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

Windows Installer can get into a state where it attempts to run on every reboot. There's a free tool that can help clean up Windows Installer.

On my 2004 HPa430n (Win XP SP2), "Windows Installer" launches at start up, trying to install a Fax. When it can find the installation file it wants, the next window requests you insert the Fax disk in the CD drive. The Source box has the numeral 1 in it. When you click Browse the filename box contains "fax.msi".

In Task Manager > Processes two instances of msiexec.exe are running. One belongs to SYSTEM, the other to Owner. When I try to "Cancel" out of the installer, msiexec chews up all my CPU time. When I use Task Manager > Applications > "End Task" the task named Fax, the installer is killed (msiexec.exe Owner) until the next time you boot or re-boot.

Neither HP nor MS offer a solution. Ad-aware, RegCure, Xoftspy and eTrust haven't helped. No other weirdness obvious to me.

It's deja vu all over again for me. I had a very similar problem - whenever I tried to scan something, upon completion, Windows Installer would run attempting to install some additional HP software component. Cancelling that worked ok, but it was an annoyance I had to face with every scan.

And it's an annoyance many people face with every reboot.

The good news is that there's a free tool that might help.

The Windows Installer CleanUp Utility is a free download from the Microsoft support web site. Its job is very, very simple.

Caution: its job is simple, but let's be clear about its job before we go any further. It is not an uninstaller. The correct way to uninstall software is to use the Add/Remove programs utility in Control Panel, or the uninstall program that accompanied the software. The Windows Installer CleanUp Utility is a last resort utility for cleaning up issues related to Windows Installer. It does not actually install, or uninstall, any software.

When you run the Windows Installer CleanUp Utility, it presents a list - typically a long list - of items known to the Microsoft Installer:

Windows Installer Cleanup program

These are all various components that the Windows Installer service knows about.

Now, backup. First. We're about to make changes to your system, and if something gets screwed up, you'll want to be able to recover, right?

In your case, we'll scan the list looking for something that appears to be FAX related, and something that matches any additional clues you might be seeing from the Microsoft Installer messages on your reboot. For example if it's HP Fax software that the installer is looking for, then look for HP Fax related software in the cleanup utility.

Once you're certain you've found the right thing ... remove it.

Now reboot, and see if that didn't make the problem go away. In many cases if you've selected the correct item it will.

If you then actually do want to install or reinstall the software in question, you'll need to start from scratch with a clean install of that particular package.

Article C2686 - June 12, 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.

Not what you needed?

June 26, 2006 4:51 PM

I have nearly the same problem... but there is more...
I get the Windows Installer popping up all over the place when I start a program.
I cannot ID whats going on, I cannot stop the process fast enough to see whats actually caused it to pop up.
I'd love to use the windows installer cleanup utility, but on what I dont know... my list of apps/progs is just too big for me to ID an orphan one.... I have tried and just cannot see which one it is.
Is there a utility to 'log' the activity that appears in the task manager.. so I can narrow it down? or Something else?

September 2, 2006 8:31 PM

i won't be checking here to see if you guys answered my question do you open up the windows installer, i asked leo a question and he told me to download it, but then it says it doesn't uninstall or install but wut i want uninstalled i can't uninstall so i thought the windows thingy would help........ ill fill you in more on my quesiton if you email me

December 28, 2006 9:54 AM

This solved my problem. Great article and help.


January 17, 2007 3:03 PM

Thank you very much for this tip !! :)
From France, Julius

January 21, 2007 4:05 AM

LEO.....YOUR A GENIUS! I can't believe I finally got rid of the dam fax.msi. I owe you big time. I've tried everything to get rid of that! My wife said she loves you!

Thank you so much,
Joseph, New Hampshire

February 24, 2007 10:50 PM

I had the same problem. When I cancelled the process it said "canceling" (sic). I find it suspicious a windows process would have a typo.

At My Wits End
April 4, 2007 9:28 PM are THE MAN! Chalk another one up for "The Leo"! Many thanks!

April 10, 2007 10:53 AM

Canceling is not a typo.

April 13, 2007 2:55 PM

I am so happy to have this problem fixed. I thought I was the only one with this problem. Thank You so much.

June 14, 2007 8:30 AM

This problem has been driving me craaaazy! The Windows Installer Cleanup Utility FIXED IT! You are awesome awesome awesome. Thanks so much!

August 30, 2007 4:05 AM

I had the problem exactly as described in the beginning of this article. I downloaded the utility and ran it. I immediately found an entry for "Fax" in the utility window. I removed the entry. I restarted my computer and problem solved. Easy as pie. Thanks to all.

December 9, 2007 6:43 PM

Thank you for the info, ran windows installer cleanup utility and fixed issue, Mine was when I tried to load excel or word after installing office 2003 se. Thanks again,

March 19, 2008 6:50 AM

I loaded the Utility suggested. When the window appears I do not see anything related to a Fax or Fax program. How do I identify the problem file to uninstall using this utility?

