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Top 20 Windows XP Questions

1) What Steps Should Take Do Before I Install XP2? aka SP2
2) Disk Cleanup Hangs
3) Stop Pop-Ups
4) MS Update Service Problems
5) Where Is The JAVA PlugIn
6) System Rebooting. Cant Read Error Message
7) c:\windows\system32 Folder Appears On Bootup
8) How Do I Delete "Undeletable" Files And Folders?
9) Lost My Old Outlook Express Mail When I Upgraded To XP
10) ~ Files Appear On My Desktop
11) Cant Save As .jpg, Can Only Save As .bmp
12) Error Message: c:\windows\system32\autoexec.nt
13) XP Says I Have 4 Unread Email Messages On Logon
14) The "My Documents" Folder Is Locked
15) My Restore Points Dont Work
16) My PC Runs Really Slow And Takes Ages To Bootup
17) I Cant Stop XP Chkdsk From Running
19) OE And Unsafe Attachments
20) I Have Windows 98. Should I Upgrade To XP?

Question 1. What Steps Should Take Do Before I Install XP2 or XP3?

Answer. Service Packs are really a major OS upgrade. Your first step is to do some homework and see if you really NEED it or WANT its features.

If you decide that you want it please read the information on these pages very carefully:


You receive an "Access is denied" error message when you try to install Windows XP Service Pack 2 or Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1

[Thanks S.Sengupta] Page done for IE only.


Question 2. When I run Disk Clean Up, it gets to the first three bars when checking the files (status bar says "compress old files") and then just hangs there? If I close it down and run it again, then it just never comes up at all.

Answer. From Microsoft KB 812248 http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=812248

1.Click Start, and then click Run.
2.Type regedit in the Open box, and then press ENTER.
3.Locate, and then click the following registry key:


4.On the File menu, click Export, and then click Desktop, type VolumeCaches in the File name box, and then click Save.

Note This step creates a backup of the VolumeCaches registry key. If you experience any problems after you complete the steps that are listed in this procedure, you can use this backup to restore the VolumeCaches key to its original state. To restore the key, double-click the VolumeCaches.reg file on your desktop, and then click Yes.

5.Expand the following registry key:


6.Delete the Compress old files registry key.
7.Quit Registry Editor.

Or, The Disk Cleanup Tool Stops Responding:


Question 3. How do I stop pop-ups?

Answer. Pop-Ups are due to either Messenger Service, are embedded on web pages, or may even be part of a spyware program that you have installed. If they are due to Messenger Service you may either disable it or block the open ports. Note that disabling Messenger Service is only a temporary fix and doesn't address the real problem. Or, they may just be pop ups for automatic updates to OE or WinXP.

Please note that Messenger Service is different than Windows Messenger. This section deals with Messenger Service.

To disable Messenger Service see this:


To block the ports to prevent spammers from sending you ads via Messenger Service read below:

If they say messenger service in the title bar, these have nothing to do with MSN messenger or Windows messenger.What this is a new way for spammers to attack your computer and send you pop-up ads. If you receive these ads it means that your computers netbios ports are wide open to the internet and this could be a real security problem.

What you should do is install a good firewall that will block the ports the spammers use and stop the ads. A good place to start is Zone Alarm [www.zonelabs.com] for an inbound/outbound blocking firewall or use the inbound blocking only firewall built in to XP. Configure the XP firewall to block ports 135, 137-139 and 445. Zone Alarm will block these ports by default. [Thanks purplehaz03]

The issue is that currently ANYONE can actually send you a message through the .NET Messenger network without being on YOUR contact list! You can change this so that people will have to add you to their contact lists before they can send you a message (which will have the effect of blocking these Spam messages in the future).

To Disable Messenger Service Spam - simply Open up the main Messenger window, click Tools, then Options, then the Privacy tab, click All users and then click the Block button. This way you can manually add who you want to receive messages from and block all others. [Thanks Taurarian]

Microsoft has some articles as well:

Another option to manage the Messenger Service is to use a tiny utility called Shoot The Messenger. [Thanks S.R.]

Note that ShootTheMessenger is just a toggle switch that turns Messenger Service Off/On. One should still block the ports as noted earlier.

Another good anti-popup page: How to block Pop-ups?
[Thanks Ramesh]

If the popups are are website based one may install a Pop-Up Stopper. A list of these type of utilities are listed for download on the Utilities Page under Popup Stoppers And Web Filters.

