Windows Explored

Everyday Windows Desktop Support, Advanced Troubleshooting & Other OS Tidbits

Archive for February, 2011

Understanding and Troubleshooting the Windows Temp Profile

Posted by William Diaz on February 17, 2011

When there is a mismatch between the local profile of a domain user and the network profile, you are going to run into a scenario where the user is logged on with a temp profile. The problem becomes apparent when the user sees only a standard desktop, which is missing their previous saved customizations and personal settings. This profile is created from the Default user account in C:\Documents and Settings\Default User + the settings applied by group policy and logon scripts. When this occurs, it is important to know why so that we can identify the problem and correct it.

When you logon for the first time with a new profile, that profile is created in C:\Documents and Settings\username. As you begin working and personalizing the desktop, programs, Windows appearances, connecting to printers, etc, these settings become a permanent part of your profile. In an environment where roaming profiles are enabled these personalization’s are also written to some network location (e.g. the local office file server) so that they can follow you to other workstations you log on to. Your roaming profile is composed of various folders and files copied from your local profile, e.g. Favorites, Contacts, Application Data, and most importantly ntuser.dat, also known as HKCU, the part of the registry that contains all your configurations. The roaming profile is written to the network profile when you log off each time and any changes made locally are merged to the profile on the network share afterwards. The next time you logon to that workstation, the profile on the local computer and network are compared. If there is a mismatch, then you run into a Windows logon prompt similar to this.
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The Case of the Unknown Network Traffic

Posted by William Diaz on February 14, 2011

If you enable “Show icon in the notification area when connected” for your LAN or other network device, a small icon will blink on and off in the system tray, which gives you a simple visual indication of network activity.

One day I noticed that this icon was solid … always. I double-clicked on the icon to see the number of packets passing to and from the Local Area Connection. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Case of the Offline Chat

Posted by William Diaz on February 10, 2011

Among the various types of operations Process Monitor traces, TCP/UDP activity is often overlooked. If you want to examine packets, Process Monitor is not going to do it for you. But it can sometimes present some important clues to a problem and point you in the right direction.

In the case here, our user was not able to get our in-house chat program to go online. You can usually force this by selecting the “List” button, but after several seconds of “Loading…” it would go back to offline. In hopes of finding something revealing, I opened Process Monitor from our lab and set a filter for the executable of the chat program. There were only a dozen operations but the ones that stood out were the last 5 UDP Send operations.
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IE’s index.dat

Posted by William Diaz on February 10, 2011

I find myself working remotely on various issues all the time. Often, it is quite late and there is no line of communication with the affected user (and sometimes the technician that escalated the issue). That was the case recently. I needed to obtain an unpublished secure URL to a login portal to recreate and correct a problem. This information should have been included in the incident but was not. In our IT environment, we enforce “Empty Temporary Internet Files folder when browser is closed” through group policy; additionally, earlier troubleshooting had resulted in the IE History and Cookies being deleted. As a result, I would not be able to go through any of the files stored in the temporary Internet folder to find the URL I was looking for.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Case of the Word Open Document Delays

Posted by William Diaz on February 4, 2011

After a certain amount of time troubleshooting Word issues (not document issues) in a large enterprise environment that uses several templates, macros, and other add-ins, one develops a troubleshooting drill. This normally involves isolating a problem to a startup template or add-in. We have a lot of them and they are always increasing. For Office Word 2003, you can find most of these in C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11\STARTUP:
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Outlook .dat Files

Posted by William Diaz on February 4, 2011

Knowing what the Outlook 2003 .dat file do can often assist’s you with troubleshooting Outlook issues. The primary .dat files are: Read the rest of this entry »

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Inside Windows – Office Repair vs. Reinstall

Posted by William Diaz on February 3, 2011

All of you have at one point or another had to troubleshoot an issue with Office that required you to repair or reinstall Office. Have you ever wondered why these two options exist and what they do differently from the other? The answer is in a single parameter attached to the command and this parameter can sometimes make all the difference.

Microsoft KB article 298027 states:

There is a subtle difference between these two options and you will want to make sure you choose the appropriate option based on your situation. In either case, the Windows Installer /f command line switch is being called. The difference is in the parameters that are being attached to the /f switch.

Note You can also perform a Repair procedure from any of the Office programs by clicking Detect and Repair on the Help menu. This procedure is the same procedure that is performed when you click the Detect and repair errors in my Office installation command in Maintenance mode. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Case of the Outlook Send Email Hangs

Posted by William Diaz on February 3, 2011

Process Explorer can often times give you clues to hung processes. Simply open the hung process and go to the Threads tab. Take this case here where Outlook was hanging and showing significant CPU usage while trying to send an email. I started by identifying the hung thread. In this case, CPU time and CSwitch Delta columns make this obvious. Select the thread and double-click it or click the Stack button to see the state of the stack. The stack reads from bottom to top. Look at the most recent frames for clues to the problem. In this case, mshtml.dll stands out:
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