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Windows XP networking freezes occasionally - how to unfreeze?

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There's a particular old Windows game (the Red Alert 2 series) that only works on IPX networking, and I found that the best way to keep the game stable is to disable everything in networking except for the IPX protocol (i.e. uncheck all other checkboxes).

This works fine most of the time, but sometimes when clicking OK, the small Networking Properties window (the one with the protocols and clients) will freeze, and nothing I have tried can make it work again. You cannot even restart Windows as the entire Explorer.exe seems to be frozen. Task Manager can partially close it, i.e. the Desktop will empty, but the task Explorer.exe will still show up and cannot be quit. A command prompt entry of "shutdown -f -r -t 0" also will not fully quit Explorer.exe. Only a hard reset will allow you to restart.

It's not an infection - I know an infection when I see one. I think it's most likely a bug or instability in Windows XP.

Does anyone have suggestions on how to make these changes in a safer way that won't freeze the system?
Or is there a particular service or thread that I can possibly force quit and restart to get networking up again using services.msc or ProcessExplorer etc.?

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