If your pop-ups are due to spyware, one can find such ware and disable it by using Ad-Adware or Spybot, both of which and more links can also be found under Anti-Spyware on the Utilities Page.

If due to automatic updates to OE or WinXP check Start | Settings | Control Panel | System | Automatic Updates and change it.

As things move on however more web browsers and/or add-on toolbars include anti-popup functions for popups and popunders coded into webpages.


Question 4. I'm having lots of problems installing any Critical Updates, Security Patches and even the SP1/2/3 upgrades from Microsoft's website. Are there there any basic tweaks I have to do in advance? I also get "cryptographic error messages".

Question 4.1 I keep seeing the same list of Windows XP updates appear even after I have downloaded and installed all of them.

Question 4.2 Sometimes Windows Update just hangs. Is there anything I can try?

Answer. Delete the catroot2 folder contents. It's in the system32 folder usually here:

Or rename the folder and dont worry a fresh one will be created on the reboot:

Start | Run | cmd | OK
At the command prompt, type the following and press ENTER:
ren "%SystemRoot%\System32\Catroot2 oldcatroot2

If one is getting "cryptographic error messages" you may rename [Thanks Kelly] the folder by choosing Start | Run | CMD and entering:

net stop cryptsvc
ren %systemroot%\system32\catroot2 oldcatroot2
net start cryptsvc

Or try [Rick R.s] renaming method to help with "cryptographic error messages":

Open Windows Explorer to C:\Windows\system32, right-click/rename the catroot2 folder to catold. Then retry the update installation. When finished, there will be a new catroot2 folder and you can safely delete the old renamed one.

To address the common 0x800a138f error problem see here:

You Cannot Install Some Updates Or Programs:

Problems When Viewing or Downloading From Windows Update:

How Can I Remove SP3?:

I'd also delete the contents of your windows temp and Internet cache folders. Reboot and try the update again.

It's also suggested that you disable your anti-virus and other running background applications before you install any OS upgrade.

Question 4.3. Has anyone had the problem of going to the Windows update page and clicking on the Scan for updates button but the % never goes up so the updates are never checked and updates cannot be downloaded?

Answer. I had a very similar problem a while ago with XP Home. I would open windows update, scan for updates and it would just sit there at 0% forever and not show the available updates.

After much searching I found that putting the url of the windows update page - http://v4.windowsupdate.microsoft.com into the sites box of the local intranet solved it

Copy the above URL, go to IE options, security tab, local intranet, click the "Sites" button, then "Advanced", paste the URL into the box labeled "Add this web site to this zone;" and click "add".

Click the OK buttons to close and try it again. [Thanks Atwood]

A.The question about windows update just sitting at "looking for updates" and never changes %. There is another thing you can try (it usually works), go into the network settings for your computer and remove the check for "automatically detect proxy settings". This will usually resolve the problem and allow you to go straight to the windows update address instead of using the v4.whatever address. [Thanks Zro]

Here's a page with some good tips also:

Question 4.4. Trying to update Windows XP, and the update page kicks me out with an error code 0x80072EE2 so I cannot get updates.

Answer. http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=836941

Question 4.5. Windows Update has encountered an error and cannot display the requested page.



Question 5. I keep getting notices that I need JAVA to see certain webpages including my online banking and some games. Where can I get the MS JAVA plugin?

Answer. MS Java was not included in XP, was included in SP1, but is not included in SP1a or later. One can download an older version from several sites listed on the Utilities Page under the heading Windows XP Specific | Browser. The SUN version is also there.

At this time I'd recommend the SUN version.

[Maybe VM is simply not enabled on the PC] so check here. Start IE. Goto Tools | Internet Options | Advanced Tab. Under Microsoft VM, enable JIT Compiler for VM and set the security options to default and reboot. [Thanks Helob]


Question 6. System Rebooting. Cant Read Error Message. I get the blue screen of death but it flashes by too quickly and I can't read it.

Answer. Right click on My Computer, select Properties and then the Advanced tab. Click on Settings under 'Startup and Recovery' and then uncheck 'Automatically restart'. Next time your PC tries to restart you see a Blue Screen [with a stop or error message which you can use to research your problem.] Thanks Will D.

Windows XP has a default setting to "Restart on failure" and that is almost certainly what is causing [the] restarts. [There is a tweak however that one can do in order to read the error message].

Open Control Panel - System - Advanced - Startup and Recovery Settings and uncheck the "Automatically restart" item in the System failure section.

