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  1. #1
    Uranium Lounger
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    Strange Issue - Confusing Symptoms (XP Home SP2)

    I was at a friend/client's house last night and their primary household PC was exibiting some very strange behavior. It was running so poorly that I had a difficult time even getting it to a desktop on the Father's profile (the one used 90 % of the time by the entire family). The screen was black and it seemed to be running verrrry slowly. I checked the fan outlet in the back and it didn't seem to be pushing much air. This fact, coupled with the slow running led me to think it might be a heat issue. I shut the system down for about 5 minutes and on reboot it exibited the same behavior. I shutdown again and waited another 5 min and rebooted. This time I got the Gateway post up screen and then the Welcome screen. I went into the father's profile and nothing seemed to work the way it should. Verry slow and was presenting many very odd error messages about corrupt files and one that said the entire My Documents file on this profile was corrupt. The errors all seemed to relate to Windows system files. I attempted to log off and log into a different profile to see if it might be just corruption on this profile. It slowed to a crawl and after waiting about 10 minutes, did a hard shutdown with the power switch. I again let it sit for about 10 minutes and restarted. It came up normally and I then went into one of the kid's profiles and that seemed to work much bettter. Not right, but better. I got an error message and attempted to do a screenshot of it and paste it into Paint. Attempting to open Paint was slow, but seemed OK. When I tried to paste the screenshot into a new image file Paint balked and then froze and nothing I did woud shut it down. I minimized it and logged off this profile and into the other kid's profile. Paint was still open and minimized when this profile opened.

    I managed over the next half hour or so to get the thing to run Disk Cleanup and defragged the HD. Didn't help much. I'm thinking this is a heat issue and not the corruption that the error messages are indicating. Planning to go there agian later this AM and take my toolkit and canned air and clean the thing out. If that doesn't do it, I'm thinking I'll pull their data off it and delete the father's profile (that seems to be where the corruption is) and <img src=/S/crossfingers.gif border=0 alt=crossfingers width=17 height=16> that it resolves all the problems with the system files, which seem to be the source of the corruption. The system has other issues too (no third party firewall, expired Norton System Works, Spysweeper seems to be installed but not running, no spyware detection and removal tools, etc.) that I'll address if I get back control of the system. I might consider a repair installation if all else fails, but they can't find the XP install disk and I'm not sure if I can use my XP Pro CD to do the repair install. One other factor is that the machine is 3-4 years old and may not be worth all the effort to bring it back to the land of the living.

    Thoughts ????
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  2. #2
    Plutonium Lounger
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    Re: Strange Issue - Confusing Symptoms (XP Home SP2)

    My home PC is over 4 years old and still running fine, so the PC shouldn't deserve to be put to rest yet. Cleaning the interior and checking the fans is certainly worth the effort. Apart from that, I wouldn't be surprised if the computer is heavily infected by viruses and/or spyware. The firewall isn't really a problem - I know the Windows XP Firewall has a bad rep, but in fact it does a very adequate job keeping things out. But the lack of up-to date anti-virus and anti-spyware software is worrying - a bunch of nasties could easily slow the PC down to a crawl.

  3. #3
    Plutonium Lounger
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    Re: Strange Issue - Confusing Symptoms (XP Home SP

    Sounds to me like a very important factor in your quest is for them to FIND their XP CD ! ! I agree with Hans that the machine is a long way from the graveyard even though you didn't say what its "specs" are but my PIII 600 is way older than that and perks along on XP Pro just fine. If, as Hans suggests, the box is full of nasties, the most productive answer is to rescue whatever data you can and clean install. But obviously that requires their CD - I don't think you can do it with yours, but I'm not sure. Never having done an XP repair, I don't know if THAT would work if the system is loaded with bad guys.

  4. #4
    Uranium Lounger
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    Re: Strange Issue - Confusing Symptoms (XP Home SP2)

    It's not so much the age of the PC that is in question with me, as far as it's ability to run XP efficiently. It does, and these folks are fine with the speed of the system when it is running right. My concern is that this might be a hardware issue (RAM or MoBo/BIOS). The error messages, reports of random corrupt files and inability to run even basic system utilities really makes me think it's a heat problem. I agree that it is worth the time and effort to crack the case and clean out the dust bunnies and dog hair, but I'm not sure it's worth it for them to pay me (or anyone else) to replace the MoBo (I'm guessing about $250 US parts & labor) and without the XP CD I can't really do much more than clean it out to attempt to correct the system file problem. It won't allow me to install any utilities. The Windows Installer starts but then presents and error and shuts down. I couldn't really get into it last night to see what the specs are and if there were any "strange" files around.

