Sunday, April 23, 2006

Q Every time I open Word 2003, it crashes after a few seconds. How can I get it out of this loop?

AThis happened on my own laptop, and it vexed me for months -- the error message shown after each crash offered no details on the problem, so I had to guess with debugging strategies. (To be fair, I might have solved things sooner if the free OpenOffice suite didn't serve so well as a Microsoft alternative.)

First, I tried deleting the various settings files that Word reads at startup in case one of them had gotten corrupted. Because Word stored this data in seven folders, most hidden by default, this was far more effort than I would have thought. And it did nothing -- besides letting me develop a profound loathing for Word's Rube Goldberg infrastructure.

Then I tried uninstalling Office entirely before reinstalling it from the CD. Still nothing.

Finally, I followed a tip on Microsoft's tech-support site and used Windows XP's Event Viewer utility (to open it, select the Start Menu's "Run..." item and type "eventvwr") to look up Windows' internal crash records. I selected the Application icon in Event Viewer's left-hand pane, then double-clicked the most recent error listings for "Microsoft Office 11" -- also known as Office 2003 -- in its right-hand pane. The same strange file showed up in each report: "hpzpm310.dll."

To identify it, I ran XP's Search tool, which found three copies of the file. I right-clicked on the first one, selected Properties, clicked the "Version" tab and was told that it was a supporting file for my Hewlett-Packard printer/scanner.

No trial was needed for this suspect: I uninstalled the HP printing software -- removing this evidently corrupted file in the process -- and Word magically stopped swooning. After a fresh install of the HP driver, it still seems to be fine.

Really, who says Windows is that hard to use?

-- Rob Pegoraro

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071

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