That will likely result in the PC locking up completely, requiring a manual reset or power-off, but you will be able to see the full text of the BSOD error message and can then investigate the possible causes. [Thanks Ron M.]


Question 7. Every time I boot my computer, a windows explorer window appears which is c:\windows\system32.

Answer. System32 Folder Opens When Logging on to Windows:

Line 260. Click on System32 Folder Opens Upon Boot:


Question 8. I can't delete a few files or folders in XP. I get a "file in use" message. Sometimes I also get an Access Denied message. What do I do?

Answer. How To Delete "Undeletable" Files And Folders In XP:

Sometimes "in use" is reported because a .dll is in some way tied up. Often, a reboot followed by an immediate attempt to delete the file works just fine. Give it a try. Second way, ugh!, is to boot into 'safe' mode, which will almost always work. [Thanks Tashtego]

Here are some specific articles on the subject:



One can try this:

1. Close all open programs.
2. Open a command prompt.
3. Right-click the taskbar, and select Task Manager.
4. On the Processes tab, select Explorer.exe, and click the End Process button.
5. Minimize Task Manager, but don't close it.
6. At the command prompt, use the Delete command to remove the file, and close the command prompt.
7. In Task Manager, go to File | New Task (Run).
8. In the Create New Task dialog box, enter Explorer.exe, and click OK.
9. Close Task Manager

[Thanks Hilary K.]

One may also try some special utilities that will do it for you. Hit:


Then goto General File Utilities | Stubborn File Deleters

Other howto's include:


Question 9. Lost My Old Outlook Express Mail When I Upgraded To XP from Windows 98. Can I get them back?

Answer. Mail Folders, Address Book, and E-mail Messages Are Missing After You Upgrade to Microsoft Windows XP:



Question 10. ~ Files Appear On My Desktop

Answer. Essentially it's a backup of your MS address book that's made after you make a change to it.

Take a look at this:


Question 11. Cant Save Images As .jpg, Can Only Save As .bmp

Answer. Clean out your Internet cache files aka temporary internet files.

Also see:


Question 12. Error Message: c:\windows\system32\autoexec.nt The system file is not suitable for running MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows applications. Choose Close to terminate the application.

Answer. Try the fixes on one or both of these links:

Error message when you install or start an MS-DOS or 16-bit Windows-based program:

Troubleshooting MS-DOS-based programs in Windows XP:

[The errors may be caused by a program called Windupdater which runs Winad Client.]

Winad Client is easily removed via Control Panel/Ad-Remove Programs. Ironically afer the program is removed your browser is forwarded to a Windupdater Url promoting Spyware removal. [Thanks Torgeir B. and HAL]

I have the fix! Running Audit on my computer showed that a program called WINDUPDATE.EXE (not WINUPDATE.EXE) was deleting my Autoexec.nt file on boot up. If I replaced the file it would delete it again. Goto \Program Files\WINDUPDATE folder and delete it! Go to your registy and delete anything named WINDUPDATE. Put the Autoexec.nt file back into your \system32 folder and all is well! This was definately the problem here and I bet most everyone has the same nasty bugger, WINDUPDATE.EXE on their infected computer. [Thanks Tim and Ron]

There is a backup copy of autoexec.nt in C:\windows\repair, and you can just copy it into windows\system32. But it will be necessary to get rid of the trojan that is causing the trouble. [Thanks Alex N.]

After you copy the file from windows\repair to windows\system32 set it read only.


Question 13. When I go to log onto WinXP it's telling me [that] I have 4 unread mail messages. I don't have any unread mail messages. Is there somewhere I can reset this?

Answer. Download and install TweakUI:

Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP (TweakUI) For Systems With SP1/SP2 Installed:

Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP (TweakUI) For Systems WithOUT SP1 Installed:

After installing, go to Start | Programs | PowerToys for Windows XP | TweakUI. Expand "Logon" and uncheck "Show unread mail on Welcome screen".

Note: Unread message alerts may indicate you have unread messages not only in Outlook Express, but Hotmail and/or MSN email accounts as well. [Thanks Carey F.]

For some background - Overview of the Mail Notification Display on the Windows XP Welcome Screen



Question 14. The "My Documents" Folder Is Locked After A Reinstall And I Cant Access My Files. [I tells me I don't have permision.]

