Mac Problem... need help

All of a sudden, without me installing any new software, or doing anything out of the ordinary, both MS Exel and Word (MS Office 98 versions) have stopped working for me. They refuse to open and all I get is either an “error type 1” or “error type 3” message.
Also, Mac Help won’t open any more, and neither with my Extensions Manager.

I’m running Mac OS 9.2.2 and I have plenty of memory available.

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.


Have you tried rebuilding the desktop and zapping the PRAM? Here are the key combinations to hold down at startup (do them one at a time):

To rebuild the desktop: Hold down command (that’s the open-apple key) and option at the same time. When a window comes up asking you if you want to rebuild the desktop, click “yes.” This may take a few minutes.

To zap the PRAM: Hold down command-option-P-R. (This takes some dexterity on your part.) Hold this down until you’ve heard the startup chime at least three times.

You can also go to and download a free version of TechTool, which has utilities for doing the above and other maintenance items. Also see if the preferences files for Office programs are corrupted - you may need to trash them, but be sure you have your license key on hand before you do that.

thanks SanibelMan… tried the first two suggestions, but no dice. the computer seems to be getting more and more unstable. Now it’s starting to crash a lot too. :frowning:

Have you run Disk First Aid yet?
Some of the versions of that did a bit of checking on the System and Finder.
Try booting from the System CD, and see if your crash problems go away.

Back when I was running 9, I could eliminate some reccurent crash problems by swapping out the System and Finder files. It worked on my System, but without being familiar with Mac, that could easily be a recipe for disaster.

without being familiar with your Mac, that could easily be a recipe for disaster.

Have you ran Disk First Aid (or is it Disk Utility)? I’d also recommend DiskWarrior and TechTool.

Which model of Mac is it? If it’s compatible (i.e. new enough), do you know anyone w/OS X? The Disk Utility on the install disk is better (I believe) than the one that ships w/OS 9, because OS X is much pickier about things.

I would be tempted to reinstall the OS. You can do that without losing your data (though do back up first). Such wide ranging problems suggest either a hardware fault or a corrupted OS

I’d bet on a corrupted preferences file. I don’t remember where they live on old Office 98, though. I guess it would be obvious to say the Preferences folder in your System folder, but, well, there could be preferences in your Office folder, too.

If your other applications are launching normally, it may be Microsoft Office that’s corrupted and which you need to reinstall. If you boot fresh and don’t make any attempt to launch Word or Excel, is your system still unstable and crash-prone? If not, and it becomes that way after attempting to launch Word or Excel (and failing with the error message), that would be what I’d do first.

If that doesn’t fix it… here’s my generic guide for decreasingly conservative MacOS System reinstall:

b) Boot from your system installation CDROM. Rename your old system folder, something like “Old System Folder” will do. Then do a clean install of MacOS 9 (click all the “Options” buttons and “Custom” buttons until you find the checkbox that lets you do a clean install).

c) Reboot. If you boot successfully from your regular hard disk, from the newly reinstalled OS, click past all the “wizard” setup screens (put any old thing, you’re going to discard all that in a moment anyhow).

d) Open the new “System Folder” and throw the following subfolders into the trash:

  1. Apple Menu Items
  2. Extensions
  3. Control Panels
  4. Application Support
  5. Contextual Menu Items
  6. Extensions
  7. Favorites
  8. Fonts
  9. Help
  10. Preferences <— this is probably the most important one
  11. Startup Items
  12. ColorSync Profiles
  13. Internet Plug-ins

e) From the exact same list above, drag the folders with those names from “Old System Folder” into “System Folder”. Also drag any folders named for a program or software company that you have installed software from, such as Adobe, Microsoft, FileMaker, Eudora, AOL, Macromedia, etc. etc.

In your case, if you have problems after reboot, trash any folders or files within Preferences that have the name “Microsoft” in them and then reinstall Office again. You’ll have to reconfigure your Word and Excel settings, though, so first see the problem goes away without doing that.

f) Reboot. You should be back in the world as you know it, with all of your settings, customizations, installations, and so forth intact. All your applications should work normally when you launch them (although a few may demand that you re-enter the registration codes). All your documents will be where you left them, intact.

