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  #21  
Old 06-06-2012
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Re: Computer Expert Help

Harddrive making weird noises? That would help support the busted HDD theory. It might be a grinding or clicking.
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  #22  
Old 06-06-2012
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Re: Computer Expert Help

Brian-
In theory, a full system restore will format a drive, nuke everything on it, and put you back to factory new. In theory.
In practice? There are viruses that can be hidden in the master boot record (MBR) of a hard drive and they can survive a format. Malware could also load into the memory and in theory survive a format. Especially when we don't know just how thorough or what kind of format Dell does.
This is not hopeless though!
I'm going to ignore the question of asking Dell anything because I've found Dell to be useless. What you can do is to get one of the programs designed to do a secure erase of the hard drive. There are several on the web, free, and Dell may even have one for you. You download one to a bootable disk or other media, boot from that, and it patiently scrubs everything from all of the hard drive. (i.e. when you're giving away an old computer and don't want your bank passwords to go with it.)
Now you know, for certain, that you've got a clean hard drive.
In theory (indulge the paranoia) malware could be hiding in the BIOS, in practice, not likely. But you COULD also disconnect the BIOS backup battery for five minutes, AC off, and wipe out whatever is in there as well. I have not heard of any malware "in the wild" that requires this, just the theory.
At that point the Dell recovery/rebrick discs should set you back up. Now, IF the malware was in an email or stored with other "data" in your computer, of course the simple act of restoring your data would restore the malware, just waiting to be accessed to spring into life. I've seen malware in a year-old email do exactly that, any time it was opened--shazaam, system gone again.

So once you've done the factory restore? DO NOT restore your data files yet. First go online and install the latest updates for anti-malware software, and let it run a thorough scan on your computer, which should come up clean. Then restore your data, and scan AGAIN to make sure you haven't restored any malware.

This is doable, a small PITA and mainly a lot of time sitting and watching the computer between boring prompts. No need to throw out the computer, get a good book and relax.

Personally, I prefer Microsoft Security Essentials, a free download. It gets great ratings, has a low load on the CPU, and last time something snuck into my computer, MSE got rid of it when nothing else would.

I run my computer just short of "full paranoia" mode, i.e. scripting and other interactive technologies from web sites is disabled. And I still get security warnings that there is malware trying to attack from mundane web sites dealing with boring topics like air conditioning repair or hobby collections. You might want to install a second browser (doesn't matter which) just for your son's unsupervised use, and go over all the options in that browser to really secure it.

Last edited by hellosailor; 06-06-2012 at 09:45 AM.
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  #23  
Old 06-06-2012
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Re: Computer Expert Help

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Originally Posted by Cruisingdad View Post
I have the Dell Recovery Discs. That is what it is doing right now. It has finished Formatting Partisions and is now stuck on Reinstalling Original Content (stuck at 61% for about 2 hours now).

I have a bad feeling about this.
A clean re-install "to factory defaults", booting from the recovery CDs (i.e. put those in the drive before restarting) would wipe everything on the hard drive, MBR and all.

From your description I think you have a rapidly failing hard drive. Sometimes they make a funny noise, sometimes not. But I will tell you right now I have an office full of Dells (10 or 12 of them - bought for us by the national office) and a bunch of the hard drives have died. They were enough trouble that the national office stopped buying Dells.
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  #24  
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Re: Computer Expert Help

I put in the Dell Recovery Discs. As of this morning, it is now up to 64% versus the 61% it was last night. That is rediculous.

The virus kept forcing shutdowns and the computer kept trying to defrag, then got hung and was forced shut down again. I think they virus indirectly killed the hard drive by forcing so many shutdowns before the system could even come up.

How big of a deal is it to change out a hard drive on a laptop? I have odne it on a descktop and it is a piece of cake. But remember, this computer is not worth maybe $300, so spending a lot of money on it would be a bad idea.

Lastly, it does not have a floppy drive. Sorry, showing my age. It has a DVD/CD drive. It is about 3 years old. Andrew, BITE ME!!

Brian
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Re: Computer Expert Help

Try finding a dos disk or a program that runs through cd and hard formats the disk. Hard format the disk, soft formats sometimes do not work. If the disk can be hard formatted, that means there is nothing wrong with the disk. If faulty but in working condition, hard format will resolve this situation. Otherwise you will need a new hard disk or better a new computer.
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Re: Computer Expert Help

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cruisingdad View Post
I put in the Dell Recovery Discs. As of this morning, it is now up to 64% versus the 61% it was last night. That is rediculous.

