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Issue #63: October 5, 2008

Q: Upon startup on my 2003 Dell-WindowsXP, a pop-up states, “Security Product could not start. Tech details saved in start up log files.”  I click OK and another box asks the question, “do I want to repair the installation?”  I click on repair and it stalls on MSInstaller.  So I end the unresponsive program.  I would appreciate any help fixing this annoying problem.

– Mary G.
Mary Esther, FL

 A: My initial thought, Mary G. from Mary E., is that you have malware on your system.  Even yours truly has had an infection like that, where a product claiming itself to be a “security product” was actually randomly popping up advertisments onto my screen.  A genuine security product such as Windows Defender, AdAware, or Spybot Search and Destroy can disable it, but it won’t completely remove it.  When that happens, you wind up with malware that displays error messages when it tries to run.

As I said, that was my initial thought.  Before boldly declaring that to be your problem, I did a little research, and found several instances of people who use the Cox Security Suite seeing that same or a similar error message.  I looked back at your e-mail, and sure enough, you wrote in from a e-mail address.  So, the first thing I would do is check the “start up log files” that your error message tells about, and see what they say.  If the problem is coming from the Cox Security Suite, a re-install or upgrade may be in order.  Otherwise, it’s back to a malware infection.  You’ll need to figure out what’s trying to run, and get rid of it.  One way to do this is by running Windows’ MSCONFIG utility (press WinKey+R and type in “MSCONFIG”) then looking on the “Startup” tab for suspicious entries.  A suspicious one would be something that generically refers to itself as “Security Product” rather than by a fully branded name such as “Cox Internet Security Suite”, etc.  Disable whatever looks out of place, and see if your problem goes away.  The usual cautions apply when using MSCONFIG – use it at your own risk, and proceed with caution, lest you wreak havoc on your computer.  If you start having other problems, be sure you go back in and re-enable items you’ve disabled.

Q: The AF provides free Symantec Client Firewall and Antivirus Protection that updates automatically.  They do this to prevent infection of AF systems when members/employees take work home, to prevent infection of AF systems.

If I have this, do I need all those automatic updates provided by Microsoft?  Sometimes, some are updates for programs I don’t have (like MS Works).  I don’t have room to update things I don’t need, and I can’t afford a new computer.

– Vi W.
Eglin Air Force Base

A: You most certainly do need to allow the automatic updates from Microsoft.  The AF tools merely protect your system from known virus infections, and certain unwanted internet connections.  The Microsoft updates can contain anything from error fixes to completely new program features.  It has been my experience that Microsoft does not push updates to you for products you don’t own, so if you’re getting an MS Works update, it either means that you have MS Works installed (doesn’t mean you’re necessarily using it), or you have MS Works support in one of your other programs, such as Microsoft Word.

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