Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Cure for Windows Update Error 66A

Shutting down for the night, I noticed that my 64-bit Vista machine had “Updates ready to install” for the 3rd night in a row.. which is a pretty good clue that at least one Update was failing to install.

So, I clicked on the Start button > All Programs > Windows Update > “View update history“.

Sure enough, in the “Status” column, I saw a “failed”.. on an Update named “Security Update for Microsoft .NET Framework 4 (KB2160841)” (also applies to KB2446708).

So to find out what the problem was, I right-clicked > “View details”. What I am looking for is the “error code”.

I saw that the code in this case is 66A. Clicking “Get help with this error” led to several ‘solution’ suggestions – too many. So I will tell you the one that works for me.

Step 1) Click Start > Control Panel > Programs and features.

Step 2) Scroll down until you find Microsoft .NET Framework 4 Client Profile, and click on it, once, to “select” it (turn it blue), then click the Uninstall/Change menu button (above list).

Step 3) A new window will open. Make sure the “Repair” radio button is selected, and press “next”. The automatic repair may take a few minutes to complete.

Step 4) Return to Windows Update (as per Step 1) and make sure that only the “Security Update for Microsoft .NET Framework 4 (KB2160841) is checked, and click “Retry” or “Install Updates”. Now the Update should succeed. If it doesn’t, get the “standalone” installer by clicking here and choose either 32 (x86) or 64 bit (x64) to match your system.

If that fails, I suggest calling Microsoft’s support number for free tech support (as this qualifies as a security issue) 1-866-PC-SAFETY.
(That’s right. Free. Microsoft provides free support for any safety/security related problem.)

* Orig post: 4/17/11

Free offer: Folks, I just noticed that on, you can get a free 6 months of CA’s (Computer Associates) antivirus + anti-spyware.. if you need some protection. Click here for details.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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July 18, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, security, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fighting rogues

Sometimes the questions readers write in with are worthy of your attention.. and the answers worthy of an article. This question, posted on my article Your Computer Is Lying To You… The Epidemic Of Rogues, is a case in point.

But First, two quick Geek Definitions:
1: Malware: mal is French for “bad”, and ware is short for software. Most commonly associated with “virus”.
2: Rogue: is short for “rogue antivirus”, which is a category of malware of the type called scareware.

Q: “How can you tell if a program is a rogue? Will a good antivirus program identify rogues? How can rogues be fought – since it’s so difficult even for you to do it, how can I? Thank you.

A: Sir or Ms,
Thank you for posing these excellent questions. Let me break them into individual pieces, and try to give relevant pointers:
1) How can you tell if a program is a rogue?
There can be several clues.. perhaps the main one is; were you casually surfing the Internet, and some window you’ve never seen before suddenly pops open and tells you scary things? Like.. by magic, it decided to just give you a free scan, (because it’s so nice) and it found ScaryName.Trojan?
That’s a rogue. A fake. A trick. A cyber-attack.
But if you aren’t sure, Google its name.

2) Will a good antivirus program identify rogues?
A good security suite/antivirus (that has ‘active’ shielding) should detect the rogue’s processes and shut it down before it does any real harm.
Keyword: “should”.
Is there one yet invented that does so 100% of the time. Always. Every rogue? No. The cybercriminals (aka ‘hackers’) write new ones every other day, and employ new tactics weekly. And, no antivirus protects you from you: when you ignore the warning and launch the setup.exe, (or click, “yes, scan my computer please”) it’s kind of game over.

3) How can rogues be fought?
I have posted advice here – almost daily – on how to surf safely, and how to protect your machines from malware, (there are many other online resources available as well – several are in my Blogroll) but to make things simpler, I have compiled a Top 10 list (click here) to help.
Please pay particular attention to #’s 1 – 4.
(Of course, that’s not to say you shouldn’t read me everyday.. ahem.)

When it comes to malware and cybercrime, prevention is key. But, should you get infected, there are many self-help resources available, (including a few I have posted) but I sincerely believe that one should enlist the aid of a trained technician experienced with advanced malware removal  (yes, such as myself) as modern malware truly is “military grade”. (Ask yourself: how computer knowledgeable am I, really, and do I have a spare day and a-half a cleanup takes? If you want to give it a go.. see, How To Cure A Malware Infection)

.. oh yes, one more thing, if you have been infected, whatever protection you had onboard, that installation of it is no longer any good – one of the first things malware does is seek out and cripple your antivirus – and it will need to be reinstalled (or replaced).

So, I urge you to read Your Computer Is Lying To You… The Epidemic Of Rogues if you haven’t already, and please – send the link to your less-savvy friends and loved ones.

Bonus tip: If you think you can ‘download’ the latest movies, the hottest albums, and/or free copies of Windows 7 (or Adobe CS5) off of the “Torrent” sites – for absolutely free! and with no risk at all!.. odds are darned good you’re already pwned.

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.

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October 7, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Internet, PC, security, software, tech | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Troubleshooting Stop Errors In Vista

Stop Error: “A recent hardware changes, or unsigned driver, has prevented Windows from loading..”

funny BSOD

funny BSOD

The Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) is an error screen displayed by  Microsoft Windows after encountering a critical system error which can cause the system to shut down to prevent damage. (They are not always blue anymore – sometimes you see a black screen, saying only “Stop: 0×000000F1″, or some other similar, ‘helpful’ hexadecimal string – but they are still called “bluescreens”.)

