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Combofix breaking Vista Wallpaper background and thumbnails


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#1 talkingdigital

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Posted 03 February 2009 - 11:19 PM

I need to start this post with a disclaimer so that I don't get a bunch of replies that I can't use. Please read the entire post before you recommend something I have tried.

The object of this question is to find a solution that does not involve doing a reinstall of Windows or a reformat - I know how to do that.

2 out of the last 2 times I have run Combofix on a Vista machine it has caused the wallpaper to stop working. I know the warnings about running Combofix on a Vista machine so don't reply scolding me - just stick to the problem at hand.

After running Combofix an error comes up about Prep.com or something similar. Then the wallpaper turns black. I can change the background color, but I cannot put a picture up as wallpaper.

Associated problem - when you go into large icons view (remember this is Vista not XP) the icons do not show up - only the names show up.

I have run all of the standard registry edits for fixing wallpaper that you find documented on every other site - there is no entry for wallpaper for me to delete.
I have gone into the Windows Accessibility settings and unchecked (or checked) the box - another recommendation that is well documented on lots of other sites.
I have run the wallpaper_enable.reg tool - that doesn't fix it either - if you can even find the tool to download.
I have pictures enabled for the wallpaper settings.

I am a roving computer guy that works on 30+ computers a week all in different locations, running different software. I am familiar with HJT, Combofix, AntiMalwarebytes, etc and none of them fix this problem.

If you know the answer, please reply with a fix that does not consist of running sfc, running windows recovery, or doing a scan/repair of some sort. Those things don't work either.

This is something that breaks in Windows Vista. It will likely be a registry tweak or a broken system file of some sort. It is not a Windows setting so please don't recommend that I check a box somewhere or enable a group policy of some sort - I tried that too.

Sorry to come off as such a know-it-all, but I just don't want people wasting their time and mine recommending the usual fixes here. This is a well documented problem and I have spent hours searching Google for an answer. If you don't know the answer but would like to see the problem I am talking about it is an easy problem to duplicate.

1. Get a Vista machine (32 or 64 bit)
2. Do all of the updates
3. Download the latest Combofix
4. Run Combofix

I have seen that there are some new procedures for running Combofix on a Vista machine and I will apply those rules from now on, but I need this problem fixed as my time machine is not working at the moment and there is no way for me to apply the new procedures on the already broken machines.

Thank you in advance. I am not the jerk that I come off as in this post, I am just tired of reading page after page of the same suggestions and no solutions. Most of you have probably been there.

Edited by talkingdigital, 03 February 2009 - 11:22 PM.


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#2 garmanma

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 09:39 AM

2 out of the last 2 times I have run Combofix on a Vista machine it has caused the wallpaper to stop working. I know the warnings about running Combofix on a Vista machine so don't reply scolding me - just stick to the problem at hand.


Unfortunately the author of the tool does not want information on how Combofix works on public forums.

The only public information that is available can be found at this guide:

How to use ComboFix
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#3 talkingdigital

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 12:46 PM

Thank you for not closing the thread. All I want is a fix for the problem. I do not want to know the secrets behind Combofix. I pray for the developer of this wonderful tool every night. Seeing an average of 2 virus infected computers per work day for the past two months, I want nothing more than for the developer to keep his secrets to himself so that I can be more productive in my own job.

All I am asking is for a fix for the problems at hand. As of now, I am running the program but I am warning clients that it will break the wallpaper and thumbnails but I know that a fix will come along soon.

Thank you again Mr. Combofix for all your hard work. As for the rest of the forum community, please help me fix the problems I am having with Vista. Thanks in advance.

#4 Grinler

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 03:25 PM

I will see what I can find out.

#5 Grinler

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 04:45 PM

Please download the latest version of Combofix.

Disable all resident AV protection so it does not stop CF.

After downloaded run the new version of combofix with the /u argument. So if you downloaded it to the C:\ drive, you would run:

C:\combofix.exe /u

Let us know if that fixes the issue.

#6 talkingdigital

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 06:11 PM

Great! I am anxious to try it. I will let everyone know tomorrow.

02-05-09 Still haven't had a chance to try it yet - I hope to tomorrow.

Edited by talkingdigital, 05 February 2009 - 03:55 PM.


#7 talkingdigital

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 02:59 PM

Just a quick update. I have not made it back to the broken systems to try this out. I have run combofix several times since this post, but they were all XP systems. I should be able to post an update later this week. Thanks to everyone for keeping me on task.

#8 talkingdigital

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Posted 11 February 2009 - 10:54 AM

I am running combofix on one of the broken computers. The problem appears to be fixed. If you can keep the forum open for about 48 more hours we will know for sure. But, so far, so good. Thanks.

#9 quietman7

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Posted 11 February 2009 - 11:02 AM

Glad to hear that. We will keep the thread open so you can reply back here if the issue has been resolved.
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#10 scsltd

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Posted 12 February 2009 - 05:35 AM

Just to add I had this issue today, confused me for a while but ended up being AVG Free Edition 8 causing it after running combofix with the Scanner still active.

