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OneAndOneIs2

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Sat, Jun 13, 2009

[Icon][Icon]They outdid themselves

• Post categories: Omni, Rant, Technology, My Life

A couple weeks ago, I got an email from my parents. Their desktop PC had broken: When they tried to boot it, it gave them an error about Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: <windows root>\system32\hal.dll</windows>

Not an unheard of problem. I made a couple of suggestions, then sent a link to a helpful website that gave the exhaustive list of ways to fix the problem.

Item 4 on that site, booting off the install disk and using the repair console to re-create the boot.ini file, was the one that fixed it: Without the boot.ini, Windows can't find the hal.dll and so the error appears.

So they re-created boot.ini and up came Windows, good as new. All well.

Or so it seemed, until the NEXT time they rebooted. Same error. Same fix. So long as they used the CD to re-create boot.ini every time they booted, the PC worked fine.

But it's far from ideal and I couldn't do much from another country, so they left it for me to look at when I came over.

I just finished.

No matter what I did, I couldn't access the boot.ini file from within windows. This, as it turned out, was because it wasn't there. It should be in C:\boot.ini but wasn't.

So after booting into the CD's rescue and re-making boot.ini yet again, I used the more command to view the file contents and make a backup.

Then booted into Windows. No sign of boot.ini OR the backup. Very odd: boot.ini MUST exist or it couldn't boot. But it clearly wasn't there.

So, in case it was some weird Windows filesystem error, I booted off my FSF membership card, which is a USB flash drive with gNewSense on it, and re-created the file using vim, and placed a copy of it on the desktop.

Booted into windows again, no boot.ini where it should be, but the copy was still on the desktop.

So long as that desktop copy was copied to C:\ every time I rebooted, the computer worked fine. The problem, therefore, had to be that Windows was, for some reason, deleting boot.ini during the boot process.

It might seem like I took a long time reaching that conclusion, but I just couldn't believe that Windows would actually delete one of its own critical boot files on startup. Why would it??

I had no idea, but the evidence was incontrovertible, so I started googling it and finally tracked down the problem.

It was Internet Explorer.

For some reason, god knows why, this bug has affected a number of other users around the world. So if your problem is that boot.ini gets deleted every time you reboot Windows, the problem is the recent upgrade to IE8 and the solution is to go into "Add or remove programs" in the Control Panel and remove IE8 - this will revert you back to IE7 so you'll still have a working browser if you use IE.

As soon as this was done on my parents' machine, the boot.ini file was left completely alone and it's booted fine ever since.

So well done, Microsoft! You've released a browser that deletes a system file it shouldn't even LOOK at! That's true creativity, that is. Who wouldn't think that a piece of software designed for looking at web pages might be deleting boot files even before it's told to load and run? (My parents use Firefox but you don't need to *run* IE to suffer from this, just let Windows Update install it)

Morons.

Utter morons.

This has got to be the most obscure error I've ever had to track down, bar none. Congratulations on that score, I guess, MS.

Hopefully any other poor so-and-so's with this problem will find this blog post and so find the solution, because I've only found ONE place on the 'Net that even mentions it. This post means there are now two, so hopefully that doubles the chances of people being able to fix it.

I still can't quite believe this tho... a browser update that renders an OS un-bootable..

*** Update: A number of people with this problem have reported that it was the Ask.com toolbar that was triggering it. If you have both IE8 and Ask.com, try uninstalling the latter first. If that doesn't fix it, go on to removing IE8. If that STILL doesn't fix it, I'm afraid you're on your own!


102 comments

Rich
Comment from: Rich [Visitor]
The really sad thing is iirc about a year ago Blizzard released a patch for the World of Warcraft game that did much the same thing i.e wrote over boot.ini. The windows folks should have never caused their ie8 problem in the first place, but even so you'd think they'd have learned from someone else's mistake at least.
14/06/09 @ 02:25
DIon Moult
Comment from: DIon Moult [Visitor] · http://thinkmoult.com/
Didn't even know it was possible to do something like that to your own system.
14/06/09 @ 02:35
Xavura
Comment from: Xavura [Visitor] · http://www.xavura.net/
CCP did the same thing with a patch for EVE Online.
14/06/09 @ 02:54
akau
Comment from: akau [Visitor]
This blog is the best!

Yes that was definitely careless of windows. I have no grudge against windows and in such a large corporation you're bound to have a person or two that could be moreresponsible and be better informed.

Danke, good tip.
14/06/09 @ 05:11
oneandoneis2
Comment from: oneandoneis2 [Member] · http://geekblog.oneandoneis2.org/
I did hear about the games that messed up the boot file.. Fortunately, my parents aren't big gamers so I was able to eliminate them as possible causes immediately ;o)
14/06/09 @ 09:18
Ken Kopin
Comment from: Ken Kopin [Visitor] Email · http://www.twitter.com/KenKopin
Wow. That's just. Wow.

I've got two things that come close, but they don't beat that.

First was on old version of Norton Internet Security (I think it was 2003.) Uninstalling it would simply break the internet on that machine. Turned out that it was linking itself into some services "Wait until This Other Thing Loads" list and forgot to remove it, so the network drivers just hung. Nice, guys.

The other thing was a really sluggish machine. I applied a full measure of GEEK to this machine roughly bi-weekly for a year. It was my mothers, so I took it as a personal failure that she finally got sick of it and upgraded. Turned out that Windows has a nasty little bug (I refuse to call this a feature) that when it sees a sustained burst of bad data from a drive, it attempts to fix the problem by lowering the Transfer Mode one step at a time until it hits PIO and just stays there. No warning, no messages, and never attempts to go back up on its own. Possibly it writes this to the log, but how would I have even known to look for it there? And this stays with the IDE Channel, not the drive, so replacing the drive doesn't resolve it especially if you are very clever and swap in a cloned duplicate. :(
14/06/09 @ 15:41
chong dings medong
Comment from: chong dings medong [Visitor]
you sure it wasn't a virus
14/06/09 @ 22:05
skraps
Comment from: skraps [Visitor]
I agree that this sounds more like malware, probably in the form of an IE toolbar or something along those lines. Uninstalling IE8 removes the registration, so the malware is orphaned and doesn't get loaded when you reinstall IE8.

