Monday, May 2, 2011

Restore a Friend’s Computer? Am I Nuts?!

Please bear with me because this is going to be a long one, but not as long as it took me to attempt a fix.
When I offered to look at my coworkers’ netbook to see what was wrong with it, little did I know the extent of its problems, and that it would take me a couple of days to fix it instead of what I thought would be about half an hour. Surely, I just need to turn off system restore, run a virus scan, then turn system restore back on, right? So I turned the computer on and it booted to what appeared to be a regular desktop. So far so good. My coworker said he wasn’t able to connect to the internet anymore. After checking to see if I was connected to wi-fi, I clicked on Internet Explorer. Nothing happened. Just to make sure I didn’t misclick, I tried it again, but still no dice. I tried clicking on the Safari browser but the system could not find it, and other programs didn’t launch either. Let me just enumerate what other things I tried:
1.       Ran CCleaner to fix and clean up the registry – did not fix the problem.
2.       Ran AVG antivirus – found 1 virus and 5 Trojan horses, but did not fix the problem.
3.       Booted from BIOS and went to Safe Mode – did not fix the problem.
4.       Booted from BIOS and tried Last Known Good Configuration – did not fix the problem.
5.       Last option was to run ACER Erecovery Management which would have restored the computer to its original factory settings. Program would not launch.
6.       Reinstalled all drivers – did not fix the problem.
Most of the time, Windows indicated that there were missing and corrupted files. I saved the owner’s documents to a flash drive and called him in the morning to tell him I might not be able to fix the computer but would like to try one more thing, and that was to load up my old Windows XP Professional to see if it would be able to restore the missing files using the recovery console from the disk. The computer itself didn’t come with a disk as most systems do now. Not only that, it doesn’t have a DVD/CD drive. How can I even try loading up my old Windows XP Pro if the netbook doesn’t come with a DVD/CD reader? It just so happened that I had an external one. So I tried that and all I ended up with was the BSOD (blue screen of death) with an error message saying there was something missing from the hard drive. Maybe the second time would be a charm but still no cigar. 

Oh my, I was getting in way too deep and it was becoming a challenge. I may have to erase the whole hard drive and do a clean install of the operating system, but of course the netbook didn’t come with an installation disk. It was supposed to be stored in the aforementioned ACER Erecovery Management which wouldn’t load up. Here were the next steps I took to restore the darn netbook all of which took a lot of time:
1.       Formatted the hard drive.
2.       Used a DOS program from a CD I had to check the disk for errors and if any data was recoverable.
3.       Partitioned the disk.
4.       Tried a clean install of Windows XP Professional – unsuccessful, still giving me BSOD.
5.       Tried to run ACER Erecovery from a flash drive using DOS – unsuccessful.
6.       Tried to install my old Windows Vista – unsuccessful, system was not compatible.
7.       Tried installing Windows 7 – 32 bit – unsuccessful, system incompatible.
8.       Tried Windows 7 Starter from my own Asus netbook. Disk can only be used for my computer and would not install in others.
9.       Finally I tried Ubuntu (Linux) Operating System which I had used briefly a few years back. It installed, but for those who don’t know how to navigate that system (meaning me), it’s difficult to do things the way you are used to in Windows or Mac systems. At least installing Ubuntu told me that the hard drive was still usable.
10.   Uninstalled Ubuntu.
Next was trying to find a free Windows XP operating system on the web. After looking at several message boards and websites, I couldn’t find one. You would have to kowtow to Microsoft and buy a new one. However, a YouTube video mentioning XP popped up after a Google search but I didn’t think anything would come out of it. Since I was almost at my wit’s end and ready to give up, I watched the video to find out if it had any suggestions. The guy said he had an unrestricted Windows XP that didn’t need a validation code. Well, what do I have to lose? I downloaded his file, thinking that if it was a virus, it couldn’t do any worse than a netbook that already doesn’t work. I did a virus scan on the file first, no problems detected, so it was time to burn an image to a CD. By the way, in case a virus or Trojan horse was hidden in the downloaded Windows XP, I used an old computer to handle it. Since I’m not too familiar about burning an ISO image to a CD, I had to research that too, but it would have to come the next day. Come morning, I was finally able to copy the ISO image to a CD so I could try to install it on the netbook. By this time, the early morning of my day off had flitted away and I still had to do my workout. I went out for a run/walk before proceeding further.
When I got back, it was time to try to install the operating system. I inserted the CD in the external drive, kept my fingers crossed, then saw the programs starting to load into the netbook’s hard drive. I kept hoping that it wouldn’t stop and abort the installation like it did when I tried my XP Professional, Vista, and Windows 7. Well, what do you know but the darn thing installed completely! I was so elated to finally see a desktop! Windows indicated that it needed to be registered or else the trial installation would expire in 30 days. I tried to register but couldn’t go online. Darn, another setback! Well of course I couldn’t go online because the computer was missing drivers for its wireless and wired LAN, video, audio, built in camera, etc. In other words, all drivers, ok?! I had to download all of those from the ACER website at another computer and put them on a flash drive, then copied them to the netbook. I installed all the drivers and was finally able to get on the internet. When I tried to register the operating system, I hit another roadblock. Microsoft asked for an activation code because the one that supposedly came with the downloaded XP didn’t work anymore. Microsoft must have found out about this bootleg copy and blocked it. There was one more thing I could try and if that didn’t work, I would suggest to the owner of the computer to buy a new and legal operating system. I looked at the bottom of the computer to find the Microsoft label with activation code exclusive for that system, typed it into the Microsoft activation website, held my breath, and lo and behold, Microsoft accepted it!!! I now had a fully operational system! First things first, I downloaded an antivirus program from AVG, installed it, then I hit another wall. It wouldn’t install because the basic operating system was outdated. Time to do a system update which took another few hours until reaching the latest SP3 version of Windows XP. After all that, I was finally able to install the antivirus software. As a last step, I copied the owner’s documents and pictures from my flash drive back to the restored netbook after scanning them for viruses.
Oh my! A mistakenly thought of 30 minute job turned out to be a two day affair. The virus and Trojan horses that I found did what they were supposed to and did it very well. But so did I. It just took longer than expected. I called my friend and told him briefly what I had to go through to get his computer working again, and that it was ready for pick up. He said he was already considering buying a new one after I told him a couple of days back that I might not be able to repair the netbook. He also offered to pay me for the repair.  Here is my dilemma. How much should I ask for? Can I now put a shingle outside my door offering computer repair services for a fee?
By the way, I saved a copy of that downloaded operating system so if you need it, let me know, but you would need to have a legal activation code, of course. This process is probably easier in Windows XP but not in Vista and 7 because of their stricter activation process. For now, I have faced the challenge and won!
Later on, I’ll tell you about computer problems of my own which happened a couple of weeks ago.

Comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!
Back to Main Page:

No comments: