September 21, 2001

Window Manager, Brian Livingston

Fixing computer bugs

I WROTE LAST week that several-thousand IT people have downloaded Bugtoaster, a free utility that captures the reasons why Windows fails. The analysis of the resulting reports by the experts at has already resulted in several fixes that can provide blessed relief to PC users everywhere.

The company can't tell exactly how many testers are actively using the utility (because Bugtoaster doesn't call home constantly, only when a system fails). But the reports that have come in so far have been enough to diagnose curable problems in scores of cases. The following are a few.

* Fix Internet Explorer access violations. According to, many IE failures are due to an incompatibility with Microsoft's own Process Debug Manager, also known as Pdm.dll.

Microsoft has just released a patch for Pdm.dll, upgrading it from Version to You can get the new version by installing Microsoft Office 2000's Service Release 1 (SR-1) or updating Microsoft's Visual Studio 6.0 or Script Debugger. To do this, see

To determine the version of Pdm.dll you have, find the file in Windows' System32 folder, right-click the file name, then click Properties, Version.

Perhaps sensitive to's public failure reports, Microsoft recently added a new "Internet Explorer Error Reporting Tool" to Windows Update. I think Bugtoaster is a more interesting utility but, if you're curious, links to Microsoft's tool and other tips are at

* Stop printouts from failing. An extremely frustrating bug bites you when Windows' print spooler fails after you've just sent a document to your printer. says this happens because the spooler called Spool32.exe, which allows you to return to a program before a printout is finished, unexpectedly quits midstream.

Microsoft doesn't actually have a cure for this yet. But while I was researching this column, a new article was posted. It suggests putting a shortcut to Spool32.exe in your StartUp folder to launch the spooler before other apps. That and other steps are described at

* Stabilize Internet communications. The file Msafd.dll, a Microsoft service that provides Sockets connectivity, sometimes fails when receiving a notification from Windows' IP driver. notes that this occurs only under Windows 2000's Service Pack 1, so those affected by this failure should be able to cure it by upgrading to Service Pack 2.

I hope some of these ideas help you. There's more good stuff to explore at Next week, I'll devote my column to Bugtoaster comments sent to me by readers.