What is more likely--an almost incomprehensible amount of stupidity on the part of IE8, or that your parents stumbled into some buggy malware?
14/06/09 @ 22:23
Las_Vegas1
Comment from: Las_Vegas1 [Visitor] Email
Excellent work hunting this bug down! I haven't had the issue since I'm using Windows 7 RC, but if any of my users run into this issue I will try this first.
14/06/09 @ 22:28
Blah
Comment from: Blah [Visitor]
I'd guess this is some 3rd party addon/plug-in/similar for IE that fucks up the system, not the IE it self. Moral lesson: Windows users should really learn to use their computer without Administrator privileges, unless needed.
14/06/09 @ 22:51
Tetragramm
Comment from: Tetragramm [Visitor]
Thank you! Now I know what the crap is wrong with my grandma's computer! This is exactly it.
14/06/09 @ 22:55
somebody
Comment from: somebody [Visitor]
utter morons? isn't that a bit extreme? is your benchmark carl sagan, or something? relax. something happened and you were able to fix it. thanks for the information, it may help me out in the future. maybe it would help microsoft out, as well!
14/06/09 @ 23:05
Snidely Whiplash
Comment from: Snidely Whiplash [Visitor]
"Tho" isn't a word; it's "though."

Don't make an otherwise decent article make you look like a dope right at the end.
14/06/09 @ 23:09
Max Howell
Comment from: Max Howell [Visitor] · http://methylblue.com
I wouldn't blame the people working on IE8 as much as the people who designed Windows.

The job of an operating system is to let users run software. Part of this job is to prevent software from breaking the operating system itself so that the user can't run any software.

It shouldn't be possible for any software to write to boot.ini. Microsoft are living with the consequences of the foolish decisions (or lack of decisons) they made 20 years ago.
14/06/09 @ 23:14
oneandoneis2
Comment from: oneandoneis2 [Member] · http://geekblog.oneandoneis2.org/
@The malware fans:
*Sigh*

It wasn't a virus. It was IE8. Not a toolbar, add-on, malware, or anything else. IE8.

If you really care, you can read up on the issues IE8 had with boot.ini files in the beta releases that lead to this whole mess in the first place. You can also read other people's accounts of the exact same problem which were what I used to find out the problem was caused by in the first place.

Sorry to disappoint, I know it's a lot easier to blame Windows problems on clueless users and malware, but this really was a problem caused by MS themselves.

@somebody: A bit strong, maybe. But hell, no app like a web browser should screw with system config files like this, let alone DELETE them. So no, I don't think it's unwarranted. If Mozilla ever release a Firefox update that screws up my Grub config files, I'll be the first to call *them* morons, too. System updates can break system files and not result in name-calling, but apps like web browsers can't. There's no excuse for this.

@snidely: It's my blog and I'll write what I want to :P

@Max: Valid point, but whatever sub-division of them it was, in the end this bug was caused by folks working at MS!
14/06/09 @ 23:17
any user
Comment from: any user [Visitor]
what is the url of the knowledgebase article that said that this was the solution to the symptoms you were having.. you were nice enought o link to the hal.dll fixes, but not the ms article stating this was an ie8 bug... what gives?
14/06/09 @ 23:40
Andy
Comment from: Andy [Visitor]
+1 on the track record of total failure. while they think they have enough millions to fix it with PR, they'll never understand how much they suck.

reminds me on how they broke folder view in XP and Vista for years and for each and every Windows user in the world.
15/06/09 @ 00:16
Grammar Nazi
Comment from: Grammar Nazi [Visitor]
Internet is not a proper net, nor is web and net. Hence, no need to capitalise 'net.
15/06/09 @ 00:38
Grammar Nazi
Comment from: Grammar Nazi [Visitor]
Internet is not a proper noun, nor is web and net. Hence, no need to capitalise 'net.
15/06/09 @ 00:42
Eric
Comment from: Eric [Visitor]
According to Microsoft here:
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd371730(VS.85).aspx

Installing IE8 enables Data Execution Prevention (NX) by default on XP, Vista, etc. (and it wasn't enabled before by default).

This is something that the kernel controls, and is enabled in Windows via an argument to the kernel at boot time. Kernel arguments are specified in boot.ini.

So, I'd wager that whatever code modifies boot.ini to add the appropriate flag to the kernel's boot-time arguments is somehow failing, and is stupidly deleting the file instead of failing in a more sane fashion.

Not an excuse for MS's exceptionally stupid bug here, just a possible explanation.
15/06/09 @ 01:18
Ernie Cooper
Comment from: Ernie Cooper [Visitor]
Buy a Apple
15/06/09 @ 01:29
grammar nazi
Comment from: grammar nazi [Visitor]
"A couple weeks ago,". I facepalmed.
15/06/09 @ 01:51
Joseph Engo
Comment from: Joseph Engo [Visitor] · http://joped.com
Fuck Microsoft
15/06/09 @ 02:11
djohnston
Comment from: djohnston [Visitor]
@Max,

"It shouldn't be possible for any software to write to boot.ini. Microsoft are living with the consequences of the foolish decisions (or lack of decisons) they made 20 years ago."

Don't you mean, "All Microsoft users are living with the consequences of the foolish decisions (or lack of decisons) Microsoft made 20 years ago."?
15/06/09 @ 02:20
michaelp
Comment from: michaelp [Visitor]
This happened to me a couple of days ago. I had to reinstall Windows XP because of it. :(
I had a lot more missing though, I had lost my system and system32 folders when I looked with an Ubuntu live CD.
15/06/09 @ 02:26
Ken
Comment from: Ken [Visitor]
Eric: "Installing IE8 enables Data Execution Prevention (NX) by default on XP, Vista, etc. (and it wasn't enabled before by default)."

Well, then, mission accomplished! It sounds like installing IE8 does indeed prevent it from executing data. In this case, that "data" is the whole operating system, which is probably more than they planned on. File this under "be careful what you wish for (or ask a computer to do)". :-)
15/06/09 @ 02:40
We are reminded daily about the mistake IBM made in early 80-ies...

http://www.skrause.org/computers/dos_history.shtml

The DOS bundling caused a small software company to become the biggest scammer and phishing company known to man, causing almost every laptop and desktop sold in the world to be forcefully contaminated with an expensive technological obstacle which has been slowing down the development of computer science worldwide about 20 years. A company that now uses maffia like methods to spread their poison as OOXML, Sharepoint and obscure lockins. A company whose leaders lack any kind of technical vision and foresight, which is focusing all of its energy to kill its more technically advanced open source, free software competitors. A company which is bribing teachers, politicians, IT-managers, civil servants and manufacturers all over the world to lock the sleeping part of the world's population into a technological Status Quo. An expensive treadmill that keeps feeding the scam.