Bluescreen (Stop errors) on NT-based Windows systems are usually caused by poorly-written device drivers or malfunctioning hardware. Way back when dinosaurs roamed, in the Win9x era, incompatible DLLs or bugs in the kernel of the operating system could also cause BSOD’s. (There are different types and causes of stop errors, a good summary can be seen here.)
With Vista, Microsoft got a bit more restrictive, and it can happen when an unsigned device driver is found.

Microsoft got a a little tired, I guess, of taking the rap for the poorly written, and often amateur, device driver-caused BSOD’s. (People tend to blame Windows for the crash..) And so they, over the years, have tried various ways to get the hardware vendors to write and release good driver software, and rewarding those that did with the coveted Microsoft Compatible seal of approval (usually a logo on the box), and placement on the WHQL (Windows Hardware Compatibility List). But.. hardware vendors build, box, and ship, devices.. not program code, or study all the minutia of the OS kernel.

Digital “signatures” (in this instance) are one way to determine if the driver was written by the kid down the street. When a driver has been tested and approved in Microsoft’s own labs, it gets a super-special digital certificate. And with Vista, you pretty much gotta have that driver, or expect stop errors. These Microsoft-signed drivers are available through Windows Update, and the “Update driver” feature (a subset of “Add new hardware”).

(For more on troubleshooting and/or installing device drivers, see my Plug and Play series.)

Tip of the day: In Windows XP and Vista there is a utility that you can use to scan your all your installed drivers. It will report any it finds that don’t have a “signature”. This is a great way to ‘zero in’ on the (possible) cause of the Stop error.

Use the Sigverif.exe tool to identify unsigned device drivers installed on your Windows XP/Vista computer. To use the tool, perform the following steps:

1) Open Start menu, select Run, type Sigverif and then click OK.

The File Signature Verification tool will open. Click “Start”.


The scan will run, and ideally produce the following result…


But if it finds anything, it will produce a list of funny-named files… like “msndis5.sys” which are your unsigned drivers (or, they’re signed.. but not Microsoft super-specially signed). Hopefully it will be a list of one.

2) Use your favorite search engine to find out what the funny-looking driver belongs to. (In my example, it turns out that msndis5.sys is a part of NetStumbler – a very popular wireless “hotspot” locator.) Now you will know which device, or program, needs your attention to cure the BSOD.

3) Remove the offensive device driver.
There’s options to how you go about this. In the case of my example, it is a program. So, I can uninstall the program, or look for a newer version (update) of the program.
If it were a device, I would go into Device Manager (see, If It Ain’t Broke – Don’t Fix It), select the device in question and try:
* “Update driver. If that says ‘no dice’ (”The best software is already..”),
* “Rollback driver”. If that is not available, or fails to stop the Stop errors,
* “Uninstall”, then reboot. Windows will reinstall the device, and it will grab the driver from the WHQL.

Hopefully, this will resolve your issues. If not, you should start looking at your hardware itself. I’ve run long, so..

Today’s free download: BlueScreenViewer.
BlueScreenView scans all your minidump files created during ‘blue screen of death’ crashes, and displays the information about all crashes in one table. For each crash, BlueScreenView displays the details of the driver or module that possibly caused the crash.
For each crash displayed in the upper pane, you can view the details of the device drivers loaded during the crash in the lower pane. BlueScreenView also mark the drivers that their addresses found in the crash stack, so you can easily locate the suspected drivers that possibly caused the crash.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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October 22, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, device drivers, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Troubleshoot Runtime Error in Internet Explorer

Recent calls from clients has triggered in me a sense of deja-vu. There was an unusual number of people who were having their IE web browsing session crash, due to a “Runtime Error”.

When I looked at their machines, I kept being reminded of one of my earliest articles, Toolbar madness.

So, I would like to take a moment to reiterate: People, you neither want, nor need, 5 different “media players”, 4 accounting programs, 3 Peer-to-Peer apps.. and – most certainly not – a dozen “toolbars”!
(“Paul, why is my computer so much slower than it used to be?”)

I am not sure if it’s conditioning, simple human curiosity, or what, but people have a tendency to download and install every new thing they stumble across.. So they can “try it”, or “it looked kewl”…

In computing, less is more. You want lean. You want mean. And if you don’t use, remove it!
End rant.

Error message: Runtime Error!! Program: c:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplorer.exe. This application has required the runtime to terminate in an unusual way.

Tip of the day: You can cure this malfunction by knowing that it is caused by a conflict with a (possibly corrupted) installed Add-on. In each and every of my caller’s instance, it was the Google Toolbar – so that’s the place to start your troubleshooting.
[Note: to be fair to the Google toolbar, the corruption probably occurred during an update, and was caused by these people having the Yahoo! toolbar installed also. One or the other, folks.]

The quick-and-dirty solution is to go into Add/Remove Programs and uninstall/re-install the Google toolbar, but the way to be sure – or, if you’re getting this error and don’t have the Google toolbar – is to disable add ons one at a time until the problem goes away.

1) In IE, click on “Tools”, then select “Manage Add-ons”, and then “Enable or Disable Add-ons”, as shown above.

2) A list of installed Add-ons will appear. Start by looking for “Google Toolbar Helper”. Select it, and then click on the “Disable” button.

3) Close, and restart Internet Explorer, and surf normally for a while. If you no longer get crashes and error messages, you’ve found the culprit. An uninstall/re-install is now in order (if you want to keep the toolbar, that is).
If you continue to get crashes, repeat the Steps and disable one more Add-on.. until you find the right one by process of elimination.

Today’s free link: Create your own online newspaper at (CReAte Your Own Newspaper). Get just the topics you want from the sources you want.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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January 2, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, IE 7, PC, performance, software, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments