consecutive boots before I was really sure it worked.

I'm gonna post this over on the Microsoft Technet forum. Some of those people seem fluent in Process Monitor.

I'll let you know if they have any insight. If not, then trying to narrow it down with a Clean Boot might be my last choice before a Startup Repair or a complete reinstall.

Drake
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a b $ Windows 7
August 27, 2012 6:18:22 AM

Aye, clean startup might take longer than a re-install if you have a lot of non M'soft processes! It's the intermittent nature of the beast that puzzles me, software tends to be more predictable, if there's a 1 or 0 missing its's going to cause the same mayhem each time, whereas a failing component works when it feels like it. Still think it may be hardware for that reason. Take it your PSU voltages are good, esp. rails?
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August 27, 2012 6:24:26 AM

A dying PSU usually causes all kinds of havoc. Albeit, different havoc on each boot. Not the same minor issue most times.

That's true of most hardware issues that I can think of.

Someone over on sevenforums suggested an interaction between the video driver and that one Windows update. He said a video driver update disabled his mouse and keyboard about six months ago. So, video drivers can still cause seemingly-unrelated issues. It's probably been 6-12 months since I last updated my driver. So, that's another thing I'm considering.

Drake
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a b $ Windows 7
August 27, 2012 6:43:44 AM

Agreed, straws again! All roads seem to lead back to the Windows Update that occurred about the time your problems started, so even if you did re-install, some time in the future the same update is going to cause the same grief. I've heard similar stories of unexpected problems caused by GPUs in areas non-related to Graphics. Don't suppose you have an iGPU you could try for a spell..
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August 27, 2012 8:42:06 AM

I'm beginning to question the correlation with that update. Given the intermittent behavior, that may have been coincidental. At this point, I have an open mind as to what's causing it. Albeit, I am pretty sure it's not a catastrophic hardware failure.

I wonder if it has to do with the timing of how things are loaded. That could make it a software issue. I have noticed in the last few days that the black screen between logon until the desktop shows up is lasting a really long time on the failure boots. I wasn't timing it, but I think it was at least a few minutes the last time I booted. The successful ones don't happen often enough for me to be able to compare.

This is the only PCI-e video card I have, an ATI Radeon 5850 or 5870. My previous system was an AGP.

In addition to Technet I posted at Sysinternals. I'm going to be tenacious in solving this :-)

Drake
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a b $ Windows 7
August 27, 2012 8:53:38 AM

Well, usually if there's a delay in that sequence it's caused by Windows having difficulty loading a driver, which can be caused because the hardware for that driver is at fault. Had a similar problem with a laptop that eventually just sat there and progressed no further. Some obscure motherboard fault. Unfortunately running XP so no Clean Startup available to diagnose...
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August 27, 2012 8:59:16 AM

If that's true, then maybe it's captured in the Process Monitor log I have. I'll have to go over the "Long boot" threads and see how to track that down.

Drake
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a b $ Windows 7
August 27, 2012 11:32:57 AM

I'm not sure if this was mentioned but have you tried checking out Event Viewer? I don't know if it would help but it couldn't hurt to check it out.
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August 27, 2012 7:43:37 PM

Yes, I did check Event Viewer. I did not see a flurry of error messages about programs not loading. I'll take another look at it, but it's another tidal wave of information. I'm not sure how to zero in on the one entry I'm looking for, since I'm not even sure it's in there. Any suggestions appreciated.

Drake
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December 14, 2012 6:52:17 AM

Well. I had just similar issue. And interesting enough my computer started working when I manually started my antivirus program (it is my firewall as well). Maybe that helps you a bit.
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May 16, 2013 12:46:33 PM

I forgot to come back here and report.

I never did find a solution. I lived with it for a few weeks, and then one day, the computer refused to boot at all. So, I took the opportunity to replace my three-year-old drive, and installed the OS, fresh.

Frustrating. The fact that it did work occasionally showed that it *could* work. But I never could figure out the flag that decided whether to load those programs or not.

Drake
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October 9, 2013 7:22:55 AM

oh man.. I read the whole thread hoping that this would have a happy ending. I have the same problem.. windows update was disabled for months. Last night I un-disabled it thinking that microsoft would have fixed this issue by now.. but to no avail i came across the same issue. Had to system restore again...
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October 11, 2013 1:50:31 AM

If you really are seeing what I did, then I think you're going to have to bite the bullet and reinstall. If you're seeing this sort of misbehavior, then no telling what other important items are broken under the hood. And, you only need to hit one compromised site that uses an exploit that's been fixed in an update you haven't applied to make it a net loss that you didn't reinstall.

As I said, it's frustrating that it sometimes worked for me. But, I spent a lot of time chasing it down, to no avail. In the end, the couple of days to reinstall and get set back up wasn't that bad.

Drake
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