Answer. HOW TO: Take Ownership of a File or Folder in Windows XP:

NOTE: You must be logged on to the computer using an account that has administrative privileges. If you are running Windows XP Home Edition, in order to have access to the Security tab, you must first start in Safe Mode and log on with an account that has Administrative rights. [Thanks Kaylene]

You need to take ownership of them. Right-click the folder, select properties. Go to the security tab and click advanced. You can take control of the folders on the owner tab. For the security tab to appear in a WinXP Pro system, you must disable simple file sharing in the control panel/folder options/view tab. For a WinXP Home system, you must restart in safe mode and logon as administrator.

An additional note for WinXP Pro users: This procedure will not help you recover data if the files are encrypted. All you will be able to do is delete them. To recover encrypted files you will need the original encryption certificate or a Recovery Agent from the installation under which they were encrypted. Without one of these, the files are not recoverable. [Thanks Rick R.]


Question 15. I installed some bad software and now my restore points dont work. Also, in the past sometimes I lost a document due to a crash and system restore, when it was working, didn't get the document back for me.

Question 15.1 Windows will not restore to any date even a restore point that I have made it just says that it was unable to restore to this date choose another.

Answer. Well, it wasn't the bad software or other reason that caused your restore points to go bad. XP can manage this all by itself as system restore is really not perfected just yet. To fix it, disable it, reboot and your existing _bad_ points should be deleted. Now enable it again and it should work in the future. It's also a good idea to use a third party registry backup and restore program as another form of system recovery.

System restore is basically a registry restore utility, not a data recovery utility. It doesn't address your personal data.

More info:



Question 16. My PC runs really slow and takes ages to bootup.

Answer. Windows XP runs best with at least 512 megs of RAM. It's preferred that you have at least 1 Gig of Ram however for much better results.

Secondly, background applications, viruses, trojans, and spyware often slow a system way down. Check your tray for icons that load up each time Windows starts. Click on that app and look for a configuration or setting to stop it from loading when windows starts.

Thirdly, download 2 different anti-virus programs and 2 different anti-spyware programs that you dont have currently installed on the pc. Free ones can be found on my Utilities Page. Note that your existing anti-virus app may have been disabled by a trojan or virus and my not even be working.

Boot to safe mode and install all 4 applications and run each of them, choosing to remove any nasty found in the process. Then boot normally, run each of the 4 apps again, updating each one first with the latest defns., etc. Delete all files in any temp/tmp folder. Delete all the files in all your internet cache folders aka temporary internet files. Use add/remove and uninstall any unused and or unneeded programs.

Make sure you have enough free disk space available for the swap/page file. It's recommended that you have at least 10 gigs free on C: at all times. Run a chkdisk /f on each drive and then, after deleting all temp/tmp/cache files, run defrag.


Question 17. I cant stop XP Chkdsk from running

Answer. Chkdsk does not correct errors without the /F parameter. Go to Run, type CHKDSK /F and say yes to run at next boot. Then reboot and let it run and fix the errors. (note the space before the /F)

A reminder to also set the drive letter you want to be checked, if applicable.

You'll have to scroll down to chkdsk.


Question 18. I have the following message Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM

Answer. How to Recover from a Corrupted Registry that Prevents Windows XP from Starting:

Once you've recovered, you might want to look here as well:

How to Troubleshoot Registry Corruption Issues:

[Thanks BruceC]


Question 19. Why do I get "OE has removed the unsafe attachment " on all my e-mail attachments? This has just started to happen in the past couple of weeks. It is doing it to all attachments.

Or, on another pc the Pictures received as attachments in Outlook Express cannot be opened. They are greyed out.

Or, I can not see pictures people send me in my email. It is just a plain box with a small X on the upper left hand corner.

Answer. Look in Tools | Options | Security and see if the box for [Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus] is checked. If it is, uncheck it.

Or, you may have to put the sender in the safe sender list. Click on the email address and click. 'Send to safe sender list'. [Thanks Milanjot].


Question 20. I Have Windows 98. Should I Upgrade To XP?

Answer. Ask yourself these questions:

1. What features of XP do I want or need?
2. Are there drivers available for my hardware?
3. Will my current DOS applications or older windows 95 programs work on XP?
4. Can my PC handle the increased requirements for XP including RAM and Hard drive space?
5. I have some older ISA cards I need will XP play nice with them?
6. Are their XP versions or upgrades avaiable for some of my favorite games and programs?
7. Will I have to reconfigure my home network if I keep my other PCs on Win98?

In other words you really have to do some homework before you take the plunge.


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