Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

We have a number of client machines on a domain that have decided to start exhibiting some strange problematic behavior this morning. All machines are Win XP SP3, fully up to date with patches and symantec av. Several different virus scanners have been tried (separately, of course), and nothing found. The symptoms of the issue are:

  1. A number of Windows services are not starting.
  2. No or half height taskbar. No start button, can't resize.
  3. Upon trying to open Internet Explorer we get the message "Windows cannot find '(null)'. Make sure you typed the name correctly..."
  4. Opening a document in Word results in the message "This document could not be registered. It will not be possibe to create links from other documents to this document."
  5. Opening excel results in two messages: "Cannot use object linking and embedding" then "An error occured initializing the VB libraries (14)"

We can use CTRL-ALT-DEL to get to the task manager, and from there run explorer and other programs to get into things to look, but this is really baffling me and our admin. Does anyone know what could cause all of this to happen at once on so many machines? Thanks.

Edit: Seemed to be fine for a week, but it's back. Some machines have varying degrees of the above symptoms.

share|improve this question
Today is Patch Tuesday. Do your clients automatically install all new Window Updates? – jscott Apr 12 '11 at 17:39
No. Today's patches are not installed. The configuration is controlled at the domain level, so it won't happen until tonight or tomorrow. – Tom Apr 12 '11 at 17:59

Try logging on to one of the affected computers with a user account that has never logged on before. This will create a new profile from the Default user profile. If the problems exhibit themselves in the new profile then I would strongly suspect malware or a borked update. If the problems don't exhibit themselves then I would suspect profile corruption.

share|improve this answer
Created a new account and logged on with it. Windows set up everything (took about 2 minutes), then loaded the desktop. No visible taskbar, but a "Welcome to windows" bubble popped up from an apparently hiding taskbar (below the screen). Also got the start menu in the upper left corner instead of the lower left corner. – Tom Apr 12 '11 at 18:00
That might be a function of the Default user profile if it was customized. Are you able to move the taskbar? Do the other problems exhibit themselves? – joeqwerty Apr 12 '11 at 18:12
Can't access the taskbar and the other symptoms do exist. – Tom Apr 12 '11 at 22:31
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Apparently we got a bad update from Symantec that took everything down.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.