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Found the needle in the haystack, for anyone who gets afflicted with this bizarre 1 in a million (i assume) scenario:
Within the %TEMP% folder in Windows 7, is a hsperfdata_<windows user id> folder where java stores the PIDs of java processes. this post (https://blogs.oracle.com/lmalventosa/entry/jconsole_local_process_list_on) was very helpful, and although the usual windows 7 folder permissions change didn't help, this specific comment in that post (https://blogs.oracle.com/lmalventosa/entry/jconsole_local_process_list_on#comment-1271160942000) hit the nail on the head (or rather, pulled it out of mine), when it said that the case of the user id in the file name was wrong, and changing it helped. that solved it for me as well - e.g. instead of hsperfdata_sg0578082 (my user id), changing it to hsperfdata_SG0578082 (capitalizing the "sg") was my ticket to Nirvana.
Why? i have no clue. but it's not the first time that windows pretending to be case-sensitive, but really being completely insensitive, has bit me...