Q: My Win 7 computer has suddenly started acting up. After the system first boots up, when I click on an icon or any item on a menu, the icon flashes but the program doesn't start. If I go into Task Manager and then just exit it, and do nothing else, the programs will start when I click on them. However, if I try to move an icon on the desktop, it's stuck like glue and I can't move it.

I do not have the icon auto-arrange option turned on. In trying to troubleshoot this problem, I foolishly turned the auto arrange option on and all the icons promptly moved into a box pattern and after de-selecting auto arrange, it won't let me move them. I tried doing several system restores to a time before the problem started, and I get a fail that says could not access a file with an unspecified error code of 0X80070005.

Help!

— Curtis O., Fort Walton Beach

A: My first inclination, based on your description, was that this is the work of an unspecified malware infestation. The error code you cited — 0x8007005 — is the hallmark of many such problems, as they often attempt to access files and parts of Windows that benign processes have no business accessing. The literal translation of that code is “Access Denied,” meaning that the user account currently running a process does not have sufficient system privileges to complete a task (in this case, accessing a file).

Never having seen this exact set of symptoms, I did what I always do: I turned to Google to look for help forums and chat boards in an attempt to find discussions about similar problems and, hopefully, solutions. As you might expect, Curtis, it is getting harder over time to locate help on Windows 7. I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but you’re fighting a continually losing battle sticking with Windows 7. It is obsolete, and eventually you will be forced off of it, one way or another.

I don’t know whether the opening and closing of Task Manager is actually doing anything other than keeping your brain occupied while the system works through the start-up delays that are typical in an aging system. Theoretically, all that you described is the opening and closing of a window. However, while that particular window is open, you could use that moment to look and see how much of the system’s CPU and memory capacity is being consumed.

I’m thinking the system is thrashing. That is, rapidly swapping processes in and out of physical memory as it attempts to juggle a load that’s too big for it to handle properly. If memory usage is high, and disk usage is at 100 percent, it’s likely thrashing. You might want to run MSCONFIG and take a good look at exactly what your system is trying to run when it first starts up, and eliminate any unnecessary overhead.

So, the sticking icons issue is an interesting one. Other than the Auto-Arrange option, which you already mentioned, there are two other possible things that I know of that could stop you from being able to move your icons. Both of them are configuration items buried deep in the registry. These don’t get changed under normal use of the system, so the possibility of malware again looms.

For the first one, run REGEDIT and navigate to HKLMSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPoliciesExplorer. Look for an entry labeled “No Active Desktop Changes” and delete it. The other possibility can cause other things on your PC to stop working, so I’d save it as a last resort. You may need to reverse the procedure if you have problems.

Therefore, rather than simply give you instructions, I’m going to send you to a page over at Microsoft that describes the possible problem, provides instructions on how to attempt a resolution, and tells how to put it back the way it was if the solution causes problems. You’ll find the page at TinyURL.com/IGTM-0581. Good Luck!

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