After a long (Sun)day spent mostly working I made the mistake of continuing to poke and prod at the keyboard, only at this point, from the comfort of my bed. I should have put the lid down at the first signs of the irritation brewing from the endless popups caused by having installed a new firewall and having to ‘educate it’ (it all started with Windows Vista issues – first thing to do is to swap out as many Microsoft products as you can; if all else fails, install linux).
An alert informed me that explorer was trying to run the unrecognised ‘start.exe’ and it should be reported, so naturally I selected the option to ‘disable’ – wouldn’t you do the same?
Due to a slip of the tab key I unwittingly disabled explorer (not start.exe) and rendered the computer virtually unusable (of course I couldn’t get at the firewall or even task manager functionality beyond viewing processes). I didn’t even have permission to shut the computer down!
The only solution was to take out the battery and restart in safe mode to make a system restore.
About 40 minutes later I had the machine back. The cause of the issue had been that I had pressed the dvd drive shut (not realising it was not quite closed and with headphones on, I didn’t hear it spool up).
The start.exe was an autoload from a (kosher) DVD.
That’ll teach me.