If that doesn’t work, repeat the process except keep the newly installed Fonts folder, Control Panels, and Extensions folder this time. After successful reboot, open the old Control Panels folder and the new Control Panels folder and move over only the Control Panels that don’t have replacement copies in the new Control Panels folder. Repeat for Extensions. Reboot. If your OS is stable now, cautiously add any fonts from your old Fonts folder that aren’t present in the new, default Fonts folder — a few at a time if you’ve got a lot of them. (Corrupted fonts can cause evil problems).

Thanks folks. I did check things out with Disk Doctor, but it didn’t find any problems. I think what I’ll do is try switching over to OSX, and then see what happens. I have a G4 that already has OSX on it.
This couldn’t be one of those legendary Mac viruses, could it?

If you’re interested in OS X, I’m running 10.3 right now, and thus I can give my 10.1 & 10.2 disks away (I think).

When you hear hoofbeats, the possibility of unicorns in the garden doesn’t greatly increase, but WTF…

a) Open Sherlock and do a search for invisible files with the full name of simply “DB”, and also for files named “Desktop Print Spooler”. You could conceivably have the AutoStart Worm infection. Although the symptoms you describe aren’t exactly typical of an AutoStart infection, the AutoStart does cause system instability and might conceivably overwrite a file that Microsoft Office apps require in order to launch. If you do have it, open your QuickTime Control Panel and turn off all AutoPlay (to prevent reinfections), reinstall your OS, delete all occurrences of “DB” and “Desktop Print Spooler”, and install WormGuard which will also prevent reinfections. Likelihood of you having AutoStart: if you haven’t been inserting lots of Zip cartridges, Jaz cartridges, floppy disks, or CDs from art houses or custom-burned / created by folks who deal with art houses, about 0.1% these days, but if that describes your recent activites and, in particular, if those CDs & etc. were burned in the vicinity of 1998, considerably higher.

b) Uh… there were some Word Macro viruses but they don’t do wicked things on a Mac; Macs with Microsoft Office are like Typhoid Mary if they get the infected macros, they can pass the infection along to other Word (and Excel, I guess?) docs but they only do evil things if those files are sent onwards to PCs. They don’t prevent Word (or Excel) from launching. So essentially this is a non-possibility but OpalCat says a list has to have at least three items.

c) Uh…well, back before that, prior to 1995, there were still some classic viruses coming out, and some copies could still be floating around. I don’t think any of them could be causing the problems you’re describing, but if it makes you feel better let’s run down the list. Notes in italics are quotes from John Norstadt, who used to encourage online dissemination of his virus tutorial document. You can install Norstadt’s now-ancient freeware Disinfectant to check for and eradicate any of these oldies.

• Scores. the Scores virus was written by a disgruntled programmer. It specifically attacks two applications which were under development at his former company. Fortunately, neither of the two applications was ever released to the general public…. Apparently this virus doesn’t do anything (aside from being prepared to attack the two non-released System-6-era applications) but it can cause system instability.

• nVIR. This is the evil virus that makes your Mac say “don’t panic” after you’ve launched it a thousand times after infection. (yeah, that’s the payload). the nVIR virus first appeared in Europe in 1987 and in the United States in early 1988. At least one variation of the virus was written. We know of two basic strains, which we call “nVIR A” and “nVIR B.”

•INIT 29. As with Scores and nVIR, INIT 29 does not intentionally try to do any damage other than spread itself. Nevertheless, it can cause problems. In particular, some people have reported problems printing on systems infected with INIT 29.

• ANTI. Due to a technical quirk, ANTI does not spread at all under System 7 or under System 6 when MultiFinder is used. It only spreads when Finder is used under System 6. Assuming you’re not running System 6 without Multifinder, heh heh, we can safely eliminate this one from consideration.

• MacMag. Another evil horrid Mac virus: MacMag was programmed to wait until March 2, 1988, the anniversary of the introduction of the Mac II. The first time the system was started up on March 2, 1988, the virus displayed a message of peace on the screen and then deleted itself from the System file. Since MacMag was programmed to self-destruct, it is unlikely that your software is infected with this virus.