Hmm, that reminds me I should become a member of FSF.

Sorry, if you visit my blog, it is in Swedish, but I'll try to do something about that later. Maybe just a few google translate links.
15/06/09 @ 02:49
Andrew Luecke
Comment from: Andrew Luecke [Visitor]
I'm sorry, but I really don't believe it was a problem caused directly by IE8... Yes you may have cured the symptoms by removing it, but I doubt it was the actual cause.

Its much more likely they have a trojan/virus/rootkit/copy protection driver installed that uses the IE libraries for something
15/06/09 @ 05:11
Michael B
Comment from: Michael B [Visitor] · http://djmp.org/statik
Wow. Microsoft is the new AOL.
(Its crappier than whats out there but everyone still uses it for one reason or another.)
15/06/09 @ 05:31
De Tale
Comment from: De Tale [Visitor] Email
I like how some people are saying "Not IE's fault, it was a Trojan"..... really? And those aren't IE's fault either right? Because so many other web browsers get Trojans? Uh huh, I see.... You've given up, sad.

Vendor Lock-in is a brilliant technical vision.
15/06/09 @ 05:42
Brendan
Comment from: Brendan [Visitor] · http://xkcd.com/583/
Could not reproduce.
15/06/09 @ 07:09
Ted Heich
Comment from: Ted Heich [Visitor] · http://fornoobs.info
I couldn't reproduce the deleting of boot.ini. Just got IE8.

** NOTE ** running on Win XP SP3

15/06/09 @ 07:36
Moritz
Comment from: Moritz [Visitor] · http://perlgeek.de/
Why in the bloody hell should a user process (and a browser really shouldn't run as super user) even have the permissions to change such a file?
15/06/09 @ 09:36
autil
Comment from: autil [Visitor]
At least when the Eve Online patch deleted boot.ini you got to play with spaceships beforehand.
15/06/09 @ 09:47
Rfffffff
Comment from: Rfffffff [Visitor]
Boot into Safari
15/06/09 @ 10:31
ry
Comment from: ry [Visitor]
don't be silly, safari parks have terrible network coverage. he wouldn't be able to use google.com or even WoW.
15/06/09 @ 12:38
Mike Hunt
Comment from: Mike Hunt [Visitor]
What is IE8?
15/06/09 @ 12:45
Roland Kaufmann
Comment from: Roland Kaufmann [Visitor]
Indeed IE8 muck around with the HAL. If you rename %SystemRoot%\System32\hal.dll to something else, and then specify the new name by giving the /hal= parameter to the kernel in boot.ini, then IE8 setup cannot continue because it is not able to update the file.
15/06/09 @ 12:53
Someone Who Knows...
Comment from: Someone Who Knows... [Visitor]
It is interesting to see all the cries on Tojan, Virus, Malware. I have done support for Windows Products and Operating Systems since 1998, and I have to say MS are sloppy when it comes to releases of products, Vista and I.E 8 are proof enough. Their code is usually 3/4 done, and they do early launches to recoup money. They spend $2.4m on a project and have to start recouping their losses as fast as possible, so they get the application into a good beta standard and set it as a 1st full release. So the world becomes a bunch of unpaid beta testers that the OS's automatically report back any bugs directly to MS. That's why there are so many patches and updates or security fixes, if anyone knows how to PR their way out of this it will be MS.

I was a big fan of I.E, but now I am a web developer (not using .NET, cause it sucs and writes "shi**y" code) and during testing have found MS to be the buggiest piece of crap going. MS wants the world to follow their standards, but no one will as they suc :P. CSS and CSS2 fail to work correctly on IE and you have to start coding conditionals into your HTML for each browser version to make sure you pick up the bugs in each version. If you are not happy with I.E switch to Firefox, it is far more superior to any other browser on the market. Safari is catching up but if you use a MAC or any Apple software then I am afraid you'll go straight to hell. Open Source FTW. Oh BTW, its not IE thats targeted directly, the viruses, trojans and malware etc... Are trying to access your systems directly, I.E is just the facilitator for these tools. All I can advise is get a good AV software (and I don't mean Norton/Symantec or McAfee, as they are so bad you may as well not run with any AV on).

I could rant on, but you be glad to hear this is the end, MS Suc...
15/06/09 @ 13:05
Goobie
Comment from: Goobie [Visitor]
@Andrew Luecke - if you've used Windows for more than 5 minutes you'll realise how naive that statement is!

@Grammar Nazi - Internet IS a proper noun.

Internet
Proper noun

1. The specific internet consisting of a global network of computers that communicate using Internet Protocol (IP) and that use Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) to identify the best paths to route those communications.

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Internet
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet
http://internetisapropernoun.net/

/2cents
15/06/09 @ 13:36
Hugh Mann
Comment from: Hugh Mann [Visitor]
There have been a few comments suggesting that it is
more likely that said computer caught malware as
opposed to microsoft making a mistake.

Does anyone remember the plethora of problems Service
Pack 2 and 3 cause when they were first released for
Windows XP? I do; I remember problems just as severe
as the IE8 problem above.

Also I would like to say that in my experince seldom
is malware desgned to cause a computer to not start,
most likely malware is designed to gather personal
information. Granted the possibilties exist that
either you did catch a nasty virus or else downloaded
a program that was mis-programed or misconfigured and
the result was your boot file being chronicly deleted..

Just my thoughts.
15/06/09 @ 13:55
Donna
Comment from: Donna [Visitor] · http://filesmixx.com
What is IE8??
15/06/09 @ 15:50
MCP
Comment from: MCP [Visitor]
What is IE8? Don't worry about it honey, go back to the kitchen and make me some pie.
15/06/09 @ 18:10
Ken Cochran
Comment from: Ken Cochran [Visitor]
Easy solution. Switch to Mac
15/06/09 @ 18:50
Paul
Comment from: Paul [Visitor]
I had this exact problem. Installed IE8, PC would not boot, got the invalid boot.ini followed by the hal.dll message. Used recovery bootcfg /rebuild to "recover". Did Google searches for solution, Did deep scans for malware using several programs, no hits. Uninstalled IE8, "recovered" once more on re-boot, problem solved, rebooted several times to test, no problems since.

