Odd, virus-like problem (but apparently, not a virus)

My friend has a laptop running Windows XP.

It recently began exhibiting a strange behavior: out of the blue, the Windows search utility will open and flash really fast, scrolling through various settings.

There’s no apparent precipitating behavior causing it – it seems to happen randomly. You can end the utility with the task manager, but another one always starts immediately. The only remedy is to reboot the machine.

As I said, I thought it might be a virus, but it still happens after I loaded anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

This laptop has been used as a stand-alone machine, so it hasn’t been online in a while. I’m thinking it needs a Windows update, and will try that tonight.

I’d appreciate any other thoughts on what it might be.

(I checked the sticky that contained a FAQ on computer questions, and didn’t see anything that I thought addressed this sufficiently. Apologies if I missed anything).

When you say you loaded the AV and Anti-Spyware software…did you first update it before you ran it to check for nasties?

See what this free virus scanner finds: http://housecall.trendmicro.com

You sometimes get things like this due to hardware problems. XP thinks you’re pressing certain keys or clicking and moving the mouse. Is there a possibility of stuck or damaged keys? Gunged-up mouse?