A number of software installers can't find system files, even though they're right where they ought to be in C:\Windows\System, and they also tell me that a device attached to my system isn't functioning, which is ridiculous after a clean reboot. Firefox can't play videos on cnn.com, because it can't "find" my Windows Media Player, even though I have the latest version and it is right where it belongs, too. IE6 can play the videos, but I hate IE6. WMP does seem to require ActiveX, and Firefox intentionally doesn't support this open invitation to malware, but has plugins which are supposed to allow WMP to play videos through Firefox. It doesn't deny access to the videos; it simply gives a new window that says it isn't installed, with a link to MS so I can get it. But it is installed, and Firefox isn't able to detect it.
The problem seems to me to be coming from the directory tree screwup which forced me to reformat in the first place. I had several "Desktop" directories. The one in C:\Windows\All Users, I've learned, belongs there, but not the one I had in C:\windows\Profiles. There are only the two proper Desktop folders on my system since the reformat, but the problem with the directory tree has not gone away, even though the reinstall of W98SE went without a hitch.
It causes problems, because when I get one of those open or save dialog boxes, it'll show Program Files with a generic icon, not the yellow folder. If I click it, I won't get to see the subdirectories, nor can anything be opened or saved there. I have to "browse" to C: first, then to Program Files, and then it operates the way it should.
Something has screwed my directory tree, and I think it's responsible for these installers that can't find the files that are right there, and Firefox being unable to find my WMP. Apparently some programs browse my directory tree to find what they want step-by-step and others use a different way, perhaps a kind of shortcut.
Whatever it is, I know for certain that Program Files (and possibly System, too) has a doppelganger, a ghost folder with the right name but nonfunctioning. I can't find the ghost with any method I know, other than bumping into it while using my PC. It doesn't show up in a search, for instance.
The problem is not the same as it was before the format, but it isn't much better. What can survive a complete reformat? Only something like malware in the boot sector, is my guess. I'd like to know what some of the real pros will have to say, though, because I'm only at a moderate level of expertise. Since formatting, many utilities and games have the same install problem - they can't find necessary system files that I actually do have, and some device, which is never specified, is said to be inoperative. I don't have any way to find out what device they're talking about, so I can't investigate it.
Please let me know if you have any bright ideas about what's causing all of this, and thanks. I just hope I won't have to do the reformat thing again, but a little green voice is telling me I probably will. That's okay, as long as I can know that THIS time, the problem will be gone. Until then, reformating is pointless.