I keep looking for Microsoft to respond but so far nothing. How do even report this? If you send 'em an email they want to charge you for support, and their product won't get far enough to get their little send/don't send window!

Pretty amazing, eh? I like Firefox a lot!
15/06/09 @ 19:08
Andreas Schipplock
Comment from: Andreas Schipplock [Visitor] Email · http://schipplock.de
haha! This sounds sooooo familiar! Back in time when I used NT 3.51 I had the fucking same issue...I installed some IE version (I think it was version 4) and after the reboot there was some dll missing and I couldn't boot NT but then again there was even an howto in the "manual" how to restore that file :P...it worked but hell, this is years ago!
15/06/09 @ 19:16
Bffjill
Comment from: Bffjill [Visitor]
so just because you say its IE we are supposed to buy that? i can imagine what really happened was that you picked up some form of malware or another using IE and this is the result...

jumping to conclusions w/o any proof won't get you anywhere, can't you read your event logs to determine shit for yourself? how would you trouble shoot something if google wasn't around?
15/06/09 @ 19:48
ray
Comment from: ray [Visitor] · http://lostaddress.org
Normally this blog brings around such intelligent commenters, it seems that IE8 has infected your site with idiots.

HE SAID *TWICE* THAT IT'S NOT A VIRUS OR A TROJAN OR MALWARE!! HE GOOGLED FOR THE PROBLEM AND FOUND THE ANSWER. FOR THE LOVE OF GAWD, READ THE FRIGGING RESPONSES.

And for anyone suggesting that he use a Mac, he's a Linux user - go get your own geeks, he's ours.

Fact is that Windows has had these issues and many many others since at least the days of Win 95.
15/06/09 @ 20:47
Eric Lawrence
Comment from: Eric Lawrence [Visitor] Email
This has nothing to do with DEP. IE8 opts-in to DEP/NX by calling SetProcessDEPPolicy. That doesn't touch boot.ini. IE7 didn't touch boot.ini either; that OS used the Image File Execution Options registry key instead.
15/06/09 @ 20:58
Paul
Comment from: Paul [Visitor]
Bffjill,
No conclusions were jumped to, the faulty component was tracked down through the logical process of elimination. Malware and viruses were checked using three different tools. Logs were checked. Logs gave no helpful information. The only question that remains is it's IE8 plus 'something else' since it's not a universal problem. What's the 'something else?' Someone at Microsoft who has detailed access to the code needs to research this and respond to the issue. An install of a new software product should never render your computer completely unusable.
15/06/09 @ 22:42
Yggdrasil
Comment from: Yggdrasil [Visitor]
I smell bullshit. Can you give us any proof? How about a 'Process Monitor' log showing the file being touched? A video. Anything? All we have is your word, and quite frankly, that's not good enough. You can't be trusted because you are a FOSS zealot and hate Microsoft by default. People like you tend to be very biased. Having your story posted on Roy Schestowitz's blog doesn't help.
16/06/09 @ 01:45
David Gerard
Comment from: David Gerard [Visitor] · http://notnews.today.com
Yggdrasil is a paid astroturfer, so you've definitely attracted the Microsoft bug-fixing squad to this post.

(remember: PR is cheaper for bug-fixing than programming)
16/06/09 @ 02:09
hari
Comment from: hari [Visitor] · http://harishankar.org/blog
I smell bullshit.


Is there any proof of this? Can you capture that smell in a bottle and send it to the nearest labaratory for testing.

I won't believe you until you send me a report. :p
16/06/09 @ 02:56
Goobie
Comment from: Goobie [Visitor]
oh ffs stop jumping on the "It can't be IE8" bandwagon. As i said above, if you've used Windows for more than 5 minutes you shouldn't be suprised by anything. As a general rule of thumb, most Microsoft products are a piece of shit and it's not that hard to accept that IE8 might be responsible. A quick 2 minute Google session shows people with similar issues. They might not be exactly the same as this, but they lend credence to his story!

http://www.geekstogo.com/forum/Boot-ini-repeatedly-deleted-t239091.html

http://social.answers.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/InternetExplorer/thread/c9b08aac-4bef-4dc4-afb0-e096302b4728

http://www.google.com.au/search?q=IE8+upgrade+boot.ini&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a
16/06/09 @ 03:32
Hugh Mann
Comment from: Hugh Mann [Visitor]
yggdrasil I imagine that if the author was going to "make up" a condemning story about Microsoft he would have come up with something better. He has absolutely no reason to write a story about a non-existing MS mistake when so many well publicized mistakes exist.

Simple economics.

Ohh and gerrad is right, your employed by MS and your argument skills are quite possibly worse than Microsoft's programming skills.
16/06/09 @ 04:37
Vampymaus
Comment from: Vampymaus [Visitor] Email
I can't trust someone who uses "tho". You've probably used "thru" sometime in your past, haven't you? I mean, you OBVIOUSLY have nothing intelligent to say because you use words and spellings that I disagree with in this informal setting of your blog. Jeebus..."site"?!? What the frak is that?!? The proper word is "website", you freaking doofus.

Speaking of doofus-esque things, where are the pictures? How am I supposed to believe you? You *say* that this happened on a "computer", but really, how do I know this wasn't a piece of toast that got stuck in a toaster and burned, and now you're making it *sound* like it was an IE8 issue? With all the kickbacks you're reported to be getting from the Anti-Microsoft Global Network, you're just making crap up to make Microsoft look bad. We can't listen to a thing you say because you didn't pray to the Microsoft gods before starting this "article". (Yes. Even though you thought you were writing a blog post, we have taken it and spread it around the world, thus upgrading it to an "article" and we're disappointed that you didn't cover this from all angles and then compare it to other programs. Tsk. No citations! No trademark symbols! NO PIE CHARTS!!! Straight to hell; do not pass go.)

I know you were hoping for a Pulitzer with this piece, young man, but you're going to have to try a little harder. This is the worst musical composition I've ever heard.
16/06/09 @ 04:44
hari
Comment from: hari [Visitor]
Vampyvampous, I want immediate proof that you're a human being and not an alien. I also want immediate proof that you don't REALLY believe what is written here. I don't want your protestations... only solid proof will do.

Genuine, incontrovertible proof. I don't want photos because you might actually post photos of an innocent earthling.

