Monday, July 11, 2011

What the DLL
Or, 101 Things Wrong With My Computer

Back in February, I purchased a new laptop. It was a serious upgrade from my old system, which tended to restart instead of shutting down, would flash the Blue Screen of Death at the slightest provocation, and – worst of all – could not play Portal 2!

I invested a thousand+ bucks in my new computer and was pretty happy with it, until I noticed it was making little popping noises right before it would play a sound. And it would continue periodically making these noises the whole time when I listened to streaming music. Fortunately, the system came with a 2-year warranty from ASUS, so I sent it back and they replaced the I/O board. (I like to imagine I know something about computers, but I didn't know what that was, and I still haven't bothered to look it up!) Shortly before the machine was returned to me, I noticed that my old computer was making the same popping noises! I concluded that was something every computer does, and I probably shouldn't have sent mine back, because they reinstalled the operating system, and I had to reinstall all my software and reconfigure all the settings just so—which, me being my picky self, is the only way I can tolerate them.

A week or so after finishing with that tedious process, I was in the midst of some work when the computer slowed to a crawl and then froze entirely. Nothing I tried made it work again, except for restarting. But that only worked for a little while, and then it would recommence with its freezing-up antics. Two days of troubleshooting provided no answers, and my attempt to (again!) reinstall the operating system was thwarted when that process also froze up and, after a long long pause, told me it could not be completed. I called ASUS again; they concluded my hard drive had failed; I sent the system back to get it replaced.

Wait another week. Upon receipt of my fixed-up laptop, I carefully, painstakingly, began the steps of getting the system ready for use. I'm convinced whatever those ASUS dudes did to my system, they did it wrong. Because what followed was weeks of error messages and endless frustration as nothing worked the way it should out of the box.

One of the first things I did was check to make sure System Restore was turned on (When my hard drive failed, I first tried running System Restore, only to find it was turned off!). It was turned off this time, too. When I tried to rectify this, I was informed that I could not turn on System Restore because my computer could not find the C: drive. (Hello! My computer is the C: drive!) Fortunately, (miraculously, I should say), the next time I turned the computer on, System Restore was on and perfectly healthy.

But my antivirus wasn't. Although I had just installed it a few days before, it already thought my subscription had expired. Attempts to renew the free subscription resulted in a "Connecting to Update Server" message that never – ever – moved on to the next step. And oh, boy! Have you ever tried uninstalling an antivirus program? Those things protect themselves like they're their own Secret Service Agency. When I couldn't uninstall it using Add/Remove Programs, I foolishly deleted all of its program files (that I could find) from the computer, which did not discourage it in the slightest. I then tried to delete all of its registry entries, but I kept getting "Access Denied" errors. Meanwhile, ol' Antivirus kept running and preventing me from installing other antivirus software, but now I had no access to its controls and settings! Finally it occurred to me to check the vendor website, where I found an uninstall utility. Problem solved. But there were more problems occurring simultaneously.

Now, normally when I reinstall Windows, Windows Update runs in overdrive, downloading thousands of updates and installing them over a period of several shutdowns and days. A day or two into possession of my restored system, I noticed I was not getting any messages from Windows Update. So I opened it up to find out what was going on. Well, whaddaya know! Automatic Update was turned off, too! When I tried to turn it on, I was told, "Windows Update cannot check for updates, because the service is not running." What service, you might ask? Well, Windows Update was not so kind as to explain. Interestingly, right below the button to check for updates, I saw the following text: "Click here for more free software from [null]." I was terrified I had some sort of deadly virus. Lots and lots of scouring the Internet only confirmed this fear, telling me that the only solution was to reinstall the OS, which made me very, very angry! I had already spent days tidying up this system—twice! I did not want to have to do this again within a week of getting it back from service! Fortunately, lots and lots and lots of scouring the Internet revealed a Microsoft Fix It that, in fact, fixed it.

After Windows Update was happily chugging away on its gazillion downloads, I thought I was finally in the clear. I had several programs already installed, and I thought I was finally ready to get back to work. Then, one by one, my installed programs turned on me.

Keyboard backlighting, which was a feature that came with the computer, wouldn't turn on automatically. I had to push the button to turn off all the lights, then push it again to turn them back on. With them came the keyboard lighting. I had to reinstall the whole pack of utilities that came with the computer to make this work properly.

Then my Google sidebar couldn't load any of my previously installed gadgets. I had to reinstall Google Desktop.

Then Google Chrome wouldn't open. Clicking the icon caused absolutely nothing to happen. I had to reinstall Chrome.

At this point, you might think that Google just sucks and I should stop using their software. But the next program to fail was from Adobe. Acrobat could not convert any file into a PDF. I had to repair the installation of Adobe Acrobat.

Then I started having the MSVCR issues. One program after another would freeze up, treating me to an error message about a missing MSVCR90.dll. Some more Internet searching led me to believe that if I found this file anywhere on my file system, I should copy it to the Windows/System32 or Windows/SysWOW64 folders. Well, I found it. In multiple places. In each place, it was a different size and had a different modified date. I chose the newest one and popped it into both of the recommended directories.

The next day, my error messages had changed somewhat. Now I was getting messages like:
Runtime Error! Program: C... [Thanks for the informative file path info]
An application has made an attempt to load the C runtime library incorrectly. Please contact the application's support team for more information.
First it was Word, then it was Firefox and Dreamweaver in rapid succession. Well, then I started putting MS and C and R together, and came up with Microsoft Visual C++ Runtime. I deleted the misplaced DLL from the System32 and SysWOW64 folders, and installed the Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 Redistributable, which I found online. It did not put MSVCR90 back in either of those folders, but since then, I have not received any error messages.

It has been several weeks since I got my computer back the last time. I have been stockpiling all these problems, waiting for the day when I would stop running into them. Then, I would dump them on my unsuspecting readership! Since it's been 3 days since I suffered any computing catastrophe, I think it's safe to share! Don't you feel privileged?


Anonymous said...

Computers can be outrageously difficult to fix. That story is a nightmare. I think I'm glad we bought Jackie the Dell instead of the Asus we looked at. Not that Dell has a stellar record either but at least nothing like that has happened to either Dell laptop so far. Fingers crossed and smacking the nearest wooden object soundly...