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I've been having this problem for a while now. When I restart windows certain shortcuts and settings have been reset as they were before I started Windows the previous time:

Some examples:

  1. I installed 2 programs and these created some shortcuts on the desktop; I removed these programs (clean, with uninstall) after a while and this also removed the shortcuts. When I restart windows however the shortcuts are back again but pointing to none existing applications.
  2. I installed dropbox but after a few restarts dropbox failed to start up (some dll's missing). I needed to reinstall dropbox every time to get it working again. After a while I gave up (switched to sugarsync) and uninstalled dropbox but after a restart windows simply puts dropbox (although the dropbox application files were really gone after the uninstall).
  3. Recently I received and upgrade for Windows Media Player. On first launch you have to specify some settings (file associations, privacy settings, blablabla) before you can use WMP. Each time I restart however I have to re-do these settings all over again.
  4. Also recently, google chrome stopped working. The application in still there but it just doesn't start up anymore. I can reinstall it after which it works until (you've guessed it) I restart windows.

Maybe I should just stop restarting windows but I am hoping you guys can tell me the cause of and/or solution to this strange behavior?

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2 Answers 2

You shouldn't be running to these problems. I have been doing tech work for awhile. If I came across a system with the above issues, I would reformat the drive and do a fresh install. Then would install an anti-virus and all Windows Updates before doing anything else.

Before doing a clean install: try restoring back to point before all of these began or a system file check. See below for steps on how to do them.

Using Windows 7 System Restore via Safe Mode

  1. Boot up the system
  2. Push and Hold F8
  3. Select Safe Mode under Advanced Boot Options
  4. Log into an account
  5. Click the Start icon
  6. Type: System Restore
  7. Follow the System Restore wizard
    • Use a point before all the issues began.

Perform System File Check

  1. Boot up the system
  2. Push and Hold F8
  3. Select Safe Mode under Advanced Boot Options
  4. Log into an account
  5. Click the Start icon
  6. Type: cmd.exe
  7. Right-click on cmd.exe
  8. Select Run as Administrator
  9. Accept the UAC warning if it pops up
  10. Type: sfc /scannow
  11. Hit Enter
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Tx. I have AVG installed and all windows updates are also installed. Before trying to do what you suggest I've decided to create a new user in case that the issue might be related to my windows profile. I'll try that for a while and see of the problem returns... –  Stijn Geukens Sep 9 '11 at 7:34

This is a strange problem, that can (as per the answer of SgtOJ) indeed result from a virus infection or an unsuccessful cleanup after the infection. However, other causes and remedies are possible. We cannot tell you what the problem is without personally examining your computer, but we might be able to help you find it yourself.

So what I would suggest would be in order of severity (and should you follow it, feel free to report on your progress in-between steps) :

  1. Take backups of all your files and create a system restore point (to be able to return to the current state). Ensure that you have a Windows 7 installation DVD and serials, as well as for all all other installed products.
  2. Boot in Safe mode and see if the problem occurs.
    If it does not, then the problem is caused by some installed product, so continue with the next step.
    Otherwise, the problem is in Windows itself, so skip the next step.
  3. Uninstall your anti-virus and all security products, at least temporarily, as being the the most likely candidates, reboot, and verify if the problem occurs.
    If it does not, then problem is solved - find yourself another security product.
    If it still does, then continue on.
  4. Run a registry cleanup product, for example Eusing Free Registry Cleaner.
  5. Run Autoruns for Windows and see if you can detect any references to the deleted products (such as Dropbox). Then, turn of startup items and reboot until you find one product that maybe caused the problem. Autoruns has the ability to save and restore your state, which you can use while trying this.
  6. Do a Repair Install to refresh Windows itself without disturbing other installed applications.
  7. Format the hard disk and reinstall Windows and all applications (ouch!).
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Tx, see my comment on SgtOJ's answer –  Stijn Geukens Sep 9 '11 at 7:35
    
There is the User Profile Hive Cleanup Service, but which dates to XP. Might still work for your old profile. –  harrymc Sep 9 '11 at 7:44
    
Tx, I will check this out this evening. –  Stijn Geukens Sep 9 '11 at 8:46

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