System Restore; Possibly Your Computer’s Best Friend

I have spent the better part of the last 24 hours trying to repair a friend’s computer. Actually, not quite a repair; seems he got a few viruses and malware on the computer while downloading shared music through Limewire. Suddenly he was getting all sorts of popups, then it wouldn’t let him open any programs except the one offered to fix everything; if you’re computer savvy you know where this one’s going.

by blisschan

Since it’s still on XP I went and pulled out trustly ol’ Combofix, which has never failed me in the past. And this time… it failed me! It wouldn’t load, consistently saying some file had crashed and asking if I wanted to send it to Microsoft for review. Sometimes I do that, sometimes I don’t, but this seemed somewhat suspicious. So I looked it up on my computer and found that if I’d clicked on it more malware and nasty stuff would have been allowed onto the computer; ick.

I went through a litany of things; after all, I had just cleaned and fixed this computer about 2 months ago. Nothing was working, including going through the registry trying to track down this one particular virus. There were some programs that said they’d fix it for a price, but I wasn’t having it, especially for someone else’s computer.

Finally, I decided it was time to go back to square one. Okay, maybe not quite square one, since I didn’t start with that, but it was time to go to the WABAC Machine for this particular computer; it was time for System Restore.

System Restore is a program on your computer that allows you to reset your computer to a time and place before you added something new to your computer. If you’d downloaded songs and the like it won’t touch those, but if you’d loaded any programs whatsoever it would eliminate anything you’d done that affected the registry since the last time your computer had a system restore point. There are some folks who recommend turning this off to speed up your computer performance but trust me, it’s worth a slight decrease in speed to keep this sucker open.

I opened the program and went back about 4 weeks, which I figured was a safe enough period of time where this computer was running better, and I loaded it. The sucker took almost 30 minutes, but that’s okay because I knew when it was done almost everything would be fine.

And I was right. When it had completed its task all his icons were back, his wallpaper was back, and I opened a few programs just to make sure they were back as well; they were. I could have said I was done at that point, but nope, it was time to add more stuff.

There was no antivirus on the sucker, so I downloaded and added AVG, which is not only free but looks for a few other things than just viruses. Then I added a firewall, Zone Alarm, which still works great on XP computers. I ran a full scan on his system and found some minor virus that must have been residing there some time ago, and got rid of that. Otherwise the computer was now totally clean and, after telling tons of things that he and his wife had starting up automatically and sitting in the background to beat it, loading much faster.

System Restore just might be your best friend; whew!

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When You Can’t Even Boot Up In Safe Mode in XP

While talking to one of my best friends Monday night, she mentioned that her computer had suddenly just crashed and wouldn’t work anymore. I had sent her a message earlier in the day through Facebook letting her know that I thought she might have a virus on her computer because I’d received two emails from her email address that had a link going back to Germany, and saying nothing else. I knew she didn’t send them, so I figured it had to be coming from her computer.

She told me that she had also been unable to get the computer to reboot, even to safe mode, and that she kept getting the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). I’m sure everyone who’s ever been on XP has had to deal with it at some point; I dealt with it often before getting this new computer. But not being able to boot into safe mode; that was something new. I told her to bring it over and that I’d see what I can do; I love challenges.

I got the computer this evening, hooked it up, and turned it on. She was correct, that bad boy just wasn’t going to boot up at all. I knew that to get into the computer I was going to have to pull out my old XP disc and boot it up with the CD. I pulled up an old bootleg CD and it booted just fine; I did have to go into the BIOS to tell it to look for the CD option first.

I decided to go into the Recovery Console option, which many folks will tell you not to do unless you know what you’re doing, and I figured I did, even though it’s been about 10 months since I’d been into a computer with XP on it. I tried to run “bootcfg” in some fashion, but nothing would work initially. I finally got it to give me a message saying I had to run “chkdsk” first, which I tried, but nothing would happen.

I decided to try it again to see if maybe it had corrected itself; nope. But I also knew that the bootleg wasn’t going to get it done. So I pulled out my genuine copy, put that CD in, and booted the computer up again. I went back into Recovery Console and tried to do chkdsk again. This time it did what it was supposed to do, finding some errors along the way and fixing them. I was going to try to run bootcfg /rebuild and create the boot.ini file again, but I decided to see if the computer would boot up since chkdsk worked.

This time it booted up perfectly, and all was right with the world; well, at least the bootup was. I hooked my cable to her computer and tried to open a browser; wasn’t happening. I knew that something was in her computer messing things up, and that I had to run some checks on it.

The first thing I did was go to my wife’s computer and download the latest version of Stinger.exe from McAfee. The new version checks for more than 1,300 viruses, as opposed to the 600 or so it used to check for. That bad boy took about 40 minutes, and when it was done it found nothing. I knew I couldn’t stop there. So I ran Combofix, which some of you might remember I had to run on a different friend’s computer’s in June. It did its thing, taking about 25 minutes again, but it found malware that it cleared out of the computer, though a couple of times some kind of thing popped up, trying to fight its way back into play. While it’s doing its thing, at some point it will reboot itself, and when the computer comes back up runs chkdsk again and does some other things before it’s finally completed its work.

Her computer is running okay once more. I say that because they’re over capacity on the hard drive, and it’s going to run slow until her husband moves over most of his music and video files to the new external hard drive he purchased. But this is a good lesson for everyone else, I figure, which is why I’m sharing it with you. I hope it doesn’t happen to you, but if it does, hopefully it’ll give you an idea of what you can try.

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