Windows XP stalls when opening DOCX.

A client has a Windows XP machine (due to be migrated) and it was very slow to open DOCX documents. This stalled Outlook when Outlook launched DOCX attachments and it stalled explorer from the File Manager too. The fix was simple – right mouse the document properties and reset the “Open with…” to the same Office program and the problem goes away.

Removing Delta Search Open Tab in Internet Explorer and Firefox

Delta Search is ad-ware that hooks into your browser experience. It appears to leave behind a few bits when it is removed. The last bit to remove that I found is that Delta Search is launched when you open a new tab in Internet Explorer or Firefox.

For Windows Internet Explorer: in Windows use regedit then you can search for delta-search
The change is,

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\AboutURLs\Tabs

which should be as a default,


For Firefox: in Firefox go to the special URL about:config and find the parameter,


which should be


Opera Start tab doesn’t work in the same way so it doesn’t have this issue.

Old Java version uninstall stuck with mismatched uninstaller

A client of mine had finally got long-haul WIFI into their area. Before that they were on Satellite Internet with a very low and capped quota (4 GB/month). Consequently things like Java and Windows updates were manual. As they were in the middle of no-where then not too many site visits by me either.

I remote desk-topped into their machine and was doing updates for them. The Java was version 6 so I added version 7 and tried to uninstall version 6. It wouldn’t do this. The uninstaller dialog box referred to a different version from what it said was installed in the Control panel installed applications list and it didn’t  remove the installed version anyway but just exited.

The fix I found was to download the most recent Java version 6 (update 39) and install that and then that updated the installed software list and flushed the problem. I then uninstalled that new version and it worked – Java 6 was gone.

How to Fix Stalled Outlook incoming email.

If the Outlook emails fail to be picked up then it is probably some junk SPAM and probably malformed using international character sets. To fix this,
a) In Outlook pick,
Tools -> Send/Receive -> “< the broken account name>” Only -> Download Inbox Headers

b) Outlook will now download just the headers. The first one that comes in (i.e. the oldest one) is probably the bad message that is breaking Outlook e.g. if it is Monday and you are getting emails up until Saturday evening then the next message on Saturday evening is probably the bad message.

c) Right-mouse on that message and select “Open”. It will not have any local message but will ask what you want to do. Pick the last option of,
“Mark to delete this message from the server”

And then do OK.
d) Now do your normal Send/Receive All and all the backlogged messages should download normally and any marked for deletion emails (as above) will be automatically deleted.

Internet Explorer (IE8,IE9) slow page load due to Flash and ONSPEED sliprt.dll

Client complained about slow internet page loads. They use Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 8 and to date it had been fine. When I looked at the problem it was just like the browser was stalled trying to connect to a down host. It would take minutes to load a page and was basically unusable. Very frustrating because Opera and Firefox both worked fine.

I got them working temporarily on Opera and arranged to pick up the laptop when they went on holiday for a few days. Back at base I tried a few things which did not work

  • IE8 -> IE9 upgrade
  • IE9 -> IE8 downgrade (uninstall IE9)
  • ONSpeed uninstall and re-install

and then I just got the feeling that flash was a problem. I downloaded the flash installer (which is a downloader not the full application) and tried to run this.

I got an error message about sliprt.dll was not found e.g. This program can’t start because sliprt.dll is missing from your computer.  Try reinstalling the program to fix this problem. The sliprt.dll is part of the Slipstream which is used by ONSPEED. This is HTTP cache/accelerator. The dll does exist in \Windows so obviously some other problem and the error message is due to a missing program call.

I then downloaded the full flash install file ( see ) for both Internet Explorer and for “Other Browsers”.

These ran OK and installed without error. This cleared my Internet Explorer stalling and running slow problem and now IE8 is working fine. I upgraded to IE9 and that is also working fine. I was also able to upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium (using upgrade disk) and the laptop remained stable.

May not work for you but it fixed my client problem.

Imaging multi-session DVDs (non-CSS disk)

On Windows XP a client had a multi-session DVD (non-CSS so non-commercial on a DVD-R) and wanted a copy. Using their PC (a business grade DELL) I had problems with creating an image of this disk using imgburn. Imgburn suggested to create a new layout by hand. I tried that but  ended up with an image that was much smaller (300 MB verses 900 MB) than the original. This got me curious.

I also tried the daemon tools image creation and that could create a .MDS or .MDX file that was the right size but that would not mount in Daemon tools and nor did the daemon tool image burner work on that file.