I was about to run combofix.exe /u but before doing this I decided to take off AVG Free, the un-installation failed so i ran the avg removal tool and upon restart wallpaper was back and so also thumnails showed again... so i didnt need 2 run combofix.exe /u

avg removal tool here --> http://www.avg.com/download-tools

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#11 Adam in NYC

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 07:35 PM

Hi all, I'm probably a newbie by the standards on this board.

I've been having the same problem with a small wrinkle. I had a virus on my Vista machine. So I (rather foolishly) called the Norton premium services line to have them remove it. They took remote control of my machine and ran some application that removed the virus. It also created exactly the problem described: background image gone and icons not rendering.

I believe I had spybot S&D and TeaTimer running when Norton did their mischief. I have no idea what app Norton used; they wouldn't tell me, nor would they tell me what virus I had.

I have since uninstalled Norton. I added Trend Micro Internet Security Pro (trial version) which uninstalled Spybot.

Does anyone have any ideas for me? Norton could have used Combofix, or they could have used ancient voodoo magic. They sure had no idea how to fix it.

#12 Adam in NYC

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 07:51 PM

Oy vey. Okay, after my last post I did a search and found a ComboFix log file. So clearly that's what Norton did. Only they didn't disable my Spybot, which is probably why I'm having this issue.

So, is there a newbie friendly way to fix this? I have to admit I have no idea what you meant by that \U thing.

My deepest thanks, most humble apologies, and sincerest hope for patience.

#13 TamaDrumz76

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Posted 01 March 2009 - 03:10 PM

Hi guys, sorry to bring this post back up.

While removing some virus and malware from a system for a client, I encountered this same problem. I didn't even notice at first till when I was getting ready to say everything is fixed, I noticed the wallpaper was gone and no thumbnail images were showing. I google searched to great lengths to find a cause or especially a solution.

While removing the crap from this syste, I used many utilities and whatnot. One was ComboFix(and didn't even realize it), however Combofix had an error when I tried to run it. I've used SpyBot S&D, Eset Online Scanner, Antimalware, Adaware, you name it... The thing this had in it was not being detected by anything... I also had to remove the old Norton install that was expired on this machine.

I do not know which thing contributed to this problem, and I've tried all suggested remodies, but so far nothing has worked. I thought this Combofix thing would have shed some hope... but nope. I've tried reversing what I can, restoring registry backups, etc... Nothing worked. I uninstalled all utilities I've used, antivirus programs, firewalls, and any system services they rely on... Nothing seems to bring back the thumbs or wallpapers. The system looks just like the screen-captures the OP posted.

I'm deperate here. I need to try to do this without reloading the system entirely(or a repair install)...

Can anyone shed some light...?

Thanks!!!

NOTE: VOID THIS MESSAGE. I FIGURED IT OUT IMMEDIATELY AFTER WRITING THIS. RAN THE COMBOFIX UNINSTALL AGAIN AND FOR SOME REASON IT DECIDED TO ACTUALLY WORK THIS TIME. Strange how combofix kills thumbs and wallpapers.

Edited by TamaDrumz76, 01 March 2009 - 03:26 PM.


#14 apronk

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 01:41 PM

Back in December, I had a major malware problem - zlob, smitfraud, and who knows what else.

I went to MajorGeeks and took the 136 steps (or so) that one must take to clean up an infected vista pc...run ccleaner, uninstall java and reinstall latest version, run super antispyware, run malwarebytes antispyware, etc etc.

After doing so, a tech on the site instructed me to use combofix.

Once this had all been performed, the malware was gone but the wallpaper and thumbnails were gone. I couldn't figure out what exactly caused it, and I figured it was the malware that did it and there must be some left on the machine.

I don't have much free time to work on my home pc, so here and there I'd spend a few hours trying to figure out how to fix the problem.

Then a few days ago I found a thread where someone had the same loss of wallpaper/thumbnail symptoms and asked what to do. Someone actually suggested running ComboFix to get the machine back to normal.

So I went and ran ComboFix on my machine again - I noticed there was a prompt asking me to close AVG Antivirus before continuing, because problems may arise if I allow ComboFix to continue while AVG is running. Was this message there before, in the previous version? Either it was not there, or I ignored it for some silly reason or another. Not sure. Late night/early morning malware fights do tend to leave me in a zombie-like state so it's possible I missed that warning.

Anyway I am betting that the first time I ran ComboFix, I ran it without closing AVG and that's when my wallpaper/thumbs went screwy. I was sure to close AVG this time before letting ComboFix do its thing. After ComboFix ran, everything was back to normal. Hello wallpaper, hello thumbnails. I was so relieved.

So I suggest downloading the latest version of ComboFix. Close AVG or any other antivirus/protection software that is currently running on your pc. Run ComboFix. See what happens.

PS - many sites/threads/support forums warn never to run combofix if a support tech doesn't instruct you to do so. I'm warning you now that I am but a mere software developer - I make problems I don't fix them. :) So tread carefully.




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