Using Task Manager to troubleshoot startup woes

Fred langa By Fred Langa

Sometimes when trouble strikes, you have to choose between a simple brute-force fix and a more-complex but also more-informative surgical repair.

Reinstalling software is inelegant but usually works; using Windows’ built-in tools can be quicker andless traumatic.

A blank dialog box appears at every boot-up

Something is leaving an empty dialog box on reader William Bailey’s desktop whenever he starts Windows.
  • “I recently had a failed update of my MS Office 2003 and had to reinstall Office. Now, when I boot my XP Pro PC, it opens a blank dialog box at the end of the boot process.

    “This happens after everything loads (including all my background programs), but before I open any other programs or my browser. I have run a virus scan and CCleaner. I just X out of the blank dialog box, and everything runs normally until the next boot.

    “How can I stop it? I can find no way to identify what program or service is causing this.”

William, the failed update is the likely culprit — it left something behind that’s opening the empty dialog.

The 2002, XP, and 2003 editions of MS Office are known to leave behind something of a mess after failed installations. Consequently, Microsoft eventually published support article 290301, which includes the free Windows Installer Cleanup Utility download. The utility will help you remove the parts of a failed installation that might interfere with a clean reinstall.

So, William: The quick, blunt-force fix is to completely uninstall Office 2003, run the Windows Installer Cleanup Utility, reboot, and then reinstall Office from scratch. If the problem was indeed caused by the original failed install, this should give you a fresh and error-free start with Office.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2010-06-24:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.