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Windows Search running berserk

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#1 averisera


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  • Local time:09:39 PM

Posted 08 March 2011 - 04:55 PM

Windows XP Version 2, ServicePack 3

Scenario that seemed to be related to the start of this behavior -
Husband Norm took the laptop to the Caribbean where he was off teaching sailing for several weeks. He called me from that trip, asking how to get rid of the little dog which kept popping up. Also starting google chrome defaulted to the search dropdown and appeared to have the letter s in the search box. There was no way to close the search dropdown in chrome, or the search results windows that were flashing. After some time (hours, maybe some reboots, etc) he was able to close the search windows. The problem persisted however, and he basically had no use of the computer from here on.

The action he performed prior to this behavior, was to try to see how OneNote worked. It asked him to either install or enable something (some search tool or indexer). He does not recall what. He also installed a series of windows updates, for which he was prompted at the same time. For some reason, he also renamed MyComputer to FileCabinet, although this only seems to show up on his desktop in his user account.

It is now 3 weeks later, and we still are unable to solve this problem. Steps we have taken:
- Scanned the laptop with AVG for malware and spyware (everything else too).
- Changed the setting in search preference - without an animated character
- Removed the setting in search for internet by adding registry key for HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main Use Search Asst set to value of "no"
- uninstalled all our hp printer software (HP imaging, printer, etc)
- uninstalled all other unneeded software
- installed Malwarebytes Anti-Malware - ran scan, it found 2 infected items neither related to search.
- Followed the instructions for resetting the default behavior of directory and drive. Directory action was set to find. They are both now set to explore, and that is the default.

Current behavior is erratic - in that most times, this search activity starts up, for any user account now. We tried setting up a new user to see what would happen. That worked for the initial setup last night, but this morning, after restarting the laptop, that user too is suffering from the same symptom.

The way I am getting around this is by right-clicking on the task bar, very very close to the system tray. Anywhere else just seems to spawn more search windows. If I can get task manager open that way, then just highlighting any process seems to stop the search windows from running their search. Sometimes then I can click on the x in the right-hand top corner, and the results window will close. Oftentimes though, another will just open up again. There can be as many as 10 search results windows performing a mystery search. If I try to start Google Chrome, as noted above, the search dropdown will be present and no other functionality is permitted. Trying to run the registry editor, will also just open up the find window in that UI, and you can't navigate the trees or edit anything and you cannot close the find dialogue box.

In task manager, originally, I would try to identify something that could be related to this behavior. The first suspect was ONENOTE.exe. But after killing the process and removing it from startup we still had the problem. After that, ending the processes starting with hp would stop the search results. so hpqste08 and hpqimzone.exe, etc. Thus the resultant uninstall of the hp printer drivers and application. Next, I would stop quick books monitor. So I set that app to not run anything on startup. After that, we killed hkcmd, ctfmon, rthdcpl.exe, GrooveMonitor.exe. Now I am running out of processes to kill, so my workaround is getting thinner.

I have heard that Windows XP SP 3 can sometimes cause misbehavior, but I cannot identify this in the add/remove programs, so have not removed it, even though it shows up in "My Computer". Also, I have not found the Desktop Search 4.0 installed anywhere, so that was another dead end.

Any insights would be most appreciated.


Edited by hamluis, 08 March 2011 - 05:28 PM.
Moved from XP to Am I Infected.

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