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Issue #32: February 28, 2008

Q: have an older computer with windows 98 that started giving me warnings that I can’t seem to fix.  The first one is “The OLEAUT32.DLL file cannot start.  Check the file to determine the problem.”  I have found two of those files, but don’t know how to find or fix the problem.

The second warning is a flag titled Explorer that states that the program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down.  This occurs even when I’m not using Internet Explorer.

– Tim O.
Fort Walton Beach, FL

A: Kudos for keeping a Win98 machine alive, Tim.  Just be careful, since Microsoft no longer supports Win98, they’re not releasing security fixes or other patches for that version, and you may be leaving yourself vulnerable.  But on to your problem.  OLEAUT32.dll is a part of the Windows operating system.  It’s not part of any specific application or program.  However, programs written in Visual BASIC 6 are often distributed with a copy of the file, to ensure it is on your computer if it is needed.  The problem is that the programs don’t necessarily come with the most up-to-date version, and they may overwrite your good copy with an obsolete one.  Try reading the following Microsoft support article for one good way to replace your version of OLEAUT32.dll:

Regarding the second half of your question, you’re talking about two different programs called “Explorer.”  Microsoft calls the web browser built into Windows “Internet Explorer” but it also calls the program you use to browse files on your computer either “Windows Explorer” or just plain “Explorer.”  Besides allowing you to browse files, this system process also provides your Start menu, task bar, and Desktop.  With that in mind, it should be pretty obvious that if anything named “Explorer” is performing illegal operations on your computer, you have a pretty big problem on your hands.  That’s one of the hazards of running an operating system that’s been obsolete for at least 5 years.

TIP OF THE WEEK – Narrowing Web Searches: Have you ever tried to search for something online, only to get back thousands, or even millions of sites, none of which seem related to what you’re looking for?  The problem is that you’re not requesting precisely what you want.  Let’s look at an example.  To do a search for my column online, I’ll enter It’s Geek To Me into Google.  Whoa!  I got over 7.5 million hits!  That’s because Google eliminated the common words It’s, To, and Me, and returned every page on the internet containing the word Geek.  But if I enter the name in double quotes, like this: “It’s Geek To Me” that tells Google to search for that exact phrase (all of the words, in that order).  Now the results are narrowed to “only” around 900 sites.  If I then add my last name to the search (outside the quotes) I get only 6 hits.  Much easier to find what I want!

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