Windows XP or Windows 7 Won’t Boot into Safe Mode

Usually when something goes wrong in Windows, we can fix it by restarting the computer and going into Safe Mode, which basically loads the bare essentials that are needed for Windows to run. At this point, you can try to fix whatever issue is causing problems.

However, there are certain times when you can’t even boot into Safe Mode! When that happens in Windows, you know that’s not good. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why Windows won’t boot into Safe Mode.

Reasons can be anything from your mass storage driver becoming corrupted to the hard drive having disk errors to a corrupted registry. In this article, I will try to compile all the resources I have found for fixing this problem.

Method 1 – Recovery Console

The recovery console can be your best friend in situations like this. There are several useful commands in the Recovery Console that might be able to fix the boot problem with Windows XP or Windows 7.

Firstly, check out my previous article on how to fix a missing or corrupt NTFS.sys file, which shows you how to get into the Recovery Console.

Once you’re in, you’re going to want to run a few commands. Here’s what you should try:

1. chkdsk /r – The chkdsk command will check the hard disk for any errors. The /r switch will repair any errors autoamtically.

2. fixboot – Will write a new partition boot sector to the system partition. Note this command is available in Windows XP only.

3. bootcfg /rebuild – This will rebuild the boot.ini file in case it got corrupted during an attempt to modify it or in a dual boot situation.

4. sfc /scannow – This command will scan all the Windows system files and replace any corrupted ones with working ones.

You can also use the Recovery Console to enable/disable a faulty service or driver. Read the following article to learn how to disable a service or disable a driver using the Recovery Console:

Method 2 – Repair Install

If none of the recovery console commands work, you may have to perform a repair install. A repair install will basically replace all of the Windows system files with new ones from the CD. All Windows updates will be lost too.

However, you will not lose any data or applications. You can read the above-mentioned article, which walks through the steps to perform a repair install.

You can also read the Microsoft Knowledgebase article on how to perform a reinstall of Windows XP, which goes into greater detail:

Method 3 – Replace Registry

If the Windows registry is corrupted, you may also not be able to boot into safe mode. You might see errors like

Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM


Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SOFTWARE

In these cases, you should follow the steps in this article below to replace the corrupted registry hives with new ones:;en-us;307545

Method 4 – Reset CMOS/Reset BIOS

Sometimes if you upgrade your PC or change out a component, you might run into hardware compatibility issues.

If you have this problem, you might want to reset the CMOS, which will reset the BIOS to factory default settlings. Below are some good guides to resetting the CMOS:

If you’ve run into other ways to fix the problem of not being able to boot into Safe Mode, post a comment here and let us know.

Fix COM Surrogate has Stopped Working in Windows 7

I was playing around with one of my virtual machines running Windows 7 the other day, when I ran into a bit of a problem. I was trying to right-click on My Computer and choose Properties and got the following error message:

Runtime error!

Program: C:\Windows\SysWOW64\DllHost.exe

After clicking on OK, I get an message stating that COM Surrogate has stopped working.

com surrogate has stopped working

If I click Cancel a few times, it eventually goes away and I can access what I want, but it’s pretty annoying. It also happened when I tried to click Personalize on the desktop and when trying to use the Control Panel.

Eventually, I found a couple of solutions and tried them out. Luckily, one of them worked and the problem went away. Below are the solutions I found.

Method 1 – Uninstall Adobe Photoshop CS3, Nero, etc

Apparently, certain versions of Adobe CSX and other software like Nero 8 can cause the DllHost.exe error. If you recently installed some new software, go ahead and uninstall it and restart your computer.

Note that this problem tends to occur more on 64-bit systems than 32-bit. Badly written 64-bit software can cause issues, so make sure you download the latest 64-bit versions on all your third-party software.

If you’re not sure what app could be causing the problem, you can use the Reliability Monitor in Windows 7 to figure it out.

Go to Control Panel, System and Security, Action Center, and then Reliability Monitor. You can also type reliability monitor into the search box at the top right.

reliability monitor

Next, click on View all problem reports at the bottom and you’ll now end up in the Problem History screen.

windows problem reports

Find the crash report that has COM Surrogate in the source and then right-click on it and choose View Technical Details. Check out the entry that says Fault Module Name as that usually tells you which program caused the problem.