Show me your original birth certicate and give me proof of the hospital or place where you were born and come to where I live, otherwise I'll disbelieve you for the rest of your life.
16/06/09 @ 06:24
Vampymaus
Comment from: Vampymaus [Visitor] Email
Hari -

Damn it. You are the only one who has ever refused to take a photo as proof. I was going to pick out a very cute human to represent me in my photo to you. I suppose the tactic of sending you a photo of a very-not-so-cute human in hopes of getting the "that *must* be her because nobody would send this as a fake photo of themselves" won't work either.

I would offer to send you a body part, like a finger, in a bottle for testing, but I would be afraid that it would get mixed up with Yggdrasil's proof, and then you would believe me to be utter bullshit.

It seems I will have to figure out a way to abide by your demands, or I will be doomed to be disbelieved.

In the mean time, I will spend my time contemplating whether I am a real fake human with a fake fake loathing for this article or perhaps a fake fake alien with a real fake loathing or...is it a real real loathing of aliens who fake-real-fake-hate the article....oh bother.
16/06/09 @ 08:33
oneandoneis2
Comment from: oneandoneis2 [Member] · http://geekblog.oneandoneis2.org/
Heh. I love how mentioning using Linux makes me an MS-hating zealot by inference :o)

Yggdrasil - see if you can guess what OS I was using when I wrote this post. And am still using right this moment to write this comment. I'll give you a hint: It begins with a 'V' and came 'free' with my laptop.

Vampy: Has somebody been feeding you sugar again? :P
(And I may have used "thru" a time or two but at least I don't use "you're" when I actually mean "your" :P )
16/06/09 @ 08:49
Myfraudsoft
Comment from: Myfraudsoft [Visitor]
First of all you can't be trusted because you're an anti-microsoft zealot, because you didn't start your post with something like: "Yeah, Windows sucks but Linux is worse. Linux actually causes internal bleeding and cancer...". And you didn't use trademark signs on Microsoft's products. And you forgot to praise Ballmer for his vision and charismatic leadership. And forgot to mention that Firefox is unsafe for kids.
16/06/09 @ 11:52
Hari
Comment from: Hari [Member] · http://harishankar.org/blog/
Hello all,

Whoever wants to prove that this article is biased should first prove their credentials by getting registered with the Papa Hari World Government as citizens.

the fee is only USD 250 per head. :)
16/06/09 @ 12:59
coochie
Comment from: coochie [Visitor] · http://www.xenocode.com/start/?a=IE8
I also tried installing IE8. It fucked up my XP appearance settings and it disabled standby/hibernation. I haven't been able to get standby back by any of the methods I've found online.

IE isn't a good or secure browser anyway, but if you need it for testing websites, do yourself a favor and run a virtualized version: http://www.xenocode.com/start/?a=IE8
16/06/09 @ 13:37
Just Some Guy
Comment from: Just Some Guy [Visitor]
funny thing, there ISN'T a boot.ini in Win7. IE8 is packaged with it too.
16/06/09 @ 15:29
Tim Fisher
Comment from: Tim Fisher [Visitor] · http://pcsupport.about.com
@oneandoneis2: I'm the operator of the site you linked to to help solve this problem. I've added this particular situation to the list of possible solutions:

http://pcsupport.about.com/od/findbyerrormessage/a/missinghaldll.htm
17/06/09 @ 14:35
oneandoneis2
Comment from: oneandoneis2 [Member] · http://geekblog.oneandoneis2.org/
Thanks Tim!
17/06/09 @ 14:43
Steve
Comment from: Steve [Visitor] · http://ccrashh.blogspot.com
I have to play around with different browser configurations, and I installed IE8 on my office dev box. While I didn't have the major issues, like the one you posted, I did see problems with rendering and intermittent bizarre behaviour. Plus the interface is so locked down that I could no longer stand it.

So, I uninstalled - all the way back to IE6 (I use FF anyways) and have done with it. My "testing" now is scouring the web for stories about peoples' experiences with IE8...and that's how I found out about this issue.

Given the craptacular state of any and all MS products, I don't for a minute disbelieve your story.

18/06/09 @ 13:37
Nick
Comment from: Nick [Visitor]
Just ran across another IE8 problem in which it installs iframe.dll that depends on another file that doesn't exist. This makes late binding not work. We found this out using dependency walker.
19/06/09 @ 20:12
Louie Mabutas
Comment from: Louie Mabutas [Visitor] Email · http://profiles.friendster.com/48809012
Nice it worked, you see I've done all the steps in making the boot.ini such as bootcfg /scan, /rebuild and fixboot and windows xp boot up but then boot. ini is beeing deleted always and i had to remake again the same steps

Finally Ive found out this post and yess you did it, I never expect the MS Ie8 will delete such thing in their system i ve uninstall the program and WALLLAAH boot. ini is there and not missing at c:\


Thanks you very very much more power !!!!!

Louie Mabutas
Porject Engineer-GTIG, Doha Qatar
lmabutas@yahoo.com
23/06/09 @ 12:33
Drew
Comment from: Drew [Visitor] Email
I'm having an even crazier issue. I'm installing IE8 through SCCM, and not only is it lying and saying it installed correctly, but IE7 is actually the only browser working and on some computers it won't let users fill in web forms.
23/06/09 @ 18:25
Ricky
Comment from: Ricky [Visitor] Email
I've been having trouble with my Windows XP Home Edition for the past week. My first problem was when my Dell E310 crashed during a Windows update. This is when I got the Hal.dll message we are all so familiar with. It took me the weekend to finally follow instructions on the Dell website, which were pretty easy. bootcfg etc. etc. Upon rebooting I was not quite out of the woods. I had a different error message: load needed DLLs for kernel. So I returned to Dell and followed the fix for that. All was well for a few days, and then I decided to upgrade to IE8 internet explorer 8 because explorer 7 was acting up, I couldn't go to website addresses directly from the address bar. After which I tried to install windows SP3, service pack 3. Now I was back to my original problem, the Hal.dll error. Every time I restart the computer. So THANK YOU for telling us all that the error is IE8. That makes sense to me and I wish I had thought of it.

Why is this so challenging for Microsoft? Pages and pages of code and fixes. Is it this way for Apple? What is wrong with them!???
23/06/09 @ 23:13
omar yusaf
Comment from: omar yusaf [Visitor] Email
For the doubters out there, who earlier in the blog, suggested it had to be malware or a dodgy add-on, let me assure you that the culprit is definately ie8. My clients system was certifiably clean (multiple malware engine scans and multiple virus scans showed up negative, and the user only remains connected to the net for updates - limited browsing to safe sites such as newspapers and email). No add-ons at all (she's paranoid about safety). Uninstaling ie8 fixed a very preplexing problem. I reinstalled ie8 and the problem came back immediately. No doubt about it - Friendly Fire casualty from MS. Huge Thanks to Tim Fisher at http://pcsupport.about.com/ for the tip. Brilliant.
26/06/09 @ 06:04
Cookie
Comment from: Cookie [Visitor]
This happened to me and I couldn't track it down

I've ended up installing a new copy of XP SP3 on a new disk and recovering important data from the old disk. Have resisted the "temptation" to install IE8 as I wondered if that might be the cause.

Thanks for telling me what it exactly was - I'll stay well clear of IE8
30/06/09 @ 13:21
jr2
Comment from: jr2 [Visitor]
I recently switched to Ubuntu 9.04 - glad I did, although I still play around with WinDOwS a lot, now I'm not afraid of losing my primary OS whenever I try to do an update or change a setting. Windows also has the nasty habit of getting all grimy after 6 months of playing around with software installs and uninstalls. I wonder how long it will take M$ to fix this but in IE8.
01/07/09 @ 15:41
Michael
Comment from: Michael [Visitor] Email
Thanks for pointing me to IE 8 to fix the problem....But it wasn't IE 8!!!

I too repeatable had the hal.dll/boot.ini problem.

I had to fix it in the recovery console each time I re-booted. During the start of removing IE 8, I was informed of several programs which would not work if I removed IE 8.

I cancelled the removal of IE 8 and instead, removed these 3 programs. The next time I re-booted, I still had to use the recovery console to fix the problem (since the problem had already occured during this session). I made a backup copy of boot.ini without the ini extension for future recovery if needed. I re-booted successfully, shut down and re-booted again without the problem. This verified that the problem wasn't IE 8 but was one of these other programs. I would list them but since I'm not sure which one it was I don't want to panic anyone. All in all, this was an easy solution and although it doesn't clear IE 8 completely, at least it didn't cause the problem directly on my machine. Good luck to anyone with this problem, try this fix.
01/07/09 @ 22:12
Caro
Comment from: Caro [Visitor]
I too got this message: hal.dll file missing, install again.
The repair console couldn't fix the problem and also the helpfiles on Microsoft didn't solve the problem:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/330184/en-us

In the end (after two weeks of sweating, I didn't had a recent back-up...) I solved the problem by buying a Sata-to-USB adapter and connecting my hard drive to another pc. There I removed the updates of IE8 (in windows\system38), because that was the ONLY thing that was altered before this error message, because of those horrific automatic updates of MS.
I then put my hard drive back in my own pc and everything worked again...
So don't tell me it wasn't IE8. And I'm glad you blogged about it! Hope this helps other people to solve the problem quicker than I did....




03/07/09 @ 16:28
Bill Hammond
Comment from: Bill Hammond [Visitor]
Thanks for the post about this. I've been pulling my
few remaining hairs out trying to figure this one out.
I know better than installing new apps but I guess I
was asleep at the wheel on this one and just ran the
update when it requested.
No wonder I use Firefox most of the time. No wonder
I'm buying a Mac next time around.
Thanks again.
06/07/09 @ 01:29
Ski@Norway
Comment from: Ski@Norway [Visitor]
Have just had exactly the same problem with my Dell computer. The problem occurred immediately after I updated fro IE7 to IE8 and was solved when I removed IE8 (I now use Firefox!). I would not have thought of IE8 as the cause if the Dell help desk hadn't advised me that others had had the same problem.
10/07/09 @ 18:24
Dave
Comment from: Dave [Visitor] · http://www.davescomputerserv.com
I have seen this twice in the last week. I fix computers for a living, so I'm guessing I will have a busy week, but doesn't Microsoft test everyday computers for issues like this? My guess is that the test on new or hardly used computers. Thanks for the business Microsoft, don't know what I would do without you.
12/07/09 @ 18:16
Jon
Comment from: Jon [Visitor] Email
Indentical boot.ini being repeatedly deleted on brand new install of XP SP3 with IE8 - but it was caused by Askupdateservice part of ask toolbar - which had been installed as part of utorrent installation.

As soon as ask toolbar was uninstalled the problem was solved.
17/07/09 @ 17:02
pdd_debugging_IE8
Comment from: pdd_debugging_IE8 [Visitor]
THANK YOU for this info! I have been battling this problem with boot.ini getting deleted everytime I reboot. IT WAS DUE TO "upgrade" to IE8" got rid of IE8 and got rid of the problem!
18/07/09 @ 02:20
Linda
Comment from: Linda [Visitor]
Thanks so much your the first person that i found that linked the hll.dll error to an actual program. This is a new error for me. My son had just reformated the hard drive and installed all the updates including IE8. He restarted and poof it won't boot. So thanks for telling everyone how you discovered this IE8 issue. Your right in saying that certain files should be off limits to programs and browsers the only people that should be messing with your config, boot in, or any other system files that windows uses, if windows changes something that's one thing but not a program. I have had many issues with IE8 myself. I think they released it too early without enough testing.


Well, Thanks again
20/07/09 @ 04:25
Richard
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]
Thanks for your blog on this. I've suffered exactly the same problem on my son's machine.

Having unjustly accused him of downloading dodgy software and getting his machine infected with a virus and warning him he would loose all his info... "but I only installed a Windows update for IE8...".

After trying stuff about fixing hal.dll from the MS site I thought I might just google hal.dll and IE8 and found this post. Been through uninstalling IE8 and Windows now boots up again. Scanned pc again (it's running Kaspersky anyway) and nothing else iffy found. So I know where I'd bet the problem lies.

Thanks again.
22/07/09 @ 21:28
John
Comment from: John [Visitor]
I had a week of torture trying to find a nonexistent virus that kept deleting boot.ini. There are two bootcfg's. Neither bootcfg would fix the missing boot.ini. (the limited bootcfg in recovery console, and the advanced one in the cmd environment of XP). bootcfg would give a bizarro error message that no windows installation could be found. After I uninstalled IE8, the PROBLEM WENT AWAY. Now, with IE7, my boot.ini remains stable and comfy in it's normal location. I can finally reboot at will without any false error message about missing Hal.dll. Hal.dll was never missing, just the boot.ini which pointed to hal.dll. So, for all you jerks out ther who say that MS is not responsible for this debacle, then scroo you. IE8 should never fuss with boot.ini, much less delete it in an unbootable and unrepairable format, requiring a week to dig in to the undocumented "features" of windows to debug this.
26/07/09 @ 05:40
Kennis Berard
Comment from: Kennis Berard [Visitor]
This happened to me this weekend at home. I had been holding off on the IE8 upgrade until some more intrepid co-workers had given it a shot (no way I roll this out to the company yet--Thankfully I didn't!)

So I install IE8 (and nothing else), reboot and bam, no boot.ini/missing hal.dll error. Thankfully I had another working machine to google and found this blog.

Once I found my F6 RAID drivers (time to slipstream again lol) I rebuilt my boot.ini and removed IE8.

After that no problems. Thanks MS, ya jerks.

BTW this was also on a clean machine... No malware, toolbars, or viruses.
27/07/09 @ 17:41
Bonez
Comment from: Bonez [Visitor]
Thanks for sharing guys. Although I don't use IE, Opera is my browser of choice, this will save a few headaches if freinds and family have the same issue.
01/08/09 @ 03:26
Jason
Comment from: Jason [Visitor]
The hal.dll error has surfaced 3x now on my sister's laptop in a matter of days. I reinstalled windows twice, the second time being on a brand new hard drive. Within an hour of installing IE8 + updates, I get a call saying the same error is back.. so again, def not malware.

02/08/09 @ 07:12
Mike
Comment from: Mike [Visitor]
I'm not surprised at all. Internet Explorer 8 is a total piece of crap, and doesn't work at all in my organization (where it has now been prohibited). It seems to have a real problem with certificates, whether self-signed or from a third party. For instance, IE 8 will not connect to an internal site we use that has a self-signed cert. No prompts, no errors, nothing: will not connect. Doesn't even give you a chance to get it working. Also, a user attempted to renew a valid Verisign cert using IE 8 and kept getting errors that prevented him from continuing. He downgraded to IE 7, and the problem went away. Microsoft, please don't release garbage to the public until issues like this have been addressed and resolved.

It's gotten to the point that I don't trust anything new from Microsoft, nor do I have any interest in using or even trying it. The Charlie Browns at Microsoft always manage to screw it all up. Something always breaks. Their idea of security is nonsense - either they nag users to tears with endless idiotic "Are you sure? Are you really sure? Are you really positively sure? Are you really positively absolutely sure?" antics or they just block useful stuff while the malware keeps merrily streaming through. I truly don't care about crap like web slices or whatever else they've thought up for IE 8, since the underlying browser itself is junk. It would be one thing if you could actually control this crud with permissions, but permissions settings never seem to help fix anything and even if they do (adding a site to a trusted site list for instance) get ready for the next slew of moronic prompts that hound you incessantly, until you just reach out and press the power button on your PC to shut it off.
05/08/09 @ 18:35
Computer Systems Engineer
Comment from: Computer Systems Engineer [Visitor]
I can confirm this is an IE8 issue as well. Clean Dell *spit* XP Installation. Everything goes fine until IE8 is installed. After a reboot the boot.ini is missing.

Well done Micro$haft. Thank heavens I run solely on Linux.
08/08/09 @ 13:39
Paul
Comment from: Paul [Visitor]
After some additional searches I found a similar problem being reported with askupdate.exe which is installed as part of the Ask toolbar, which I had installed.

I un-installed the Ask toolbar and with fear and trembling and lots of backups taken, I installed IE8 for the third time.

This time no delete of boot.ini. I can only guess that some combination of those two products caused the problem for me.

If I had the time and a PC that I didn't care about, I'd experiment to prove it one way or the other if I could, both products are freebies, so if someone is curious and has the time and the patience....
08/08/09 @ 21:41
Rod
Comment from: Rod [Visitor]
I suffered from this as well. I ran every scan, went through many hours following Microsofts web site for the steps to repair when you get the missing hal.dll message, would not fix. Then I remembered I had installed IE8. But I could not imagine IE8 would have anything to do with it. On a lark, I removed it and it was fixed. Then I searched and found this.

You are right nothing on Microsofts Support Site, I am so angry of all the time I wasted...

I have another PC, with Vista, and no problem with IE8. I am sure it is probably hit and miss on XP. But wow, what a mess. How bad can you get? And no Support? Very, very bad. They truly suck.
12/08/09 @ 00:07
Patrick
Comment from: Patrick [Visitor]
I just ran across this and this discussion helped quite a bit. The IE8 installation be default turns on Data Execution Protection (DEP) by writing to the boot.ini file. It adds a switch. Given that DEP is a security feature IE8 most likely checks each time at boot to see if the switch is turned on and if not, edits the boot.ini to add it. Whatever little bugaboo that writes the new boot.ini file out must fail and in classic Microsoft fashion, does not make a backup, does not check for success and does not appear to log it either (not that I can find yet).

It is outrageous that Microsoft has not taken ahold of this and fixed it but it is not surprising either.

I plan to try putting a boot.ini file into place that already has the switch in it as soon as I can find a copy of a file created by IE8 so I can mimic the exact placement of the switch. It is my hope that once the boot.ini file is in place with the correct switch, the startup routine will check for it and be satisfied. If I can prevent IE8 from wanting to add the switch, the file should not be deleted as it will not need to be edited. At least that is my theory. With application developers you jsut never know... though :-) and I can see a Microsoftie taking a shortcut and just adding it every time. I hope not. But they could so I fear it.

Ohh and BTW they DID outdo themselves indeed because they have created a self destroying operating system! WOW taking it to a new level indeed!
13/08/09 @ 17:41
mantisdolphin
Comment from: mantisdolphin [Visitor] · http://mantisdolphin.wordpress.com
For the dilweeds who think this is malware--in my opinion it's Windows malware: break copies of XP to get some percentage of the more naive computer users to pay out for an upgrade.

I "upgraded" to IE8. My WinXP partition then wouldn't boot. Hal.dll is missing, the WindowsXP boot message reported. (This very same problem is confirmed and discussed in many other places besides this fine OneandOneis2 blog.)

Fixed Windows boot problem this way: Copy a backup copy of boot.ini to your WinXP root directory (C:/ ). Use your trusty LiveCD of Puisdolphin.wordpress.comppy Linux or other utility snooper OS to do the copying. Windows is offline, so Linux will save its butt. If you don't have a copy of boot.ini for XP, use a friend's copy or paste this one into a plain textfile saved as "boot.ini":

---snip----
[boot loader]
timeout=30
default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Windows XP Media Center Edition" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect
----snip----

Stupid Windows. Cynical, careless Microsoft. This problem cost me an hour and a half of research and bother.

