This was difficult to summarize in the title because it does a series of things.
I've visited this site for many years but haven't posted before. I consider myself a relatively advanced computer user, but this problem has exhausted my diagnositic skills.
OS is XP pro. The computer is from the early Vista era, but I had them load XP instead when I bought it.
Because I am not constantly watching the computer, I don't have every step in the exact sequence. (I switch between two computers as I slowly transfer everything to the new one.) The problem happens when the computer has been running for at least a couple of days, as far as I can tell, so I can't simply recreate it at will. It has happened fairly regularly for the past month at least.
This can happen when few or no programs are running. I usually turn on that PC because there are a few things I still need, but once it started having this problem, it's rarely more than Skype and my email, sometimes only Skype or nothing. Lately, I've avoided opening a browser.
One of the first symptoms is some of the desktop icon text turns black instead of the normal white I selected. You can see that in the last photo. At that time, some text had re-appeared after missing for a while (clicking on the icons can sometimes bring back the text).
Eventually, text disappears from places like the title bars, list of email, etc. (not text in a document, but that would probably disappear too if I didn't close the programs). Some of the icons disappear too. The text disappearance happens gradually, a title or some lines here and there, maybe just one side. It might be a block of email subject lines, or part of the folder list.
Some photos taken over a five-minute period:
NOTE: Don't click on the images unless you want to go to the postimage.org site. There's not a larger picture or anything else relevant.
Below is the task manager where each line should report on a running process. You can see that random sections of text are missing. Behind it, all of the icons are missing. (I think that was the control panel.)
The photo below shows one other odd thing -- the mouse-hover shows the wrong program. It shows something that exists, but it showed this one for every icon on the desktop, not just the correct one. I think it's hovering over Windows Explorer now. I don't use the program it's showing. I haven't seen this behavior before and don't know if it always shows the program displayed here.
If I catch it in time, I can close the programs normally. This morning, I found it just starting to lose text and I was able to take photos and click on various things to see what happened.
Part-way through the sequence of disappearances, clicking on any shortcut will bring up the window shown below - the box in the center. Earlier in the process, the programs will open even if some text is missing. Later, like below, it's just the message box.
While testing various actions and taking pictures, I accidently did something that caused it to restart - I was moving the task bar items and tried to drag them back to the bar. That meant the problem was temporarily resolved and I'd have to wait another few days for it to go through the entire process. Instead of a photograph, I'll describe the next phase.
Eventually, all the desktop icons disappear (not just their titles), leaving the background image and a new window with a message. The message window looks similar to the normal XP window requesting an administrator password, except that my PC does not require any sort of login. At that point, everything is frozen.
It says something like "This computer [shows name] is locked and requires an administrator password", with the empty fields below to enter the name and password. Left on its own, this happens every time and is the last thing. I usually don't enter anything, and nothing I click makes a difference. It's been a while, but I think I've tried various methods of closing the window.
If I do nothing, the text in that window eventually disappears, leaving the box and various shaded parts for the title, border, buttons, etc. Once it's gone that far, I can't shut down normally - have to use the power button since the start button is gone and it doesn't respond to the keyboard command control-alt-del.
My security-related software is listed below -- all free, relatively current versions. In safe mode, I ran scans with these.
Avast usually runs in the background, but I also did a full scan manually.
Malwarebytes (only runs manually)
SuperAnti-Spyware (only runs manually)
IObit Malware Fighter (only runs manually)
These found a few threats that I deleted, but I don't have all the details now. If that will make a difference, I can go back through the logs. None of that made a difference in the problems reoccurring.
Also, I tried running Stinger, but the new version from McAfee wouldn't run. I get an error message early in the process. One from a couple of years ago works, but that's probably too old to be useful.
Thanks for reading all of this!
Edited by ejoan, 06 July 2014 - 09:19 AM.