I’ve also heard that Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 can cause the problem with dllhost.exe and com surrogate. Adding the dllhost.exe to the exclusions list in KIS 2011 seems to solve the problem.

Lastly, DivX and ffdshow codec pack programs have been known to cause this error, so download the latest version of the codec or uninstall them. If you’re using any other codecs like K-Lite, install the latest versions or uninstall them completely.

Method 2 – Turn off DEP or Add Exception

Another way to possible solve this problem is to turn off DEP or Data Execution Prevention. You can do this in Windows 7 by right-clicking on My Computer, choosing Properties, and clicking Advanced system settings.

dllhost.exe error

Click on the Advanced tab and then click on Settings under the Performance section.

com surrogate

Finally, click on Data Execution Prevention and click on Turn on DEP for all programs except those I select and add dllhost.exe to the list.

turn off dep

Hopefully this fixes the Com Surrogate error in Windows 7. If not, post a comment and I’ll try to help.

Fix “Windows Cannot Connect to the Printer” Error

One problem I’ve run across a lot with clients is not being able to print to a networked printer. The most popular error message I see is

Windows Cannot Connect to the Printer or

Windows Cannot Connect to the Printer. Access is Denied.

There are several reasons why this error can come up and a lot depends on your setup. Firstly, I ask users whether the printer is actually a networked printer with a LAN port or if it is simply connected to another computer and is being shared on the network.

Depending on that, you have to troubleshoot the problem differently. I’ll try to go through all the possible solutions I’ve come across for fixing this printing error.

Shared Networked Printer

If your printer is attached to a computer and you have shared the printer on that PC and are now trying to add that printer to another PC on your network, you can try a few things. Firstly, go to the Add Printer wizard and choose A network printer, or a printer attached to another computer.

cannot connect to printer

Click Next and choose Connect to this printer. Then type in the path to the shared printer by entering “\\” followed by the computer name on which the printer is shared followed by the printer name.

add printer network

You should be able to connect to the printer. If you’re getting the cannot connect error message, then you can try to add the printer as a local printer. You can do this by choosing Local printer attached to this computer and unchecking Automatically detect and install my Plug and Play printer.

On the next screen, choose Create a new port and choose Local Port from the list.

cannot print

Click Next and you’ll be asked to enter a Port Name. Here you will type in the path to the printer we mentioned above.

connect to printer

That should work! Remember only do these steps if your printer is attached to a another computer and it is being shared on the network.

Networked Printer

If you have a printer that is attached directly to your LAN network or wireless network, you should also choose Local printer attached to this computer, and then choose Create a new port like mentioned above.

However, instead of choosing Local Port, choose Standard TCP/IP Port.

printer connection problem

Type in the IP address of the printer and you should be good to go. If you don’t know the IP address, you can print the configuration sheet off the printer.

Windows Firewall

Another reason why your might not be able to connect to the printer is if your firewall is preventing the connection. Make sure File and Printer Sharing is allowed through the firewall on your computer and the computer to which the printer is attached.

You can enable File and Printer Sharing by going to Control Panel, Windows Firewall and then clicking on Exceptions.

file and printer sharing

Make sure the File and Printer Sharing check box is checked. That will ensure your connection is not being blocked by the firewall.


You’ll also see this Cannot Connect to Printer error is you are trying to add a printer to a Windows 7 machine and the computer that is hosting the printer is running Windows XP or Windows Vista.

In this case, you have to download and install the Windows 7 drivers from the manufacture’s website on the host machine. When you try to connect to the printer again from Windows 7, the driver for the Windows 7 OS should be available from the host machine for installation.

Note that you can run into this problem with 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems. If the computer hosting the printer is a 32-bit machine and the computer trying to connect is a 64-bit machine, you will not be able to connect.

You need to install the 64-bit version of the printer driver on the 64-bit machine and try to connect again. You can also try to install the 64-bit driver onto the host machine, but it’s a bit more difficult. Either way, you will need to make sure you have all versions of the drivers and that the 64-bit and 32-bit printer drivers have the same name.

Anti-Virus Software

A little bit less common is when anti-virus software blocks connections. Try disabling your anti-virus software and then connect to a shared printer. This is especially true if you are using Norton Anti-Virus or their full suite of apps.