The virus kept forcing shutdowns and the computer kept trying to defrag, then got hung and was forced shut down again. I think they virus indirectly killed the hard drive by forcing so many shutdowns before the system could even come up.

How big of a deal is it to change out a hard drive on a laptop? I have odne it on a descktop and it is a piece of cake. But remember, this computer is not worth maybe $300, so spending a lot of money on it would be a bad idea.

Lastly, it does not have a floppy drive. Sorry, showing my age. It has a DVD/CD drive. It is about 3 years old. Andrew, BITE ME!!

Brian

You are best off buying a cheap new machine. You can probably find a closeout for right around $300 and it will have all new parts, not just a new hd, and will also likely have more memory, and a faster cpu. Replacing the HD on the old doorstop would cost you somewhere between 100 and 200.
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Re: Computer Expert Help

THanks all. I will add this coputer to my other pile of laptops. Shoot. That had to be one malicious virus. Little PO'd Trend didn't catch it, but probably didn't matter when my son kept allowing strange pogeams access to the computer. Good thing it was the cheap laptop. I almost let him on my brand new HP I-7!

Thanks again all.

Brian
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  #28  
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Re: Computer Expert Help

Boot options vary widely with the age of the machine and the BIOS. On many laptops, if you enable "Boot from USB" or a similar BIOS option, you can plug an inexpensive USB Floppy drive in to do just that. Or swap one into a laptop bay in some cases. Or, boot from a USB memory stick. Yes, all of that is impossible on many machines--it all depends on the firmware.

"How big of a deal is it to change out a hard drive on a laptop? "
No big deal, Brian. Usually, remove one screw, pull out the "sled" aka "carrier". Undo 4 screws to remove drive from it. Reverse process to install new drive.

And there are some cheap drives out there.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16822236238
I'd bet this $55 top-brand drive is twice the speed and size of what's in your Dell.
(Plus, you can plug the old one into a $20 USB adapter and use it as a backup/transfer drive if you can recover it.)

Biggest single thing to check is SAME DRIVE TYPE. That is, ~9 or ~12 mm thick? Probably a SATA drive (not IDE) on a 3-year old machine. And odds are that all you need is SATA-1 (oldest, slowest) while SATA-2 speed is wasted, but often no more expensive. Some drives are SATA-2 native, and require a jumper to work in SATA-1 computers. A little half-penny box jumper, that usually won't ship with the new drive, so heads up.

It would be odd for malware to physically KILL a drive. It might be worth your while to shut down the computer, remove the drive, and then reseat it. Contacts HAVE been known to work loose, that might be the real problem here. If you're really lucky.

Last edited by hellosailor; 06-06-2012 at 01:00 PM.
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Re: Computer Expert Help

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cruisingdad View Post
THanks all. I will add this coputer to my other pile of laptops. Shoot. That had to be one malicious virus. Little PO'd Trend didn't catch it, but probably didn't matter when my son kept allowing strange pogeams access to the computer. Good thing it was the cheap laptop. I almost let him on my brand new HP I-7!

Thanks again all.

Brian
If it makes you feel any better, we once built out a rack of servers for a client, and over the course of 30 days every single disk failed. 3 disks per server * 30 servers = 90 failed disks in 30 days. Manufacturer had some quality control issues.
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  #30  
Old 06-06-2012
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Re: Computer Expert Help

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cruisingdad View Post
I put in the Dell Recovery Discs. As of this morning, it is now up to 64% versus the 61% it was last night. That is rediculous.

The virus kept forcing shutdowns and the computer kept trying to defrag, then got hung and was forced shut down again. I think they virus indirectly killed the hard drive by forcing so many shutdowns before the system could even come up.
Disk is dead. It's trying to defrag because it's trying to figure out why the hard drive isn't responding nicely. Not a virus.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cruisingdad View Post
How big of a deal is it to change out a hard drive on a laptop? I have odne it on a descktop and it is a piece of cake. But remember, this computer is not worth maybe $300, so spending a lot of money on it would be a bad idea.
Find the service manual on Dell's website. It's easy on Thinkpad laptops, but hard on many other ones I've used. If you're patient enough to open up a bunch of fiddly little screws and carefully pry pieces of plastic apart, it can be done. New hard drive will run you less than $100.
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