Is Microsoft Windows driving you crazy? Is the blue screen of death your constant companion? At this Guild Meeting on June 1, Trent Cook helped TechProGuild members get Win9x and Win2K under control. If you couldn’t join us then, enjoy the transcript and we hope to see you on our next live Guild Meeting.

Is Microsoft Windows driving you crazy? Is the blue screen of death your constant companion? At this Guild Meeting on June 1, Trent Cook helped TechProGuild members get Win9x and Win2K under control. If you couldn’t join us then, enjoy the transcript and we hope to see you on our next live Guild Meeting.

Note: TechProGuild edits Guild Meeting transcripts for clarity.

Welcome to the Guild Meeting!
MODERATOR: Welcome to tonight’s Guild Meeting! This evening, Trent Cook joins us to discuss some of those pesky Windows features we all love to hate.

TRENT COOK: The first thing I want to do is take some time to go over some general troubleshooting tips, tricks, etc. … a kind of troubleshooting 101 if you will, and then I will open things up for everyone. Here I go, let me ramble for a bit to bring us all up to speed, then you go for it.

Common errors
GPF (General Protection Fault): Generally speaking, this is when two apps try to use the same chunk of memory.

IPF (Invalid Page Fault): Pretty much the same as a GPF, only they pertain more to virtual memory, hard drive swapped out as memory.

BSOD (Blue Screen of Death): Program / driver makes an invalid read/write to a memory address (which might already be in use). Also NT likes to give BSODs if there is a corruption with NTFS (usually caused by hard drive problems).

ACCESIT_PC: I see the blue screen also with a poor driver of poor hardware or a bad memory.

Troubleshooting guidelines
TRENT COOK: Now that we have a GENERAL fix on the errors we encounter, I’ll write you a little troubleshooting guide:

1. Always reboot … this is to free up and rearrange apps in your memory.

2. Stop ALL unnecessary apps—Ctrl+Alt+Del and in START>RUN>MSCONFIG >STARTUP for Win9x or CONTROL PANEL>SERVICES for NT—especially virus scanners as they run at an extremely low level.

3. Now that everything is stopped, run the app. If it runs okay, it’s another app conflicting it. Start other apps one by one to find out which one it is and then go to the Web site of the two developers, search for a patch, or support config tips regarding your error.

Also, if the app uses a specific piece of your hardware, update your drivers. I can give you tips you may not have tried after the floor is open.

4. If updating your app doesn’t work, you can update your OS … Win98 = windows update; Win95 =; NT = latest service pack and hot fixes.

5. If these updates don’t work, uninstall the app and reinstall … add/remove programs … make sure you reboot after you uninstall. You can also search your registry for entries that have been left. If you want me to go over backing up your reg and searching it, ask in a couple minutes.

6. Nasty step: If you’re still left with problems, your only options are: to swap your hardware (that is accessed most often by the app) with “KnownGood” hardware. If that doesn’t help, you’ll have to do something we have all done many, many times—backup and reinstall.

Well, people, I think I’m done rambling … and that is the scaled-down version. If you want this e-mailed to you, just ask.

JHARVEY: So we don’t clog Trent’s e-mail, don’t forget we post transcripts of the meetings on the site. If you want one “hot off the press,” send your request to

TRENT COOK: What do you say we open this up now?

Working in the registry
ANDY_DAVIS: What about backing up my registry and searching it?

TRENT COOK: The first thing you must know is editing the registry can really mess up Windows, so you must know how to back it up. This is actually really easy.

DASHULTZ119: Rdisk for backing it up, right? But what about Win98?

TRENT COOK: First, copy your user.dat file and your system.dat to a floppy or anywhere safe. These files are in your c:\windows directory. Then, if you mess things up you can just boot off a disk and copy those files back to the c:\windows\dir and you’ll be back the way you were.

To search the registry, just go to START>RUN>regedit. Then in regedit, click Edit And Search. Type in the name of or part of the name of the app you uninstalled, and then hit Search. It will go through your registry looking for keys and values; all you will have to do then is delete them and try reinstalling. Don’t worry, you will have a good backup if you run into problems.