What I did try was using infrarecorder to create an image. This successfully created a .ISO file that was the right size and could mount this in daemon tools. Infrarecorder could not actually burn this image (it just ejected the disk immediately) but imgburn could.

So the final workflow was,

Infrarecorder -> .ISO -> imgburn

and the client says that the new copy works on their DVD player.

GNU wget missing libeay32.dll on new install on Windows

When you use the command line wget for the first time on a Windows XP machine (and probably others – Vista and 7 ) you might get an error message,

Unable To Locate Component
This application has failed to start because LIBEAY32.DLL
was not found. Re-installing the application may fix this problem.

On a new Windows installation you may have installed wget but the problem is that wget32 needs other library files (libeay32.dll, libintl3.dll, libiconv2.dll and libssl32.dll) and these are not usually on a new Windows machine.

What you probably forgot to do with installing wget is install the dependencies !

Go to the GNU Wget binary download site for Windows and get the “Dependencies” ZIP file. Unpack the 4 DLLs from that /bin/ directory in the ZIP file into the same /bin/ directory where you have the wget.exe.

Wget will now work.

I use wget to download large ISO files from places that don’t have obvious bittorrent links e.g. Sourceforge. I do this because wget is more reliable than the browser in handling partial downloads i.e. where the Internet link has been closed and you have received only part of the file. Wget allows you to restart the download where it last finished.


Using write-locked SD cards when virus hunting on Windows PCs.

Sometimes you want to check a client Windows PC that is suspected of having a virus and you want to install software that the Windows machine doesn’t have installed e.g. ProcessExplorer or SiSoft Sandra or similar as part of your preliminary checks.

You should keep  the suspect Windows PC away from the Internet so you want a safe way to quickly copy software.  Obviously this is now USB keys but all cheap USB keys I know of don’t have a “write-protect” switch. If there is a virus you want to prevent it copying itself to your USB keys else you’ll make some mistake and could end up with a Windows virus moving around your Windows test systems.

The easiest way to get a cheap write-protected USB key is to use a low cost SD card like you would use in a camera and a SD-USB adapter. Most, if not all, SD cards have a write-protect switch and SD to USB adapters are cheap. Load all your software that you expect to use onto the SD card, set the write-protect switch to lock and then plug this into  the USB adapter and then you can safely plug that into the suspect machine and start your investigations.  As far as I know the write-protect logic is part of  the SD reader so few viruses would be able to override that without a good understanding of that device driver and truthfully if you’ve got something that ingenious then a high level process view of such a Windows PC will probably find nothing amiss.


Alt-gr key with @ not working on Italian keyboard in Windows 7

A client of ours a while back had picked up an ex-demo laptop and had got the shop they bought it from to install it as English. The keyboard remained as an Italian physical layout (which is a QWERTY layout but has extra accented characters).

Recently I was at their site and tried to use the laptop and noticed the @ (at) symbol wasn’t working. On the wall they had put up a note for people to use an ALT+064 sequence. OK but what !?

The fix was easy though not obvious at first glance (AltGr + q will actually print a @) and it is that there are two Italian keyboard layouts in Windows 7 – Italian and Italian (142).  This was set to “Italian (142)” where the AltGr+q is the @ key whereas it should have been set to just “Italian” where the AltGr+ò key is where the @ symbol is printed.

Added the layout (Language still English (British)) set the default language and layout to be just the “Italian”, and deleted the “Italian (142)” layout. Rebooted it to make sure that any applications hadn’t cached  the layout (Firefox seems to do this).

Keyboard now works as expected.


International Amazon Kindle not charging from USB ?

A client of ours had got a Kindle recently and seemed happy with it but the batteries kept going flat.  I checked and it seemed to be charging fine so I dug a bit deeper and this what I found.

The PC is a brand new laptop running Windows 7 Home Premium –  I know as I re-installed that as English a few weeks ago. The power management was left as the default of Balanced.

The quirk with this is that they leave the Kindle plugged in when they go out but the Balanced power setting on Windows 7 by default shuts the PC down in 30 minutes (when on mains) when idle.

The Kindle needs 4 – 6 hours to charge thus it will never really charge unless you stop the Laptop from going into power save mode. I changed the Balanced on-mains power shutdown period to 4 hours to at least give the Kindle a chance to get a charge.

I imagine that other people have had this without really thinking about what is happening.


HIgh CPU with system process on Windows XP ?

