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Executables do not run in Safe Mode!


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#1
Robster the Lobster

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I have this bizarre problem, which seems very serious: if I boot up XP Home in Safe Mode, I cannot run any program. :) Apparently, the .exe extension is not even recognised: when I try to run any executable, I get the same error message you get in Normal when you try to open a file with an unknown extension (you are asked to choose a program from a list). I suppose I must have inadvertently deleted something crucial from the registry.

I have tried a Windows Repair, but this failed, so I restored the back up of my system partition, which I had backed up using Norton Ghost.

Any ideas on how to solve this? I suppose the last resort is to re-install Windows, but this would mean re-installing all my software, and I am obviously keen to avoid that option.
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#2
The Skeptic

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Try this link to dougnox.com and run EXE File Association Fix.
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#3
Robster the Lobster

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Dear Skeptic,

Thanks for the swift reply. Nice try - unfortunately it did NOT solve the problem. :) The only thing that seems to be working in Safe Mode (with Networking) is Internet browsing with IE7. That seems strange to me, because IE7 also depends on an executable (iexplore.exe) surely? If that will run, why not any other? And all links on my desktop in SafeMode are 'greyed out' (except Internet Explorer) and do not work. ANY IDEAS? I'm stumped! :) Attempts to run executables (except IE7) result in this all-too-familiar message:

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Windows cannot open this file:

File: *.exe

To open this file, Windows needs to know what program created it. Windows can go online to look it up automatically, or you can manually select from a list of programs on your computer.

What do you want to do?

- Use the Web service to find the appropriate program
- Select the program from a list.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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#4
Robster the Lobster

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The other weird thing is that ActiveX is not working in Safe Mode, whereas it is in Normal Mode. What does this mean?
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#5
The Skeptic

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Can you install new programs? If you can, can you run them? Is this problem developed gradually or all of a sudden?

Do I understand correctly that you reinstalled a backup image on top of the present active partition and still have exactly the same problem?

Could you move the affected disk to another computer as slave or secondary drive and use the other computer antimalware programs to run a deep scan?
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#6
Robster the Lobster

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Thanks for the reply and sorry for the delayed reaction.

I can install and run programs -- no problem at all. In fact, Normal mode seems to be functioning OK.

Yes, you understood correctly: using Norton Ghost, I restored an earlier back-up of the entire system (C:) partition over the active partition. The problem with executables not being recognised in Safe Mode had obviously arisen at an earlier date, because this was still the case after the restore operation.

I cannot say whether the problem arose gradually or all of a sudden: I had not started up in Safe Mode for many months. All I know is that the problem arose at some time during that interim period.

I can remove the hard disk and get it checked on another computer, but I would rather not. I regularly deep scan the HD using a variety of online and PC-based anti-malware software: ZoneAlarm Security Suite 8.0, a-squared Anti-Malware, TrojanHunter, SpywareDoctor, Spybot S&D, Windows Live OneCare, Panda ActiveScan, etc. Are you suggesting that these problems could be caused by an infection? Is there any other possible explanation (for example, that I have inadvertently deleted something critical from the registry?
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#7
The Skeptic

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Run the System File Checker. Place your XP Cd in the drive and click Exit when windows show up. Click Start > Run. In the dialog box write sfc /scannow (please note the space in the command) and press enter. A dialog box will open and windows will look for corrupt or missing system files restoring them back to the original. When the process end the dialog box disappears without further notice. Please check the computer now.

You wrote in your first post that Windows Repair failed. Did you mean that the repair finished without positive results or did the process fail without finishing.

Regarding malware: these bugs can damage system files in a variety of ways so you can never exclude this option.
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