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Event Log may give clue about computer's abrupt shutdown

Published April 18, 2005

Q. If I leave the computer (Windows XP) unattended for 20 minutes or so, I hear a loud, screeching sound and the machine shuts down. I have contacted HP and Road Runner. This seems to be a mystery to them both. I have Norton and added Spybot, Ad-aware and AVG, looking for any help. Nothing appears to be out of the ordinary. If I unplug the line from the Road Runner box to the modem, I am able to leave the system on for hours before it shuts down.

A. First, make sure you are up to date in XP updates ( This will eliminate any of the past viruses/security breaches that could cause anything similar to what you're experiencing. Something that many XP users either don't know about or overlook is the Event Log. This records almost all system, security and application events on your system. You can find this under Start, Programs, Administrative Tools, Event Viewer, or you can navigate through Control Panel. Check the System log for shutdown notices and see if there is some explanation that may give you a clue as to what may be causing the problem. Also check your power supply. A system that is overheating will act as yours is. Make sure the fan is turning and pushing out air. Observe it all the way through to another unexpected shutdown and make sure the fan is not turning off.

Identify, eliminate bloatware to speed up laptop

Q. My laptop (Sony Vaio, Windows XP Home, 256 megabytes RAM) is a turtle. It used to be faster. I never use it for Internet surfing or e-mail. I use the Sony online only for Spybot, Ad-aware, Windows updates and Norton firewall/virus updates. It is defragged. I want to ditch all of the apps that are running in the background to speed up the performance. I want to do a little CD and DVD mixing and writing, and maybe use Word to write letters. I have a lot of auto-installed icons in my tray and on the desktop. They take a long time to populate the desktop at booting. Have you written anything that I can follow? Do you know of a Microsoft site that will help?

A. You'll find many references to getting rid of bloatware in the Times' archives do a keyword search from The best place to start trimming the bloatware on your system is identifying the processes that are running. A free tool you may find helpful is the Microsoft AntiSpyware Beta (you can download it at Within the Microsoft AntiSpyware tool, click Tools, Advanced Tools. From there you can check Running Processes and Startup Programs. Microsoft will help you identify friend from foe. Another tool I've used for this is UniBlues WinTask5 Professional ( This is a for-purchase application, but its user interface is user friendly. For any process either tool cannot identify, you'll need to do some detective work to make sure whether it should be on your system. Lastly, look into buying another 256 MB of RAM to bring your system to a total of 512 MB. These days 256 MB is barely adequate.

Startup process may be to blame for cursor freeze-up

Q. I have a problem with my cursor freezing when I boot up the computer. When it gets to the desktop, the cursor freezes and ctl-alt-delete does not work. The only thing you can do is hit the reset button. After a couple of tries, it will boot up correctly.

A. Make sure your hard drive is consistent (open My Computer, right-click on your C drive, click Properties, Tools tab and then the Check Now button). Once you've determined that the drive is sound, check the possibility that something in your Startup processes is causing a problem. Run MSCONFIG and check the Startup tab. Uncheck all processes and then start adding them back one by one (rebooting after each change) until you find the culprit. Once found, try uninstalling and then reinstalling the application.

Problem could be virus or deleted System file

Q. I am using a language program that has worked well so far. But when I insert the CD, the following message appears: "C:\windows\system32\autoexec.NT. The system file is not suitable for running MS-DOS and MS Windows applications. Close to terminate the application." What happened? And can I get my program to work?

A. In some cases this could be a result of upgrading to Windows XP Service Pack 2. In some systems during the installation, important System files such as AUTOEXEC.NT or CONFIG.NT get deleted, causing error messages such as you're seeing. It also could be the result of a virus, which does the same thing. Make sure your antivirus is up to date. You need to put back a valid copy of the AUTOEXEC.NT file. Go to and search for article 324767. This will explain how to restore this file. But first, try this shortcut: Look in the Windows\REPAIR folder for this file. If found, copy it into the \Windows\SYSTEM32 folder.

[Last modified April 15, 2005, 11:04:02]

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