I had an issue last week with my Windows PC, which is currently running Windows XPSP3.  Mac users, you can stop reading right now.

Midafternoon one day, I started receiving errors when I would try to open certain executables by clicking on their icons (on the desktop, the start menu, in explorer).  The error message was “The specified path does not exist” followed by the pathname of the executable.  When I opened the file manager and browsed to that path, sure enough, the file was there.  In addition, when I shut my computer down, I was seeing the 0xc000012 error message.
There were some really weird things about this behavior.  First of all, it affected some executables (like notepad and all my browsers) but not others (like yahoo messenger).  Second, starting up the executables from the command line worked, as did starting them up by another program (as in, one of the programs which started up fine had a ‘check for updates’ option, which started FireFox just fine).  Also, I could start any program by right clicking on it and ‘running as’ a different user.  Finally, in safe mode, everything worked fine, which indicated, thankfully, that I didn’t have a hardware problem, and also gave me a chance to do a backup of everything, Just In Case.
I won’t walk you through all the links I found via google, or explain my frustration, or talk about the tools I used to try to fix the issue.  I’m just going to tell you what worked for me.  I finally stumbled on this fantastic malware and spyware removal guide from Geeks To Go.  I printed it out, downloaded all the tools, and followed the directions faithfully.  And now I’m up and running.

This was my first spyware infection in the 7 years I’ve been running Windows XP.  I hope to go another 7 years, but if I don’t, I now know where to turn to first.

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