Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

On my wife's computer when she signs on, she gets this message in a small rectangular box:

ERROR - Unexpected error; Quitting

With an OK button.

This message comes on when she signs on and stays on the screen for 2 minutes and then disappears. Or I can click it off anytime.

Is there any way we can get it to stop?

At a gut level, this kinda sorta feels like spyware of some sort. But we should probably first see if we can figure out what program is generating this message, and then decide what to do from there.

Actually finding out the source of the message should be relatively easy. Download a copy of Process Explorer from SysInternals.com. When you run it, you'll see on it's toolbar, a small round icon that looks a little like a radar or sonar screen:

Process Explorere Sonar Icon

When you click and hold on this icon, Process Explorer hides itself, and highlights the window you move your mouse cursor over. Once you've highlighted the window you are interested in, when you release the mouse, Process Explorer pops back to the foreground, with the process that owns that window highlighted.

So step one here will be, while that error message is still up, start Process Explorer, click and hold on the sonar icon, drag it on top of the error message and release. Process Explorer should now highlight the program that generated that error.

What happens next depends on what you find out.

You might recognize the program, and realize that something about it needs to be corrected. Or you can pursue support options with that program to try and understand why it's generating that error, and eventually correct it.

You might not recognize the program, at which point you should probably Google it, or follow some of the other steps from my article What's this program running on my machine? to try and identify it. Again, knowing what it should help determine your course of action.

"... my bottom line recommendation, of course, is that you make sure to run an up-to-date anti-virus scan and anti-spyware scan."

It might show up as a system file - like, say, svchost.exe. Things get tricky here, because many system programs like svchost are multi-purpose workhorses, so just knowing their names tells you little. However adding that to the Google search could also turn up some interesting results.

Since it happens at login, you can then use the results of the investigation so far, and start looking at What's all this stuff running after I boot Windows? You may decide that it's the result of a program that shouldn't be running on startup anyway, and simply disabling the startup item will both clear the problem and free up a little memory on your machine.

As I said at the beginning, this "smells" like spyware ... or even a virus ... so my bottom line recommendation, of course, is that you make sure to run an up-to-date anti-virus scan and anti-spyware scan.

In fact, whether or not you actually are experiencing a problem, both scans are an important part of simply staying safe on the internet.

Article C2577 - March 2, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
Theo Courtriers
August 31, 2011 12:43 PM

Hi Leo,

Thanks for the advice. I downloaded and used process explorer to find what caused the pop-up that keeps on telling me restart my computer even after I have just re-booted.

I found it was the Adobe updater application file causing it. After I deleted the file ....walah no more pop-up.

Thanks for our help. You are a star.
Regards.

Theo

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