During my years of supporting Windows 98 systems, I have encountered some strange problems. One in particular is a situation in which Windows 98’s System Information tool crashes the system each time you launch it.
This anomaly usually corresponds to installing a software application that apparently interferes with the System Information tool’s ability to run unencumbered. While I’ve never been able to pinpoint a specific software application as the cause of the problem, I do know that the end result is always the same—System Information crashes every time you attempt to run it.
When it crashes, you’ll see the following error message:
This program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down. If the problem persists, contact the program vendor.
When you click the Details button, you’ll find this more specific description of the error:
MSINFO32 caused an invalid page fault in module KERNEL32.DLL at 015f:bff8XXXX
Now, even though I don’t know the exact cause of the problem, I do know it indicates that System Information’s executable file has become corrupt. When this happens, System Information is useless. I’ve even encountered extreme situations when this System Information problem has crashed the entire system, subsequently preventing a normal boot-up sequence.
Fortunately, I’ve discovered that you can easily replace System Information’s executable file. If you’re still able to use Windows 98, you can replace the file by using the System File Checker utility. If you’re unable to get the operating system back up and running, you can replace the file by using the Microsoft Extract Command Line Helper utility, which is available on the Windows 98 Startup Disk. In this article, I’ll show you how you can use the System File Checker utility and a Windows 98 CD to replace System Information’s executable file. In addition, I’ll show you how to achieve the same goal using the Windows 98 Startup Disk.
Using the System File Checker utility
If Windows 98 is still up and running, you can use the System File Checker utility to replace System Information’s executable file. To do so, select the Run command from the Start menu or press [Windows]R. When you see the Run dialog box, type sfc.exe in the Open text box and click OK or press [Enter].
When you see the System File Checker window, select the Extract One File From Installation Disk option. Then, you’ll type Msinfo32.exe in the text box, as shown in Figure A. To continue with the extraction procedure, click the Start button at the bottom of the System File Checker window.
|You’ll use System File Checker to replace the corrupt file.|
As soon as you click the Start button, you’ll see the Extract File dialog box, as shown in Figure B. At this point, you’ll need to insert your Windows 98 CD. As you do, hold down the [Shift] key to prevent the Autostart sequence from displaying the Windows 98 CD-ROM installation menu.
Next, you’ll need to specify the location of the original Msinfo32.exe file and the folder into which you want to extract it.
|In this dialog box, you specify the location of the original Msinfo32.exe file and where you want to extract it.|
If a dropdown arrow appears in the Restore From text box, you can fill in the text box by selecting one of the available locations in the dropdown list. Otherwise, click the Browse button and locate the Win98 folder on the Windows 98 CD.
At this point, click the second Browse button adjacent to the Save File In text box and locate the C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Msinfo folder on your hard disk, as shown in Figure C. To continue with the operation, click OK.
|When you finish, the Extract File dialog box will look like this.|
In a moment, System File Checker will prompt you to either back up or discard the original file, as shown in Figure D. Since the file is corrupt anyway, you’ll want to discard it. Just click the Skip button to continue.
|System File Checker will prompt you to save or discard the original file.|
Once the file is replaced, you’ll see the dialog box telling you the file has been successfully extracted. Click OK and close the System File Checker window. System Information should now function normally.
Using Microsoft Extract Command Line Helper utility
If you can’t boot the Windows 98 system and know for a fact that System Information’s executable file has become corrupt, you can repair the problem with the Microsoft Extract Command Line Helper utility on your Windows 98 Startup Disk. To do so, you’ll need to have on hand a Windows 98 Startup Disk and the Windows 98 CD.
Of course, you’ll begin the procedure by booting your system with the Windows 98 Startup Disk. When you see the DOS-based Microsoft Windows 98 Startup menu, choose the Start Computer With CD-ROM Support item. As soon as you do so, the Windows 98 Startup Disk will create a RAM disk drive, assign it to letter D, and place a set of diagnostic utilities on drive D. This set of utilities will include the Microsoft Extract Command Line Helper utility, which you will use to manually extract the correct system file from the appropriate CAB file.
As soon as the Windows 98 Startup Disk finishes its boot-up operation, you’ll find yourself at an A:\> prompt. At this point, type the command Ext.This Ext command will launch the Microsoft Extract Command Line Helper utility. You’ll then be prompted to type the path to the CAB files, which in this case will be the Win98 folder on the CD. Once you type the path and then press [Enter], you’ll be prompted to provide the name of the file that you want to extract, in this case Msinfo32.exe. After pressing [Enter], you’ll be prompted to provide the path to the folder in which you want to extract the file. Here you’ll type C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Msinfo. After you press [Enter], you’ll see a confirmation prompt. At this point, your screen will look similar to the one shown in Figure E.
|You’ll use the Microsoft Extract Command Line Helper to extract the correct version of the corrupt file.|
When you type y and press [Enter], the Extract Command Line Helper will search through the appropriate CAB files and locate the original system file. You’ll then be prompted to overwrite the file. Simply type y and press [Enter]. When you do, the file will be extracted and placed in the correct folder, overwriting the corrupt file in the process. Once the procedure is complete, you’ll return to the A:\> prompt. At this point, you can remove the Windows 98 Startup Disk and reboot your system.
As you know, Windows 98’s System Information can be a valuable tool for gathering details about a particular system when it comes to troubleshooting problems. However, in addition to the problem and solution I’ve just described, there other things that can go wrong with System Information. As such, you may want to investigate some of these Microsoft Knowledge Base links so that you’re prepared should you encounter a problem with System Information.
- "Cannot Start Microsoft System Information Tool"
- "The System Information Tool May Display an Incorrect Processor Type"
- "Error Message When You Run System Information Tool: 'Cannot Display Information'"
- "Some Information Not Displayed in System Information Tool"
- "Microsoft System Information Prints Incorrect Disk Information"
- "Msinfo Does Not Print Individual Sections"
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.