When You Can’t Even Boot Up In Safe Mode in XP
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Dec 30, 2009
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.