To go over the full list of issues I'm experiencing:
I get the following error window:
explorer.exe(in the title)
Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file. You may not have the appropriate permissions to access the item.
This happens when I try to open a folder shortcut, use a start menu item such as "User", Documents, Computer, or Control panel. When I try to access a drive/folder from the start > search box, as in "C:" then hit enter. However program shortcuts and start items open just fine.
Also, when I go into cmd (with admin) I can try to get a explorer drive/folder with "start . or start c:" but it returns the error "Server execution failed", after quite some time, with the path I enter. Programs open fine. Anything that relies on explorer.exe returns that error.
The other odd issues are that certain settings, my default browser and email got reset and don't seem to be taking to me changing them. The network connection icon in the taskbar is claiming there is no connection and no connections are available. I tried ncpa.cpl in an admin cmd and got the "Server execution failed" error after some time. However, I am posting this now so I obviously am connected somehow. I only have one cable to the modem and no wifi on this computer, not that there is any wifi connection anywhere near by so it has to be coming from the modem... inside the house!!!
I have used MSE to check for viruses. I used SFC and loaded last known good configuration. These didn't really turn anything up. I looked at the registry enough to not see anything weird according to other similar problems I researched... but probably not extensively but I don't know what to fix otherwise.
Everything seems ok in safe mode but I cannot seem to get safe mode to establish an internet connection. Haven't checked everything in safe mode extensively.
There was a lot of wind last night and it must have tweaked the power lines causing a quick loss of electricity. This might be why but I don't know win7 well enough to know what might have been going on to corrupt files or settings that I haven't checked yet. I wasn't using the computer at the time and outages happen often enough without any problems, but it does seem suspicious.
Well, permissions and folders are messed up for explorer but seems like I can fix everything from the command prompt with a lot of xcopy and moving stuff into a new profile. Didn't really fix the problem but it's all I can think to do to get back to work.