Community Newsletter: Q&A forum: 4/21/06 PC crashes trying to access the Microsoft Update site

by: Lee Koo (ADMIN) April 20, 2006 1:58 PM PDT

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4/21/06 PC crashes trying to access the Microsoft Update site

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) ModeratorCNET staff - 4/20/06 1:58 PM

Question:

Good day! I was browsing your newsletter and thought, why not? I have an annoying problem that won't go away. My computer crashes each and every time I try to access the Microsoft Update site and also the genuine download site. I have enlisted help from online support, and among other things, I have reformatted and deleted most of my programs, all to no avail. Would you be able to point me in the right direction? My operating system is Windows XP Pro SP2 running on an AMD 64 Athlon computer. Thank you, and kind regards.

Submitted by: Will M.

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Answer:


Will, you indicated that you are running Windows XP with Service Pack 2, but you failed to provide specific and detailed information regarding the circumstances surrounding the issue at hand, which programs you deleted, or even which browser you are using when you run into trouble. It is also unclear whether you are experiencing problems only when you navigate to the Microsoft Updates site, or if the issue affects Automatic Updates as well. Lastly, is your computer actually crashing--as in freezing and not responding at all--or do you merely get a Cannot Open Page error message? With these limitations in mind, let's work out a troubleshooting strategy.

What immediately comes to mind after reading your question is the possibility of your computer being infected by malware. Viruses and worms have been known to target the updating capabilities of antivirus software and of the Windows operating system. By preventing updates, antivirus protection against new threats or variations of old nasties is severely compromised, and vulnerabilities in Windows can continue to be exploited. But before exploring this possibility, let's rule out two simpler things.

First of all, how are you navigating to the Windows Updates site? Microsoft made changes to its updates site not long ago, and as a result clicking on the default bookmark listed under Internet Explorer's Links or the Windows Update shortcut in the Start Menu (Start/All Programs/Windows Update) result in a "Cannot Open Page" message. The solution to your problem might be as simple as using Google to navigate to the new update site, and replacing your old bookmark with this new page.

(Doing so is very easy: Right-click the bookmark or the shortcut, select Properties from the drop-down menu, and type or paste the updated web address.)


Secondly, if you have received an "access violation in Vgx.dll" error message before experiencing the crashes, read Knowledge Base Article 885932

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/885932/en-us

which discusses a specific issue related to SP2. If you determine that the problem description applies to you, click on the link provided in that article to contact Microsoft Support and obtain the hotfix.

If the issue you are experiencing is not described by the aforementioned Knowledge Base article, scan your computer for malware. Make sure you have the latest virus definitions installed. From your description, I am assuming that your antivirus software is able to connect to its update server, and thus download definitions flawlessly. Even if this is the case, you should also scan your computer using one or two online scanners. Good choices include:

Trend Micro's Housecall: http://housecall.trendmicro.com/

Symantec Security Check: http://security.symantec.com/sscv6/default.asp?langid=ie&venid=sym

Panda ActiveScan: http://www.pandasoftware.com/activescan/


You should also run an antispyware scan. Since you are a newsletter subscriber, I will assume you are familiar with the more popular titles available, such as Spybot Search & Destroy and Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition. (If you don't have one of these utilities installed, download the latest version from http://www.download.com/.)

If no malware is detected, consider the possibility of a change to the HOSTS file, Windows' "personal" domain names services server.

Web browsers find web pages by contacting a central server and retrieving the IP address corresponding to a particular web domain (for example, cnet.com). Before contacting the central server on the web, your browser checks Windows' HOSTS file for a domain/IP address match. If your HOSTS file has been corrupted by malware, it is possible that an entry was added to the former, redirecting inquiries to the Microsoft updates sites to malicious websites. The resulting "crashes" might be caused by the interaction of these websites with your security software (like your firewall).

The following article explains how to check your HOSTS file and fix any problems present: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1838144,00.asp


If you can rule out malware and a corrupt HOSTS file, the problem could be that your browser's security and/or privacy setting are too high, and somehow preventing necessary controllers from being downloaded to your computer. The problem might also be corrupt files - either in Windows, your browser, or your firewall (you are running a firewall, right?)

If you are using Internet Explorer, click Tools on your browser's menu bar, and select Internet Options from the drop-down menu. Select the Security tab, click the Default Level button, then Apply, and finally OK. Repeat these steps, this time making the changes under the Privacy tab. (If your browser settings are already at their default level, you won't be able to make any changes. Just close the dialog box and proceed to the next troubleshooting step.) Direct your browser to the Windows Update site to see if the issue is resolved.

(If you are not using Internet Explorer, you'll need to rule out your particular browser as the culprit. Try to reproduce the problem by navigating to the updates site using IE or a third browser.)

If the issue persists and you have a third-party firewall such as ZoneAlarm or Norton Firewall, shut it off. The Windows Firewall should automatically kick in, but open your Security Center (Start/Control Panel/Security Center) to verify it has. Once again, try connecting to the update website. If you are able to do so without crashing, the culprit might be your third-party firewall's program settings, or a corrupt file. Consult the software's Help files or the manufacturer's support webpage for a solution, and consider performing a clean installation of the firewall.

If the issue still persists, I would suggest performing a repair reinstallation of either Internet Explorer, or (preferably) Windows XP. These processes will replace any corrupt files that may be to blame for your troubles. You can find step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish this by reading the following Knowledge Base articles:

How to reinstall or repair Internet Explorer in Windows XP: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?kbid=318378

How to perform an in-place upgrade (reinstallation) of Windows XP
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/315341/


Hope this helps! Good luck.

Submitted by: Miguel K. of Columbus, OH


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