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Virus Hunting???

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  • Virus Hunting???

    I've been having random crashes on my "desk" computer for the last few days. This isn't a crash with a visible error message (though there may be a log file somewhere if I knew what to look for) and no blue screen. The video just goes away (monitor tells me to check the video cable). If I'm listening to streaming audio when it crashes, the audio goes away, too, so it's not simply a video problem. The power light on the front of the computer is still on, and when I shut down and reboot, it restarts normally.



    Originally it seemed that it crashed when I opened a web page in Firefox. Not every time, not always with the same page. Just now and then. So I tried using Internet Explorer for a day, and with no crashes so I figured the problem was with Firefox.



    I updated to the latest version of Firefox that I'm using, and that didn't help. So I went back to Explorer, and sure enough, it caused a crash when I opened a web site (again, not immediately, and not on every browsing session.)



    So I moved to another computer to do my web browsing, and managed to have a crash while I was using Word. So it's not tied to a browser.



    If I"m not doing anything on the computer, it doesn't crash. This computer (in fact most of my computers), is powered up all the time. That suggests that it's not a hardware problem, though I did run a memory diagnostic overnight and that passed multiple times.



    I use AVG anti-virus regularly, and ran a scan with that with no problems found, so I hit the web to try some other virus and malware scanners. The Microsoft scanner didn't find anything. I tried Sophos virus remover and that run once, showing three malwares of which it cleaned two and said it couldn't clean the third. So I tried to run it again to see if it would do better next time and it wouldn't run. It stops at the point where it checks for updates and says "could not access network location data." The same download runs fine on another computer (on the same network). I stopped Zone Alarm (firewall) to see if that would let it get to wherever it wanted to go, but that didn't work either.



    I tried Kapersky and that didn't find any problems either.



    So now I'm running SpyHunter and it's displaying hundreds of adware cookies (to be expected if you go on the 'net) and hasn't found any real malware yet, but it keeps giving me a suspicious popup message that doesn't make any sense to me:



    "SpyHunter has detected that some Windows components are disabled . . . blah blah blah." In the window where it lists the disabled components, there's only one - System drives. What??? If the system drive is disabled, how can Windows run? There's a button inviting me to restore it, but I don't want to do that until I understand what this means.



    I suppose it's as incomprehensible to you as it is to me, but if you have any thoughts, let me have 'em. My next step is to open up the case and see if any of the fans aren't working (overheating?) and wiggle all the power connections. You know me and my cheap, old computers. I'm thinking of going to the local computer junk store and see if they have another one enough like this one that I can swap the clone disk drive into it (which I might try doing with the existing computer when I open it up). If that crashes in the same way on a different chassis, I can probably assume I really have a problem with something on the drive.



    Fortunately, everything I need is backed up on another computer so I'm not crying about lost work, just annoyed that I can't troubleshoot this problem.

    .
    --
    "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
    Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

  • #2
    I wouldn't rule out a hardware problem. Do you have a video card or are you just using onboard video? It could even be the power supply or a bad motherboard component.



    If you really want to rule out a software problem, do a clean install of the operating system. A couple months back I got a terrible virus on my Vista system and ended up just doing a clean OS install... it runs like a new computer again. It's a wonderful thing.
    <a href="http://silkcitymusicfactory.com">Silk City Music Factory: A Connecticut Recording Studio</a>

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    • #3
      Well, those are pretty stock answers, but I realize how difficult it is to troubleshoot a system with intermittent symptoms from a distance. In case it was an issue with the hard drive getting flaky, I ran CHKDSK on it, and let it fix a couple of problems. That didn't help, and I don't know if it hurt anything else. I opened it up, wiggled all the connectors, and just for good measure, swapped out the disk drive with the clone from a few days ago. Still has the same problem with the other drive, but that's not conclusive that it's a hardware problem. If there's a virus and the drive was cloned with that virus present, then it still has a virus. But I'm not experienced enough with viruses (I've only had one before) to know if this is acting like a virus.



      I should try harder to confirm that it only crashes when I'm accessing a web page, at least it seems that way. I hate to spend a few hours writing only to have it crash, though Word is pretty good about recovering to the last saved version.



      I'm not sure if I can do a clean install of Windows. With me and my old, second-hand computers (this is one), I don't always get a Windows CD with them, and I'm not sure which one goes with which computer. I have a few "restoration" disks but that's about all. And there doesn't appear to be a restoration partition as some computers have. But they're cheap. I checked the local junk store's web site and they have Dell GX-280s for $79 (this one is a GX-270, probably close enough.



      There are a couple of new symptoms (or rather observations) that might point the finger more toward hardware. First, when it crashes, I notice a little "chuff" sound, kind of like what the floppy drive (yes, I have one on this computer) or optical drive makes when booting up, if one of those is ahead of the hard drive in the boot sequence. The other thing is that after I had it powered down and opened up, it took a few tries (power down/up) before it would even display the BIOS screen. Think I'll hit the web for a hardware diagnostic that I can let run all night.



      Or maybe it's time to just get a newer one and rebuild. I've done that a few times and while it's a pain, it really only takes a couple of days to remember and find everything that was installed on the old one. If I don't remember it, it probably doesn't need to be installed.
      --
      "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
      Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

      Comment


      • #4
        Add my vote to the 'reinstall the OS' camp. Especially if you use vista or any earlier version. It'd be worthwhile to buy a copy of win7... Considering how much time gets sucked up chasing this kind of crap.... Good luck dude!



        Keep in mind that it doesn't HAVE to be a virus - - Windows spontaneously breaks itself in direct proportion to how long since the last reformat/reinstall.

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        • #5
          At one time I tried to buy a copy of XP that I could install on any and all of my computers but I didn't feel comfortable wit any of the eBay sources where I could find what claimed to be that. With a single retail copy costing more than I paid for most of mt computers, it didn't seem like a very worth while investment.



          If anyone out there has such a copy of WinXP that you'll never use again, make me an offer I can't refuse.



          And in the other direction, can anyone recommend a real diagnostic that will exercise all the hardware and tell me if there's anything busted? I've found several that will tell me what I have, but no real testing other than for mrmory. Last night I tried safe moge and it ceashes thrre too.
          --
          "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
          Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

          Comment


          • #6

            MikeRivers (that's me!) wrote:
            I've been having random crashes on my "desk" computer for the last few days.
            .

            If anyone is still reading this, it was a problem with the motherboard. I came to that conclusion as it kept getting worse, eventually not even reliably booting from a floppy disk, crashing with just Win98 setup DOS running (clearly not a Windows problem). The only thing I could replace was memory, tried that and the problem persisted. Went to the used computer store, got the next model up from the one I had (still a Dell Pentium 4) for $79.95, and I was back in business.

            --
            "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
            Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

            Comment


            • Anderton
              Anderton commented
              Editing a comment

              Hardware tends to be so reliable these days it's easy to assume there's a software issue. There's nothing like a bit missing in a RAM stick to mess up your day.



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