If you’re still having problems connecting to a printer, post a comment here and I will try to help!

Fix Task Manager Problems in Windows

This post covers two problems you may have experienced with the Task Manager in Windows.

Get Back the Task Manager Missing Menus and Tabs

The disappearance of the menus and tabs in Task Manager happens if the Task Manager is in compact mode. Your Task Manager window may look like the following image.

Compacted Task Manager

You may have accidentally double-clicked on the border of one of the tabs on the Task Manager. To get the menus and tabs back, just double-click on the border again.

Double-click on border to compact=

Task Manager Disabled

You may have encountered the following dialog box when pressing Ctrl + Alt + Del to access the Task Manager. This may be caused by a virus or trojan that disables the Task Manager.

Task Manager has been disabled

To enable the Task Manager, select Run from the Start menu.

NOTE: You can also press the Windows key (windows_key) + R to display the Run dialog box.

Selecting Run from the Start menu

On the Run dialog box, enter “gpedit.msc” (without the quotes) in the Open edit box and click OK.

Opening the Group Policy editor

The Group Policy editor opens. Navigate to User Configuration | Administrative Templates | System | Ctrl+Alt+Del Options. There are four items in the list on the right. The Remove Task Manager option has a State of Enabled. To change this, double-click on Remove Task Manager.

Remove Task Manager option

The Remove Task Manager Properties dialog box displays. Select the Disabled radio button and click OK.

Disabling Remove Task Manager

The Remove Task Manager option should now read Disabled in the State column.

Remove Task Manager disabled

To close the Group Policy editor select Exit from the File menu.

Closing the Group Policy editor

We tested both of these fixes in Windows 7 and the procedures are the same.

by Lori Kaufman

Fix Windows 7 MBR

Unfortunately with Windows 7, the MBR (Master Boot Record) can become corrupted just like in Windows XP or Windows Vista. If the MBR becomes corrupt in Windows 7, you might get a message saying “Operating System not found” when trying boot up your computer.

This message usually scares everyone because you cannot load the operating system at all. Luckily, instead of spending hundreds of dollars getting it fixed, you can fix the problem yourself. All you have to do is make sure you have the original Windows 7 DVD that came with your computer.

Repair MBR in Windows 7

First, insert your Windows 7 DVD into your DVD drive and restart your computer. You should get a message asking to press any key to boot from CD.

press any key to boot from cd

Note that this message will automatically come up if your boot order is set to CD/DVD drive first. If not, you will not get the message to press any key. In that case, you can read our previous article on how to change the boot order in the Windows BIOS.

Next, choose the Language, Time and Keyboard and then press Next. Usually, you do not have to change anything here.

fix mbr windows 7

On the next screen, you will see a link called Repair your computer at the bottom. Click on that.

windows 7 repair your computer

System Recovery Options will now search for Windows 7 installations on your computer.

search windows installations

Once it finds it, go ahead and select your operating system and choose Next.

windows 7 repair mbr

Now you will see the list of System Recovery Options, which include Startup Repair, System Restore, System Image Recovery, Windows Memory Diagnostic, and Command Prompt. In our case, we will choose Command Prompt since we have to run a command to fix the MBR.

windows 7 system recovery options

At the command prompt, simply type in bootrec.exe /fixmbr and press Enter.

fixmbr windows 7

That’s it! Restart your computer and hopefully you will see the Windows logo instead of that horrible “Operating system not found” error message. You can also read our previous post on how to fix the MBR in Windows XP and Vista.

Use Command Line Switches in Outlook 2010

By default, running Outlook.exe will launch the program and start it normally in Windows. This is what occurs when you click on the Outlook desktop icon. However, there are many times where it would be useful to alter the startup of Outlook 2010 by adding a command line switch.

Instead of running outlook.exe, you can add a switch such as shown below:

outlook.exe /safe

This will launch Outlook without the Reading Pane or any toolbar customizations and will turn off any COM add-ins. A helpful command if Outlook is crashing because of a recently installed add-in.

You can run Outlook 2010 with a command line switch in one of two ways: using the Run command and creating a shortcut.

