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Help! A RunDLL Error Closes Everything I Open!

written by: •edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 7/20/2010

If you get a RunDLL error while trying to open the registry editor or task manager, it usually means your computer is infected with a virus or malware. Here's how to fix the problem if a runDLL error virus is keeping everything on your computer from working.

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    From Viruses to Malware

    I have been working in IT for over ten years now, and during that time I have run across a wide variety of viruses and malware. It used to be that viruses would copy files in the background or do annoying things like disable your CD drive. When online usage became more common, so did adware that would bombard you with pop-up ads and other annoying things while online. Adware grew because people were making money off the ads being pushed. Now the big thing with computer infections are Trojans and rootkits that steal personal information and sometimes turn your computer into a spam machine and more.

    A question I'm often asked is, "What can I do if a runDLL error virus is keeping everything on my computer from working? Below are some answers and fixes.

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    RunDLL Error Closing Programs

    500px-Network-error svg Some of the nastier malware out right now tries to prevent the user from removing it. If your computer is behaving weirdly and you try to get into the Task Manager, MSConfig or the Registry Editor and are instead given a generic RunDLL Error that closes the program, it most likely means your computer is infected with something that doesn’t want you to get into those programs. The reason why is because those three utilities are the main things needed to identify and remove virus and malware infections. By blocking them, it makes removal that much tougher. Sometimes they also prevent your antivirus software from scanning.

    Image Credit: Network Error (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Network-error.svg)

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    Use a Spare PC for Scanning

    One of the best ways to get viruses or malware off a hard drive is to place it in another machine as a secondary drive and then let that machine do the scanning. This way you aren’t loading the infected operating system and it is much easier to find problems. I’ve often said that trying to remove a virus or malware infection from an infected PC is like trying to change a flat tire on a moving vehicle. The only problem with this method is that you need a whole other computer to do the job, and not everyone keeps a spare PC around. At my work, we keep a couple of spare computers with SATA and IDE type drives just in case we need to do a scan to get rid of something tough.

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    Ignore the First RunDLL Error

    Of the few times I have encountered the RunDLL error virus keeping everything on my computer from working, I figured out that if you do not click OK on the first RunDLL error and then try to run the Task Manager or Registry Editor again then it will let you in. The initial RunDLL error will still be in the way, but you could still work around it enough to find the infection and at least kill the running program so that you can try and install some security software like Microsoft Security Essentials or Malwarebytes Antimalware to scan and locate the infected files to remove them.

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    Use Dameware Remote Control

    Another great way of getting rid of viruses and malware is to use a remote control program like Dameware, though that may not be practical for home users. Dameware allows you to view running processes on other computers, and often times, it will let me stop viruses and malware simply by ending the process when I can’t do it from the infected PC. If you work in an IT department where the computers in your computer are networked together, I highly recommend you invest in Dameware for remote management.

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    Safe Mode and Other Options

    Another method you could try is to boot the PC into Safe Mode (press F8 during startup, before the Windows splash screen appears) and try to run an antivirus or antimalware scan. You could also attempt to use System Restore to reload the PC from a previous point. Creating a new user profile is another option, as sometimes malware only infects individual profiles instead of the whole system.

    Because there are so many different types of infections and behaviors, you often have to try a multitude of solutions before finding the right one. The key thing to remember in all of this is to be more careful next time you are online, and watch out what you download or click on, as most infections start with the user allowing something to be installed.