After turning over every rock I could find, I still can't seem to solve my issue. Here is the story of the little Windows 7 laptop that can't open applications anymore.
The issue hit suddenly. While the laptop wasn't starting up as quickly in recent weeks as it used to, I blamed that on my husband's tendency to leave many applications open, or allowing them all to launch at start. One night, the computer was on, with the screen tilted downward while we were unable to pay attention to it. Enough time passed and it appeared to put itself into hibernation. We left it alone until the following morning, when upon waking it up we realized it had actually shut down completely, and the present start-up process was taking longer than usual. Several attempts to open Firefox resulted in... nothing. Not even a blink of the application name in Task Manager. This turned out to be true for every program except for IE (64-bit) and small default programs the computer came with (calculator, Paint, notepad, etc..) and interestingly enough, McAfee. The problem is persistent whether launching from desktop, start-menu, or file directory.
(A side note here is that the computer's memory is only 25% used, at most, and I recently defragged it, in case that's helpful info.)
A little research pointed me to a Trojan as the villain (and also indicated that IE64 would work with this particular bug, which seems to hold true to my case as well), one which McAfee could apparently not detect, nor could a full system check run from the boot menu. Interestingly, when I restarted the system after having it scan itself, it did run into an issue. It reported:
Corrupt Boot Critical File (C:\windows\system32\kdcom.dll)
File Repair: Fail
System Recovery: Success
It then proceeded to start, and maintain the same application issue, but otherwise behave normally. I have not seen that message since. There were a few more restarts after this as I attempted to forced the computer to launch various anti-viral programs; Avast, AdAware, MalwareBytes, SuperAntiSpyware, and HitmanPro36. *sigh* none would launch. I transported them from this computer I'm typing onto a USB stick, and then to the infected computer without much luck.
To my surprise, after a couple restarts and sitting dormant for a moment while I planted my head on the desk a few times, McAfee decided to open out of nowhere and announce to me that it detected a threat in the form of a trojan. By all detectable standards it did appear to be the legitimate McAfee program we have installed. I even tested it by closing it and opening it once to make sure. I had it run a full scan again (must have been the fourth time), and this time it came back saying it had quarantined the offending trojan, which had been hiding in the Temp folder (my on-paper record keeping habit slipped here, as I believed in the slim hope my problem might be solved. If the exact trojan file name is important, I will look at McAfee's scan history). Unfortunately, the application launch issue remains the same, and I know I would certainly like to run one of those wonderful anti-virus programs to make Extra Sure everything is okay before getting cozy in any case. I'm guessing the trojan my McAfee detected was only the most obvious tail end of the issue, and that it won't be capable of detecting anything but the copies or 'minions' the original virus makes of itself. But enough of my imagination
Aforementioned USB stick is now loaded with my husband's files as I had him prepare for the potential of a system wipe after asking you professionals for help. My primary problem is that everyone else who has reported this issue has fixed it by miraculously coming across one
anti-virus program or another that is able to somehow circumvent the application launch-block, and eliminate the issue. None of these reported successes (most frequently said to be Malwarebytes) will launch for me.
So, how bad of shape might our little square friend be in? I'm ready to do some serious file diving if necessary, and will do my best to report anything you guys need to know bit-for-bit. It is unfortunate that the state of the machine prevents me from using your custom reporting program. If knowing my skill-level helps, I can follow any direction to get to places within the computer, but I just won't know what anything in there does, most likely. I took a gander in the Temp folder myself, but I probably couldn't tell the difference between benign folders and harmful ones until they bit me in the face. Thank you GREATLY for your help!