ANDY_DAVIS: It just seems like apps leave pieces in so many parts of the registry. Will I find them all?

TRENT COOK: Andy, it won’t find them all if you put the whole name in, but if you put in part of the name (for example, photo or adobe instead of Adobe Photoshop, etc.), it will come up with more entries and you can see if they pertain to Photoshop. If they do, delete them.

ANDY_DAVIS: Is user.dat a generic term? I didn’t find a user.dat file on any directory on my PC.

TRENT COOK: Andy, user.dat is definitely on your PC. You probably just have the attributes set on it.

ANDY_DAVIS: I was on the command line and typed, c:\>dir user.dat/s.

ACCESIT_PC: Configure your explorer to see hidden items.

BWILSON: Andy, are you showing “ALL FILES” in view options, as I believe they are hidden. That command won’t show hidden files, only those normally seen until you turn on Show All Files.

TLSNC: That file would be in the Windows directory, but you have to have Hidden Files turned on in your view.

ANDY_DAVIS: Okay. I used “Find: files” and see it now.

Missing VXD
AAEA919: I ran into a missing .vxd file while booting up a PC I’m troubleshooting. Any suggestions?

ACCESIT_PC: If you know the missing .vxd, recover it.

AAEA919: I can’t find the missing .vxd file. I looked on two different machines.

VWJETTA: Use the net to find your missing .vxd files. Then, download them and put them on your machine.

TRENT COOK: If I’m not mistaken, you can find .vxd files at

TLSNC: If this has been working and stopped today, have you run Scandisk?

ACCESIT_PC: With patience, yes.

VWJETTA: Why run Scandisk?

TLSNC: Run Scandisk, as the file or directory .vxd is in may have a problem.

VWJETTA: Scandisk will not fix the problem but just indicate that the problem is there. It might say that it attempted to fix it, but all it’s doing is searching the hard drive to see if it can find the missing .vxd file.
Our Guild Meetings feature top-flight professionals leading discussions on interesting and valuable IT issues. You can find a schedule of Guild Meetings in your weekly TechProGuild Notes TechMail, or on the Guild Meeting calendar.
ACCESIT_PC: Well, this is my question: In Win 2000 with Office 97, when I double-click in a document, I get the message “The document is already open. Do you want to open a copy?” Any suggestions?

TRENT COOK: Do you have any other apps accessing files, for example, Explorer, open antivirus software, network users, shares, etc.? If so, that could be holding it open on you.

Windows NT 4.0 Blue Screen of Death
PATRICKKEENAN: Running NT 4.0 workstation out of the blue machine does a physical memory dump and locks up. I thought I had found the problem app, but the problems still persist. Any suggestions?

TRENT COOK: You’re running NT4 WS … to state the obvious, are you running SP6a? Does it blue screen at boot or when you run an app?

PATRICKKEENAN: Yes, I am running SP6, and the problem seems to occur when I’m updating antivirus and starting this certain app. App is 16-bit legacy software.

TRENT COOK: That’s odd. Your app should run in its own VM and not affect the system. Getting back to the 101 troubleshooting tips, have you tried to update your application with an update? Have you updated your antivirus software? One instance I came across with antivirus software crashing a system at work was that it had real-time scanning of file and macros on. It was taking too many resources, and other apps were making invalid calls to memory because of it.

PATRICKKEENAN: The drivers are the latest and greatest for both the antivirus and app. This problem has also occurred on three other machines using the same software.

TRENT COOK: Patrick, do you have real-time scanning for file and macro enabled? Most antivirus software packages do this by default, and it really hits a system hard.

PATRICKKEENAN: Yes, and I will check the other machines. Thanks.

TRENT COOK: No problem. Real-time protection is GREAT for security against viruses, but there is a big cost. I have seen antivirus software act almost as a virus with it enabled with all the crashes, slow downs, etc.

Graphic acceleration lockups
MWISNIEWSKI: I have a Diamond Stealth III S540 install with the latest drivers and firmware, but it seems to lock up. If I turn off graphics acceleration, it runs fine.

TRENT COOK: You are running Windows 98 second edition, aren’t you?


