This white box behind the tabs of IE7 is the first sign that things are going wrong. Soon afterwards the toolbars start to disappear (also seen in the screenshot below). If you hover over where the minimise and close buttons would be these button appear, but the rest of the toolbar remains missing. It is instead replaced by whatever was underneath the toolbar at the time the window was moved! Very strange.
So what could the bug be? Display drivers are a good guess, but that is not the case. I tried different drivers with the same problem. Then the exact same problem occured on two other computers on the network! They had ATI graphics cards, as opposed to my Intel onboard card. Other strange problems manifest themselves:
Network objects like shared drives, printers etc. cannot be accessed, however the internet and Outlook work just fine. Applications start to fail with the above application errors, with the error being the same for any executable. It is also interesting to note that the style of dialog in the second example is different, reverting back to the Windows 2000 style interface. Very strange. Things recover a little if you close programs, however the problem always comes back once you start opening things back up again. The only ‘cure’ is a restart.
Having not installed any significant software in November (on any of the affected computers) I decided to check the Windows Updates for November 2007. The main one that I installed was 943460. The main files affected are shell32.dll and xpsp3res.dll, both pretty core files as far as I am aware. I have uninstalled the patch and it seems that the crash happens less often, but it is definitely still present.
If anyone has any advice I would love to hear it as this has me pretty much stumped. I am going to lodge a support case with Microsoft and see what they come up with.