December 2, 2007

eFax and Windows XP boot problem

I just fixed my Windows XP boot problem, and as it turned out, it was a problem with the eFax software.

History: a few months ago, my Windows XP computer (which had run perfectly since I purchased it a year earlier), suddenly had a problem booting to the Windows desktop. What problem? Well, upon boot, it would cycle through the various screens, stop at the screen where you can select booting in Safe Mode, etc., pause through the count-down, and then carry on. This scenario escalated, until (recently) it seemed to loop endlessly through this sequence, which is a little alarming if it's your main production computer and you can't get to the Windows desktop.

My friend Dan (Los Angeles Computerhelp) suggested, as a first diagnostic, that I unplug all USB devices from the machine and try booting. I did; problem not solved — but it did give me my big clue: I was able to boot in Safe Mode (great but, at 800×600, not an option on a large screen), then restart and get to the Windows desktop (at normal resolution). Since, as Dan expalined, booting into Safe Mode means starting Windows without loading all the drivers, I figured the problem was likely caused by an errant driver somewhere.

Coincidentally with all this (but not coincidentally enough to set off any "light bulb" moments), I had installed eFax software on the machine — it enables you to receive "faxes" in what I presume is the eFax proprietary format. I'd had a feeling that I (really) shouldn't install it on this machine, but the client (really) insisted. At any rate, some time after the project was completed, I uninstalled the eFax software — and later discovered that the machine had gone from the problem at booting to an endless cycle of booting problems (which prompted me to back everything up).

How to fix the eFax Windows boot problem

It turns out that eFax was causing the Windows XP boot problem. Not only did the boot problem appear after I installed eFax, but uninstalling it seems to have launched it into the endless boot cycle. So I verified that eFax had been uninstalled (by looking in c:\program files), and then checked the Windows registry.

(Caveat! If you don't know what you're doing with the Windows registry, don't do it yourself. Seriously. You can mess up your machine, and it won't be my fault; you have full responsibility for what you do here.)

To get to the Windows registry:

Start > Run > regedit

Once there, I did a search for "efax" and found some entries which indicated that Windows was looking for eFax in c:\program files — but, of course, it wasn't there anymore since I'd uninstalled it. Unfortunately, the uninstall left these entries in the registry.

So, I deleted the entire eFax folder, re-searched to see if there were any other entries, and then exited the Windows registry. Hold breath; restart machine.

Presto! No more weird bootingness.

What a relief.

Whoops: Turns out I'm not done yet. So Dan is walking me through a lot of registry cleaning and other things.

Added: It turns out that some of this was my own doing, but I'm leaving the post because I did get some result from removing the eFax registry entries, and so did the poster below.

2 Comments to "eFax and Windows XP boot problem"

  1. Carlos says:

    Thanks for the walkthrough, I was having similar problem with my sister's PC, and your article helped me solve it.
    Too many errors with XP are popping up recently, I think I will have to update to Vista, what do you suggest?

  2. Diane Vigil says:

    Hi Carlos. That's excellent that it helped. (Unfortunately, my own problem is not solved yet, but it's better.)

    I don't know about Vista. My friend Dan had a lot of articles about Vista — they may help you to make a decision. I'm not upgrading to Vista, though.

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