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XP Permissions Fiasco - Please help!

A few days ago I was having trouble deleting a non-working file (Zonealarm exe file) because it had the attribute "read-only". This attribute was "grayed out" so I couldn't change it. I then noticed that ALL the files and folders in my C drive were the same way (don't know how that happened).

I went to the C drive folder (toshiba satellite laptop running XP pro, SP3+) and looked in properties/security and after trying a few things that didn't work, I changed the user permissions to full control thinking this could undo the read only status. Then in the advanced panel I checked the box called "Inherit from parent the permission entries that apply to child objects. Include these with entries explicitly defined here", expecting that to propagate the new full contrrol permissions to all files/folders in C drive.

After the system "searched" (and changed) many files, it stopped. I checked the file I wanted to delete - and it was STILL grayed out read-only.

Thought maybe I needed to reboot, so I did that -- then everything got worse! My XP wouldn't even boot. BSOD saying "autochk program not found... STOP: fatal sys error 0xC0000022". From web searches on that code, looks like the crash is caused by a permission problem. (That figures)

Next I'll pull the HD from my XP machine, and using an HD to USB adapter (ordered one which should arrive on Monday), plug it into my Vista laptop. From there I should be able to explore the XP drive and HOPEFULLY fix the screwed up permissions.

That's what I need help with. I don't understand why what I did before with the permissions screwed things up. Anyone understand what happened?? And I'm not sure if adding the XP HD to the vista machine will even allow me to play with the permissions.

How should I proceed?? (I need to get my XP machine out of its endless boot loop, and to get my files out of read only status.)

Thnaks,
Jack

PS - Booting the XP machine in DOS shows me that the directory structure on the HD is still intact. So I assume there's nothing really wrong with the drive itself. I have no idea if I can change permissions from DOS.

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Comments
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The only thing you may have done wrong.

Is to delete that file manually rather than uninstall ZoneAlarm or try installing a newer ZA in hopes it would remove the old version. But here's what's going on. ZoneAlarm loads very early in the boot process and can lock files at the kernel level. While we can forcibly remove files in many ways we are asking for trouble and may get to repair this OS!
Bob

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Thanks, Bob.

Actually the story started earlier... I was having trouble getting the latest version of Comodo Internet Security running. I had been using an earlier version of Comodo successfully for some time.

Thinking that maybe my old zonealarm installation might be interfering, I tried to "cripple" zonealarm by renaming zonealarm.exe to zonealarm,exeXXX so it wouldn't run. That didn't help comodo, so I decided to uninstall zonealarm completely. I was greeted with "can't access that file" message. I then tried to remove the XXX and was told I didn't have permission to change it.

It was then I noticed that the zonealarm folder was "read only". And trying to change that led to the crash as described earlier.

Since then I've learned that ALL folders in the root drive (C) are "grayed-out, read-only", even in the vista machine I'm using now. Beats me as to why.

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Which is why.

We must be ready to repair the OS if we forcibly delete or rename software rather uninstall. This is not new news but if you want to try to repair the OS google this:

XP REPAIR INSTALL.

Bob

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