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The application has failed to start because wininet.dll was not found

Earlier this afternoon I had to help a student with a typical spyware/ virus issue. At least that’s what I initially thought the service call would entail. Boy was I wrong. The problems started with the error message “The application has failed to start because wininet.dll was not found” and led to the Task Manager not loading and various Windows XP services not loading.

To work around this problem I had to find a copy of WinInet.dll (The file contains components for Internet related operations) and then re-register the file to ensure that Windows XP would recognize the new file.

Below is a summary of the steps I took to resolve the problem:

1) Download WinInet.dll from an online source or computer. Thanks to the wonderful service of Dll-files, I was able to find a compressed version of WinInet.dll However, part of the problem is that the shell extensions for Compressed Folders was also disabled.

2) From another computer I extracted the WinInet.dll file and then saved the file to an external disk. The extracted WinInet.dll file was then copied to \Windows\System32\

3) Press Ctrl+Alt+Del and select Task Manager.

4) Click on File and then on New Task and then type regsvr32 C:\Windows\System32\WinInet.dll

After running the above steps I was able to restart the computer. Obviously, the above error was caused by some variant of spyware. After further research the problem appears to be fairly common and various removal tools such as SmitRem can help with the removal of the spyware and also replace the WinInet.dll file.