Run Command

In Windows Vista and Windows 7, click on Start, and then type Run into the Search box. Press Enter and the Run dialog box will appear.

Enter the full path to the Outlook.exe file and include the path in quotes. After the quotes, you can type in the command line switch as shown below:

“c:\program files\microsoft office\office14\outlook.exe” /safe

outlook 2010 command line switch

Windows Shortcut

If you want a more permanent solution, you could create a shortcut to the modified Outlook startup. Simply follow the first few steps of this previous article and type in the above mentioned path (including the quotes)where it says “Type the location of the item”.

Basically, you right-click on the Desktop and choose Create Shortcut Wizard. After that, you just give it a path and a name and you’re done.

Outlook 2010 Command Line Switches

Below are some of my favorite command line switches that I have used in an IT environment.

/a – Create a message with a specified file as an attachment, i.e. “c:\program files\microsoft office\office14\outlook.exe” /a “c:\my documents\test.doc”

/c messageclass – Creates a new item with a specific type of message class. Examples include:

  • /c ipm.appointment creates an appointment
  • /c creates a contact
  • /c ipm.note creates an e-mail message
  • /c ipm.task creates a task

/cleanautocompletecache – Removes everything, including names and email addresses, from the auto-complete list.

/cleanrules – Deletes all client and server based rules on Outlook startup.

/cleansharing– Useful if you cannot delete a RSS subscription from Outlook 2010. This will remove all RSS, Sharepoint, and Internet Calendar subscriptions from your account settings.

/nopreview – Starts Outlook 2010 with the Reading Pane turned off.

/safe – Starts Outlook without Reading Pane, Toolbar Customizations, and COM add-ins.

There are many more command line switches and you can read about the rest on the Office website:

If you need some help in using one of the switches, post a comment here and I will try to help! Enjoy!

Determine IP Address From a MAC Address

Ever had to reverse lookup an IP address? Kind of like looking up a home address using a phone number? If you’re in IT, you might come across the occasional situation where you have a MAC address, but need to figure out what the IP address is.

There are a couple of ways you can go about doing this. Firstly, it’s important to understand that the MAC address might not be the address for a PC. It could also be the MAC address for a printer or some other type of device on the network.

If you suspect the MAC address is a printer, first check out this site below to see if it matches a major manufacturer:

You can also find out if the MAC address is from a switch or other networking device from HP, CISCO, etc. If you’re sure the MAC address is a computer, then try the methods below to determine the IP address.

Method 1 – DHCP Server

The simplest way to get an IP address from a MAC address is to check out the DHCP server, if possible. Whether you are in a corporate environment or at home, each computer is being assigned an IP address from a DHCP server (unless it’s a static network, which is rare).

You can either go into the DHCP console on Windows Server 2003/2008 or you can log into your wireless router at home, if that is what you are using.

find ip address

Simply go to Address Leases under the Scope and you can view both the client IP address and the Unique ID, which is the MAC address.

If you have a wireless router at home, it will vary depending on the brand (Belkin, Netgear, LinkSys, etc). But basically, there should be a section to view all the current devices connected to the wireless network.

On my AT&T U-Verse box, it’s right on the home page and I simply click on Device Details to view the MAC Address.

get ip address from mac

Method 2 – Ping Broadcast Address

The second way to do this if you can’t get access to your DHCP server is to use a useful command in Windows called ARP (Address Resolution Protocol).

Basically, you ping the broadcast address on your network from any Windows machine and then check out the ARP table afterwards.

If you subnet is 192.168.1.X with a mask of, then you would ping When you ping, you will get a Request Timed Out all four times, but don’t worry.

ping mac address

Next, type in the following command

arp –a

You will now get a list of all the connected devices on your network along with their physical addresses! Pretty nifty trick.

arp -a

Method 3 – Free Tools

Lastly, you can use a free program to get a IP address from a MAC address. It’s called CC Get MAC Address and it can be downloaded here:

Before you can use it, however, you need to scan all the IP addresses in your subnet in order for it to work. The program itself has a auto scan feature that takes in a IP range.

You can also use a free program called Advanced IP Scanner, which will do the same thing and is a program totally dedicated to scanning IP addresses:

You can also use the IP Scanner and then simply run the arp –a command to get a list of IP/MAC Addresses.