Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm trying to repair a Dell laptop running Windows XP SP3 that was infected with a variation of fairly typical malware that makes a user think a virus was detected and prompts them to go purchase a solution.

I am pretty sure I deleted the executable responsible for the initial problems. Task manager had been disabled, right click had been disabled, all system files had been set to "Hidden" and all program folders in show "Empty" where you expect to see program names like Excel or Notepad. I did verify that all those program files are still in their proper folders, they've just been removed from the All Programs menu.

I unhid the files, I fixed the registry to renable right click, Task Manager, and to show desktop shortcuts.

However I still have a lingering problem in that all program groups continue to show Empty and the Quick Launch area next to the Start button is empty. I've confirmed that this behavior is present regardless of the profile so I can't just delete the user's profile and recreate it. If it's another registry setting I have been able to identify it. Anybody know how to restore these program groups? Thank you.

share|improve this question
Do all exe's work properly? – Not Kyle stop stalking me Jun 17 '11 at 19:49
Kyle, yes, all programs execute and operate normally. – JustinB Jun 17 '11 at 21:04
It spooked me for a second the first time I saw this one. Thankfully a quick check with spacemonger showed everything still in its rightful place and it was pretty quick working out what had gone on from there – Joe Taylor Jun 20 '11 at 20:48

Malware now commonly will apply the System or Hidden attributes to hide your files as Windows by default has files with these attributes hidden in Explorer, this also applies to the Start Menu.

To fix it you will need to enter the command line.

On the Start Menu you will see a search box.

  1. Bring up the Run applet Windows Key + R OR Start > Run and type cmd.
  2. Type attrib -H -S "%USERPROFILE%\Start Menu" /S /D
  3. Type attrib -H -S "%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\Start Menu" /S /D

This will remove the Hidden and System attributes from all the shortcuts in the Start Menu.

You may also need to run the same command on your user profile to show everything else the malware hid.

  1. Type attrib -H -S "%USERPROFILE%" /S /D

Once you have done this I would backup the data and reload Windows, while you can fix most problems caused by malware you can never be 100% sure you got rid of everything.

You can also use a program called Unhide from, but it will UNHIDE EVERY FILE ON THE DRIVE!

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.