• WDEF. WDEF only infects the invisible “Desktop” files used by the Finder. With a few exceptions, every Macintosh disk (hard drives and floppies) used under System 6 contains one of these files. WDEF does not infect applications, document files, or other system files. Unlike the other viruses, it is not spread through the sharing of applications, but rather through the sharing and distribution of disks (usually floppy disks.) Fortunately, System 7 is completely immune to the WDEF virus. Which would be true of later versions like MacOS 8 and Mac OS 9. Another one you don’t have to worry about.

•ZUC. …approximately 90 seconds after an infected application is run, the cursor begins to behave unusually whenever the mouse button is held down. The cursor moves diagonally across the screen, changing direction and bouncing like a billiard ball whenever it reaches any of the four sides of the screen. The cursor stops moving when the mouse button is released…Except for the unusual cursor behavior, ZUC does not attempt to do any damage.

• MDEF. I remember this one, it really was a bit on the nasty side as things went back then. The A, B, and C strains of MDEF infect both applications and the System file. They can also infect document files, other system files, and Finder Desktop files. The Finder and DA Handler also usually become infected. (DA Handler is a System 6 thing in case you’re wondering). The MDEF viruses do not intentionally attempt to do any damage, yet they can be harmful.

• Frankie. Frankie only affects some kinds of Macintosh emulators running on Atari computers. You aren’t running a Mac emulator on an Atari, right?

• CDEF. Another virus that infects the System 6 Desktop. Fortunately, System 7 is completely immune to the CDEF virus. Which again applies to MacOS 8 and MacOS 9 as well.

• MBDF. The MBDF virus is non-malicious, but it can cause damage. In particular, the virus takes quite a long time to infect the System file when it first attacks a system. The delay is so long that people often think that their Mac is hung, so they do a restart.

• INIT 1984. INIT 1984 is a malicious virus. Uh oh. The virus only infects INITs (also known as startup documents or system extensions)…The virus damages a large number of folders and files. File and folder names are changed to random 1-8 character strings…In addition, the virus can delete a small percentage (<2%) of files.

• CODE 252. *The virus is designed to trigger if an infected application is run or an infected system is started up between June 6 and December 31 of any year. When triggered, the virus displays the following message:

You have a virus.
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
Now erasing all disks…
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
P.S. Have a nice day
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
(Click to continue…)

Despite this message, no files or directories are deleted by the virus. However, a worried user might turn off or restart a Macintosh upon seeing this message, and this could corrupt the disk and lead to significant damage.

•T4. If your system suddenly stops loading INITs and system extensions for no good reason, it is a good indication that you may have been attacked by the T4 virus…Once installed and active, the virus does not appear to perform any other overt damage.

• INIT 17. The virus displays the message “From the depths of Cyberspace” the first time an infected Macintosh is restarted after 6:06:06 A.M. on October 31, 1993. After this message has been displayed once, it is not displayed again…The virus contains many errors which can cause crashes and other problems. In particular, it causes crashes on Macintoshes with the 68000 processor, like the Mac Plus, SE, and Classic.

• INIT-M. The virus creates a file named “FSV Prefs” in the Preferences folder. If you use Disinfectant to repair an infected system, it will delete this file. The damage caused by the INIT-M virus is very similar to that caused by the INIT 1984 virus.

• CODE 1. The virus renames the system hard drive to “Trent Saburo” whenever an infected Mac is restarted on any October 31. Although the virus does not contain any other intentionally destructive code, it can cause crashes and other problems.

• INIT 9403. Unlike most of the other Mac viruses, INIT 9403 is very destructive. After a certain number of other files have been infected, the virus will erase disks connected to the system. It attempts to destroy disk information on all connected hard drives (> 16 Mb) and attempts to completely erase the boot volume. The current strain of the INIT 9403 virus has been found only on Macs running the Italian version of the Macintosh system (so far).

Thanks for all the information… we ought to include a link to this thread on the computer faq page at the top of GQ.

I’m pretty sure that somehow my OS got corrupted. I did a clean install of OSX 10.3
(btw thanks for the offer of disks Ninja Pizza Guy) and everything seems okay so far. :slight_smile:

You held out a long time; kicking and screaming would I have to be dragged back to OS 9.