March 20, 2008 7:22 AM

When I run this utility I get a list of files that can be removed but can not identify anything that has to do with fax or fax.msi or fax installation. How do I determine with file is causing the problem

April 3, 2008 4:29 PM

"Windows Installer" runs at startup after installing Registry Mechanic. There is no listing in the "Windows Installer Cleanup Utility" for Registry Mechanic. I have tried installing and uninstalling Registry Mechanic several times.
Some articles say that software will have to be reinstalled if you use this program, this article
says, "It does not actually install, or uninstall, any software." I don't know who to believe and I don't want to start guessing and have to reinstall all of my programs if I use the cleanup utility.

Bob Cassel
June 25, 2008 11:39 AM

There is no reference in my pop up window as to what program is being installed. In the old DOS, you could step through the startup process. Is there a similar command to start windows XP? If I could figure out what program is trying to be installed, I could remove it. I ran the windows installer cleanup, but it talked about having to reinstall all the programs that had been installed with windows installer, so I didn't want to unload the wrong one(s).

Mustafa Akad
August 19, 2008 6:54 AM

If it is still continues;
Remove Kaspersky (If you have), remove all kaspersky related files, folders, databases, setting files, just everything on kaspersky.
It is worked on my computer.

August 28, 2008 1:50 PM

HP software will cause this a lot. I see "photogallery" as the problem most of the time, and since no one keeps their HP CDs, I just kill any process starting with "hp", then go into this utility and get rid of photogallery (or whichever app is trying to install itself), and everything works again.

September 20, 2008 7:02 AM

OH MAN thanx! It worked for me too!

Gerard Espinas
November 28, 2008 4:00 AM

I never thought that this utility program from Microsoft exist until I read your article.

Great Info! Thanks.

February 4, 2009 4:22 AM

I have problem with my snagit installation, where every reboot it will try to install again. I have deleted the folder, clean up the registry, using the windows clean-up. But nothing help. any ideas?

clyde henderson
March 26, 2009 3:18 PM

i installed errorfix in my computor two days ago,
i still have the same problem with windows install trying to load fax

John Perry
June 16, 2009 3:21 PM

I used Windows Installer CleanUp Utility and found 2 items that should not have been there so I removed them. After a restart windows installer did not show up, my problem was also when I right clicked on anything on the desk top windows installer would start, but no more

Brian Bevan
June 16, 2009 6:35 PM

BEWARE of registry mechanic. I used it for a long time till it became the cause of the dreaded blue screen. the result total reinsatall of XP pro along with the long long reinstall of all updates.
I emailed Reg Mech under my subscription for help but they did not even respond to any messages. They took my money and ran.
So why all the praise?

Michael Winsko
July 26, 2009 1:46 PM

I also had the problem of Windows XP Installer coming up on restart and asking for the file "fax.msi" on both my PC's. I have an all-in-one HP 2610 printer. Problem started with Iolo System Mechanic 8.0; specifically the Registry Cleaners/Defragmenters. Leo's suggestion of Windows Installer Cleanup Utility aka."mscicuu2.exe" doesn't even run as his screen prints show. I ran that program and... nothing. The screen just sat there as if I clicked nothing. Take out your registry "cleaner" and reinstall your HP printer software and don't use registry cleanup/ defrag software. I still use System Mechanic 8.0 on both PC's, but not the registry tools. Leo's suggestion did not work in my case, yours may be different.

Bill Thompson
February 1, 2010 11:09 AM

This seems applicable so I'll try it, but I am not sure. Cookie Spook, an application that eats some cookies, I once had on my system. Well, I installed it from time to time, and uninstalled, it.

Now, every time I run Firefox or restart the computer, or just about anything, Cookie Spook tries to install.

Yes I have deleted all of it from the system, even using the Revo uninstaller, and have no idea how the installer that doesn't exist is running, to then not find a component in the folder the installer was in....I think it should just come up with a banner "welcome to Microsoft's version of a product ready for sale to the public" as that seems more appropriate to so many of these errors, many of which have been here since windows 95, 98, etc. I'd buy 7 if not for Vista and this type of ongoing error from 95 to XP. I have little faith in issues being fixed that seem to persist even when Microsoft revamps the engine.

P Baran
April 12, 2010 5:35 PM

Let me ask this question?

Is it HP that is at fault when Windows Installer tries to install “fax.msi” at each start up and reboot or is it Microsoft?

I run Windows XP Home and this problem started when someone stupidly installed Service pack 3. Not only did this damage my Office 2000 Pro but also initiated this Windows Installer “fax.msi” nightmare!

I find HP printer software to be insidious, a disease, cancer to computers. I had a 5700 loaded at first but then I got rid of that printer and installed a simple 1500. I found that HP covertly loaded other software such as “customer participation” program at 270 MB along with some other cancerous software.

So, is this "fax.msi" problem an HP disease or Microsoft?

Betty Regier
April 7, 2011 3:05 PM

I still don't see any solution to my problem of what to do when the Fax msi installation thing keeps appearing every time I reboot. I need some personal help, please. Do I need to download one of the Fax free trial pacs?

April 14, 2013 3:14 PM

Some of you have posted that the "mscicuu2.exe" does not work like Leo posted. That would be because that file is now part of the Office 2010 installation and Microsoft has discontinued the Installation Cleanup Utility program altogether. Their latest suggestion is to contact the software manufacturer for help and any reference to the "mscicuu2.exe" file on Microsoft's support site sends you to a KB article about Office products.

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