TRENT COOK: I thought so. At work, I have encountered this on five PCs. Unfortunately, the outcome isn’t good, my friend. On three, I remedied the problem with latest drivers, and as you said, graphic acceleration had to be turned off in the Windows performance tab. As for the other two, I actually had to replace the motherboard to fix the problem.


TRENT COOK: We had AOpen motherboards with Celeron CPUs, which is probably half the problem right there.

MWISNIEWSKI: The one I have is an AOpen.

BWILSON: Trent, clarify … the problem was the motherboard, the CPU, or the combo?

ACCESIT_PC: What brand of motherboard caused the problem?

TRENT COOK: Ahhhhh … I couldn’t tell you the exact motherboard serial number off the top of my head, but I know it’s an AOpen. For me, it was the motherboard only. The lockup you’re talking about is that nice one where your mouse cursor freezes and you can’t even Ctrl+Alt+Del, right?

MWISNIEWSKI: That is it.

BWILSON: Ah … the kind that requires that troubleshooter’s old reliable, “the PANIC button” ON/OFF.

ACCESIT_PC: Or unplug the cord.

MWISNIEWSKI: Trent, thanks.

TRENT COOK: My pleasure.

Troubleshooting resources
ALAZO1: Thank you for your insight, Trent. Do you have a book out on troubleshooting, or if not, can you recommend one?

TRENT COOK: Thanks very much. I have not written a book, but I do write articles for TechRepublic. As for resources, I have read so many that it would be hard to specify just one. Web sites, such as, are the best for getting information on troubleshooting. For Windows errors, visit, which is a great tool as well.

VWJETTA: What about the book we use in class, Trent? The title of the book is Upgrading and Repairing PCs by Scott Muller.

TRENT COOK: Ahhh, I see I have a student of mine here. I teach in the mornings and am a full-time sys admin as well (busy fella).

TLSNC: Just like the rest of us.

Netscape 4.7 conflicts
TLSNC: I have a real nasty one, Trent. I have a 95b machine with HP scanner, HP 4000TN with Jet Admin installed. Since January, they have been having blue screens and trashed FAT after they upgraded to Netscape 4.7. If I get rid of Netscape and use IE5, the problems seem to go away.

VWJETTA: Is it Netscape 4.73?

TLSNC: It is now. But that did not make a difference.

BWILSON: Have you tried to remove JetAdmin? And is it the absolute latest version?

TLSNC: Yes, and yes.

BWILSON: How much memory?


TRENT COOK: Have you updated the drivers for all your devices? Here is another nice little tip: If you update your drivers but it still doesn’t go, try to put in the URL of the manufacturer, but add a .TW at the end (for example,, which stands for Taiwan. Most manufacturers have such an address and actually post even newer beta drivers there before they do at their .com sites.

TLSNC: Cool tip there, Trent. I have updated everything and even used all troubleshooting tips from the appropriate sites.

Thanks for coming
TRENT COOK: Thanks, everyone. Again, if you want me to send you a .txt version of my General Troubleshooting 101 tips, send me an e-mail at

MODERATOR: We’ve got a couple of books to give away tonight. We have two copies of MS Press Windows 2000 Server Administrator’s Companion to give away. It has 245,546 pages. (That may be a SMALL exaggeration. But it IS a good book.)

TRENT COOK: I think I should get a copy.

MODERATOR: Maybe for a small price. Anyway, accesit … could you use a copy?


MODERATOR: Well, you got one. Send me your snail mail information to

And now, the 2nd one … There’s a tie. Luckily, I can tear the second book into sections. Okay. I have another copy. So, we’ll give a copy to both tlsnc and bwilson.

TLSNC: Great. I can use it. I even have a very big bookcase to set it on when it’s not in use.

BWILSON: Thank you for the book.

MODERATOR: You’re welcome all. So, send those snail mail addresses to That’s a wrap for the night. See you next time! Same bat time, same bat channel….
Our Guild Meetings feature top-flight professionals leading discussions on interesting and valuable IT issues. You can find a schedule of Guild Meetings in your weekly TechProGuild Notes TechMail, or on the Guild Meeting calendar.