The system process (not the system idle) can go to high CPU use. To narrow down what is causing this you need to narrow it down to a thread that system is managing.

Do this by downloading the System process explorer from Microsoft. Download and run the procexp.exe program that the .zip file contains. click “run” and then “run” again on the dialogs (you basically run this program – not install it).

It runs and display a more complex system overview than the taskmanager. Sort on the “Process” column and then find and right-click the “System” process and pick “Properties”.

You can now pick the “Thread” tab and sort on the CPU column and find out which driver is running the high CPU. To see where and what version this file is click the line e.g. amdk8.sys and then click the “module” button. It will pop up a normal File Properties dialog box.

You have all you need now to search technical help sites or your hardware provider to see if there is updated software for this driver: searching for “amdk8.sys high cpu” is a lot better than searching for just “system high cpu”


Swapping Windows product keys.

When you re-install a Windows XP based laptop then the licensing is easy as just about every laptop that is sold will have a legitimate Windows sticker on its bottom. Trouble is that you might not have the right install CD.

To use that laptop sticker you need the OEM install disk. If you use a retail disk then the key will be rejected.

However you get the Windows XP installed you can get the correct OEM laptop key into Windows by running the program provided by Microsoft from,

This program will update the product key and correctly set your product ID to match the key i.e. if it is a big-name brand then your key (and probably the BIOS) is decoded by Microsoft and the MPC (Microsoft product code) will be set to (probably) “76477” i.e. the Royalty OEM and the Channel ID will be set to “OEM” if you add a legitimate OEM key from the base of the laptop.

This also seem to correctly validate Windows.




Windows Laptops – finding disk space

Buy a new laptop and you’ll get a minimum of 320 to 500 Gigabytes but machines that are 2 to 3 years old will only be  a fraction of this and over time, with years of Windows updates and new and upgraded software, your once-shiny Laptop disk is now full.

The main free and Open Source application that we get people to run when they complain about lack of disk space is the WinDirStat program (Windows only).

This is easy to install, and it “quickly” builds up an awesome at-a-glance view of your whole disk space usage. *The quickly is subjective – a 5 year old Laptop with a Celeron and 40 Gbyte disk drive with 450,000 files and 55,000 directories takes 27 minutes to display.

WinStatDir - highlighting a file

Once it has this display then you can easily identify the large files and directories and then make a call on if this can be removed. Click on the pretty display and the directory listing will jump to the relevant item. You can then right-mouse on this and perform operations such as Open an Explorer window or a command prompt.

We can certainly recommend this for Windows PC laptop users who don’t have as many options in adding more disk space as say a  Windows desktop user will have. Laptop disk drives were generally smaller, more expensive and harder to swap out.


Install stuck at “setup is preparing your computer for first use”…

I found an odd fix to a problem on a new client PC. I was re-Installing Windows 7 SP1 on a new Acer laptop so as to change the install language (why aren’t OEMs in the EU mandated that they must offer all available Eurozone languages for their retail products if they already have that language as a first-time selection ?)  and I got the forever hung at “setup is preparing your computer for first use” problem.

If you search the Internet for an answer to this then there is nothing that is very clear as to what you can do when you are sitting in front of  a machine that works perfectly, will install but for the last few steps of the installation, fails to complete.

AFAIKS the cause is slipstreamed installers either stalling or failing and the Windows first use program is just spinning its wheels waiting for them to exit.

What I did at the “setup is preparing your computer for first use” screen was twofold:

1) I clicked SHIFT+F10 to get a command prompt, then typed in devmgmt.msc to get the device manager. It will have the unknown or devices without drivers expanded. I disabled some but I also found that you can install drivers too. If you have all your manufacturer drivers on a USB stick then just right-mouse and select update driver and then browse to the root of your USB stick e.g. E:\ and have it search subdirectories and it should find the right driver for that device.

—-and at the same time I..

2)   typed in taskmgr.exe to get the Task Manager and in  the processes list I killed any running msiexec.exe processes and cmd.exe command prompts if they looked like they were hung i.e. no CPU and the disk light on the Laptop wasn’t really running. This step 2) is the most important step as it seemed to allow the first use setup to step on.

The install then quickly finished the “setup is preparing your computer for first use” stage and I got the username, hostname and so-on questions.

The SHIFT+F10 trick and using the devmgmr.msc and taskmgr.exe works at any stage from the “setup is preparing your computer for first use” display onwards because Windows is actually running only services haven’t started and the hostname and account details haven’t been created.

Hope this helps – it worked for me.