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Solved Vista suddenly unable to run any programs that require administrator rights

#1
I have a laptop which has been working well with Vista 64bit home edition for just over a year now. This morning, it was acting wonky like it normally does if I go too long between reboots, so I rebooted it. Once it booted, I can log in fine, open up most apps fine, but anything that requires admin rights does not work. I noticed the problem because Onecare wasn't running (I know, I need to replace it). I tried starting it by hand, but got a message that it couldn't be started and to reboot. I thought I'd go try to manually start the service through the control panel. When open the control panel, go to the administrator tools, and launch "event viewer", instead of getting the prompt to run event viewer as administrator, it just sits and thinks, and control panel is essentially frozen, though everything else works.
I have gone around to all of the things I can think of, and the problem seems consistent - if the app requires elevating to administrator rights, it won't work.
I have tried:

  • dos prompt run as administrator
  • task manager -> show processes from all users
  • Everything in control panel -> administrator tools
  • add/remove programs
  • msconfig
The problem is consistent and reproducible across many reboots. The problem does not happen in safe mode.
I did download a piece of open source code to make a bootable image on a usb stick for an unrelated problem on a different computer a few days ago, but that is the only thing memorable that has happened. That app didn't install anything - it's a stand-alone binary. Another interesting problem - any attempts to uninstall software through control panel does not work - add/remove programs freezes, and I can't uninstall apps while in safe mode. I don't think it would help, but in case the solution requires that, keep in mind I can't uninstall.
My first suspicion was a virus, particularly since it effectively prevents Onecare AV from running. I downloaded the Trend house call app and ran a scan in safe mode and found nothing. Then, I used the Kaspersky recovery disk to perform a full off-line scan of the drive (booting from the recovery CD), again, nothing found. This certainly doesn't mean I am virus free, but if it is a virus, it is a tough one to detect.
Next, I thought that it might be a hardware issue (long shot, but nothing else was making sense). I ran the full suite of Dell diags for the laptop, and no problems were found.
Does anyone have suggestions on how I can fix this? I've tried all of the things that are obvious to me and am at a loss on what to do other than nuke the drive and reinstall Windows.
Thanks
 

My Computer

richc46

Staff member
Vista Guru
Gold Member
usa us_connecticut
#2
Last edited:

My Computer

System One

  • Manufacturer/Model
    Dell XPS420
    Memory
    6 gig
    Graphics Card(s)
    ATI Radeon HD3650 256 MB
    Sound Card
    Intergrated 7.1 Channel Audio
    Monitor(s) Displays
    Dell SP2009W 20 inch Flat Panel w Webcam
    Hard Drives
    640 gb
    Cooling
    Fan
    Mouse
    Dell USB 4 button optical
    Keyboard
    Dell USB
    Other Info
    DSL provided by ATT
#3
Thank you, Rich.

I ran a full scan of the drive using malwarebytes and no infected objects were found. I ran a clean startup and now I can run programs as administrator again. So, now it seems the trick is narrowing down what thing in the startup sequence is causing the problem.
 

My Computer

richc46

Staff member
Vista Guru
Gold Member
usa us_connecticut
#4
You are correct, follow the instructions in clean boot to find the cause. That is what it is for.

Bottom line, it says restore a few services at a time.
 

My Computer

System One

  • Manufacturer/Model
    Dell XPS420
    Memory
    6 gig
    Graphics Card(s)
    ATI Radeon HD3650 256 MB
    Sound Card
    Intergrated 7.1 Channel Audio
    Monitor(s) Displays
    Dell SP2009W 20 inch Flat Panel w Webcam
    Hard Drives
    640 gb
    Cooling
    Fan
    Mouse
    Dell USB 4 button optical
    Keyboard
    Dell USB
    Other Info
    DSL provided by ATT

richc46

Staff member
Vista Guru
Gold Member
usa us_connecticut
#5
TY Jerry for the kind words and the rep.

 
Last edited:

My Computer

System One

  • Manufacturer/Model
    Dell XPS420
    Memory
    6 gig
    Graphics Card(s)
    ATI Radeon HD3650 256 MB
    Sound Card
    Intergrated 7.1 Channel Audio
    Monitor(s) Displays
    Dell SP2009W 20 inch Flat Panel w Webcam
    Hard Drives
    640 gb
    Cooling
    Fan
    Mouse
    Dell USB 4 button optical
    Keyboard
    Dell USB
    Other Info
    DSL provided by ATT
#6
So, the problem turned out to be.... Print Spooler

If I disable the print spooler service, everything else works. I suppose I will try deleting all of my printers and reenabling the service to see if that makes a difference.
 

My Computer

#7
With the print spooler start up disabled, I was able to get in and the system was working well. I couldn't see any of the printers because the spooler was not running. I opened up services, set the startup to manual and started the spooler (while holding my breath). I was then able to see/delete all of the printers.

I reenabled print spooler through msconfig, rebooted and all is working well now.

I am stunned that some sort of problem with a *printer* could cause that level of havoc with Windows.
 

My Computer

richc46

Staff member
Vista Guru
Gold Member
usa us_connecticut
#8
Glad that you worked it out. Good Luck
 

My Computer

System One

  • Manufacturer/Model
    Dell XPS420
    Memory
    6 gig
    Graphics Card(s)
    ATI Radeon HD3650 256 MB
    Sound Card
    Intergrated 7.1 Channel Audio
    Monitor(s) Displays
    Dell SP2009W 20 inch Flat Panel w Webcam
    Hard Drives
    640 gb
    Cooling
    Fan
    Mouse
    Dell USB 4 button optical
    Keyboard
    Dell USB
    Other Info
    DSL provided by ATT

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