Disgusting: A fricking BROWSER upgrade BREAKS WindowsXP! How dumb is that?!
19/08/09 @ 03:33
Matthew
Comment from: Matthew [Visitor]
I have another problem with the latest update of IE8 - it has deleted itself!

It installed the latest update over the weekend, and when I went to open it yesterday, it had disappeared. I mean completely disappeared - no icon in the start menu, no .exe file on the C drive, nothing. All that's left are a few system files associated with IE8.
I didn't like IE anyway, I use Firefox and Opera, but if you go to the Microsoft website with Opera, it redirects you to the "Upgrade to IE8" page. Every time. So you can't download that patch/widget or whatever. Top stuff Microsoft! Well done.
19/08/09 @ 09:22
Vitor Ramos
Comment from: Vitor Ramos [Visitor]
I had the same problem, however it turns out, that the problem is not IE8 itself, but the ASK.com toolbar plug-in for IE. After unninstaling it, just fix your boot.ini via the recovery console, and thats it!
23/08/09 @ 18:25
flynnstone
Comment from: flynnstone [Visitor]
Removing the ASK.com toolbar fixed for me as well. Thank you for posting your results, which helped me!
29/08/09 @ 10:20
Andrew Forber
Comment from: Andrew Forber [Visitor]
I had this problem, and tracked it down not to IE, but to the Ask.com toolbar which had been installed by stealth by another program. Disabling the toolbar does not help: uninstalling it (from the control panel) fixed the problem, so that boot.ini and the other files no longer disappear from my system on each reboot.
01/09/09 @ 19:12
Euan
Comment from: Euan [Visitor]
Just to chalk up another, it does appear that:

"Install IE8" translates as "I would like a new web browser"

"Install ASK Toolbar" translates as "I would like a search bar in my browser"

Yet somehow the combination of the two is understood as "Please shaft my boot.ini every time I start the machine".

Uninstalling ASK sorted the problem.
02/09/09 @ 16:24
mantisdolphin
Comment from: mantisdolphin [Visitor]
UPDATE: Okay, partial recantation here: Yanking the Ask.com toolbar (removing it) from IE8 and Windows is what does the trick.

The problem is NOT with IE8 as such. Although I'm still seething from IE8 ladling on the hurt with its stupid, near catastrophic (can't boot after install), destructiveness when combined with a mainstream toolbar. Lots of affected users. Windows would not boot after the IE8 install and I had to spend time figuring out what the heck was going on.

Once Ask.com's toolbar was removed from the system and I copied the boot.ini file--and after TWO re-boots and another boot.ini copying, mind you--the problem has been solved: Windows boots as usual even though IE8 is installed, but without the Ask.com toolbar.

Lesson learned: Install a browser upgrade in Windows and be sure your systems is completely backed-up as though prepping for a harddrive failure!
07/09/09 @ 18:51
David Ingalls
Comment from: David Ingalls [Visitor] Email · http://ingallscomputerservices.com
Same problem but SATA/AHCI can add a twist. Client calls - suddenly their XP MCE system won't boot in regular or safe mode: Missing or corrupted hal.dll file. Complications for this system were the SATA drive is in AHCI mode (in BIOS and special add-on drivers for Windows). To get to the point of removing the Ask toolbar required first booting BIOS, setting SATA to operation to PATA/IDE (from AHCI), then DON'T BOOT Windows!!! ... boot Windows XP System CD (doesn't do AHCI) to enter recovery console, bootcfg /rebuild, exit BUT AGAIN - DON'T BOOT INTO WINDOWS BUT GO INTO BIOS!!! ... now SATA operation get's set back to AHCI (as that's what Windows has installed and depends on for the drivers once it gets going), Exit/Save bios. Now boot windows. Uninstall Ask toolbar. Still missing boot.ini so get one your favorite way (from backup if you have one for the system or repeat the above procedure.) Now we are good to go. Restarts and Windows XP work fine. It's tricky to not let Windows boot while triggering the AHCI/PATA-IDE settings back and forth as you work with Recovery console but it can be done and the result is a happy XP system in the end.
15/09/09 @ 21:25
frustrated
Comment from: frustrated [Visitor]
Windows update:
Upgrade to IE8 (in Vista) -> yes
2 boots later HAL errors

Never used ASK.com toolbar.
Do not surf using IE

Same problem as before, when I reinstalled the whole OS.

Yes, it's MS
15/03/10 @ 19:21
Andrew Luecke
Comment from: Andrew Luecke [Visitor] · http://getnightingale.org
@Goobie:
Yeah.. How stupid of me. I guess I worked tech support for mixed PC/Mac's environments without trying windows.

Fact is, people are quick to blame Microsoft. I'd say the registry isn't great, but frankly, I've seen silly things by Apple and Linux companies too (in 2008/2009, fork bombs STILL worked in Ubuntu for instance).

In OSX 10.4 and less before Apple redesigned finder, there were hordes of people who after clicking network, were redirected to their local HDD. Furthermore, drivers for lots of professional audio equipment constantly broke.

Reality is, when there is a fault with OSX/Linux, people blame the hardware, in Windows, they blame Microsoft. However, I've seen my fair share on issues on all 3 OS's. People certainly do treat their Windows OS the worst though (they tend to install the most random applications, and a lot of apps make use of device drivers, which shouldn't, like safedisc drivers have been known to cause issues).
04/06/10 @ 17:05
Steve
Comment from: Steve [Visitor] Email
THANK YOU for this post! I've spent the last 12 hours trying to resolve this. No virus detected, no malware detected, but every time the pc rebooted it lost the boot.ini file!

I've just deleted both ASK and IE8 (after all, if ASK is the problem it might not be long before it snuck back, so getting rid of IE8 solves that! And the problem went away after one more boot.ini rebuild.

And on a similar nature, did you ever come across a similar stupidity with Office 2000 and 97? Install them in that order and you get a licensing error that stops you running (amongst others) Access 97.

The cause? The Hattenschweiler(?) font - rename the hatten.ttf to (say) hatten.old before installing office 97, and then undo the rename, and the problem doesn't happen.

So they outdid themselves again!
01/02/12 @ 20:40
 

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