    It will have been shut down overnight and that might buy me a bit of time this AM before it overheats to get something done. If it seems to want to allow me to install some utilities and anti malware programs then I'll probably get that done and then clean out the dust before continuing. I agree that it could very well have a nasty or 2 or 10 onboard <img src=/S/groan.gif border=0 alt=groan width=16 height=15>
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  5. #5
    Uranium Lounger
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    Re: Strange Issue - Confusing Symptoms (XP Home SP

    I agree that finding their CD is an improtant factor here. I also don't believe that I can use my XP Pro CD on their XP Home installation. I've only ever done one repair installation and that was 2 years ago. I may end up saving their data and then start going through the system removing things and editing the registry to see if I can't regain some control over the system files. I think that deleting the father's profile might go a long way to resolving this. I believe that if the system files are, in fact, corrupt it's in that profile and eliminating that profile may eliminate the corruption. I can't do anything on the system when logged on under that profile. Also, that profile would be where the bad guys have taken up residence since it's practically the only profile that the system is used under.
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  6. #6
    Plutonium Lounger Leif's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Issue - Confusing Symptoms (XP Home SP

    I couldn't see you had mentioned it above, but did you try a full Chkdsk? - if a profile or the page file is on a bit of flaky HD, it may be causing erratic problems.

  7. #7
    Uranium Lounger
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    Re: Strange Issue - Confusing Symptoms (XP Home SP

    Haven't tried that yet. It has run a disk check after a couple of the shutdowns, I suppose because something was running when we asked it to shut down. It really is running slow at times.
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  8. #8
    Silver Lounger
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    Re: Strange Issue - Confusing Symptoms (XP Home SP

    Usually such behavior is a sign of virus infection. Try to update antivirus virus definitions (if it is still possible), restart computer to the Safe Mode and perform full system scan. If anty-spyware program is disabled it is almost certain that computer is highly infected with malware too.

    If it is impossible to update virus definitions or Antivirus program is disabled, you have to use another dedicated computer for full virus scan (removing and reconnecting the hard drive as second drive), or fully reinstall Windows, destroying all existing partitions and creating new one(s). If you decide to reinstall Windows, all data files will be gone - it is necessary to copy data files to removable media before starting.

    BTW, it is very strange what you said about chkdsk - you have to run CHKDSK /R command (from Run dialog), confirm your choice and restart your computer. Switch /r performs five stages check (against three stages with /f switch) and takes a relatively long time.

    Please let us know about the progress.

  9. #9
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    Re: Strange Issue - Confusing Symptoms (XP Home SP

    This sounds like a couple of machines I worked on. The result was that the partitions were resized and the C drive was only 15 GIGs and FULL. All I needed to do was clean up the machine, by moving some of the data to the second partition. I then installed Partition Magic and resized the partitions. All are running back to normal.

    Now running HP Pavilion a6528p, with Win7 64 Bit OS.

  10. #10
    Uranium Lounger
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    Re: Strange Issue - Confusing Symptoms (XP Home SP

    Just to report back on progress to this point. I was able to get on the machine today on the daughter's profile and found a copy of Spybot S&D in the programs menu. Ran that and found and removed over 100 pieces or traces of malware (CoolWebSearch and all it's friends). Then was able to get online and get to the Webroot site and download and install Spysweeper with AV trial version and scan the system with that. It found 7 or 8 trojans and multiple other pieces of junk and, after making the required purchase of the software ($39.95), removed them all after a second 1.5 hour scan. After a reboot that brought back the black screen (after I had changed the Power settings in Display Porperties to never shut down anything and never hibernate) that I had to do a hard shutdown and then allow the machine to sit for 5 minutes to get back to the desktop, I seem to have an almost computer back in hand. I'll be going back tomorrow to crack the case and remove the dust and hopefully resolve the last of these issues. <img src=/S/crossfingers.gif border=0 alt=crossfingers width=17 height=16> Thanks to all who contributed to this situation. I'll report back when i have a final resolution. <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15>
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  11. #11
    Uranium Lounger
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    Re: Strange Issue - Confusing Symptoms (XP Home SP

    Only one visable partition on this drive Dave. 40 GB drive with about 26 GB free. But thanks for the input. <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15>
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  12. #12
    Uranium Lounger
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    Re: Strange Issue - Confusing Symptoms (XP Home SP

    Final report on this. I was able to get the system back to a better running condition than the owners remember it being in quite some time. I loaded all the basic anti malware programs. Spybot was onboard so I added Adaware and SpywareBlaster and had them buy a copy of Perfect Disk and loaded ZoneAlarm <img src=/S/free.gif border=0 alt=free width=30 height=15>.

    Perfect Disk really made a change in the performance. Even though the MS Defrag utility had been run and indicated that it really wasn't necessary, PerfectDisk showed the drive as well as the system and page files to be in complete disarray. The defrag took 1.5 hours and still left some files fragmented (their first maintenance scan next week will take care of that).

    The only problems that remain are a balky printer that most likely needs to be removed and reinstalled and the system still will not restart and come back up. It must be shutdown for 5-10 minutes before it will boot to the Gateway post screen and then the desktop. I cleaned out the case and seated all the internal connections but it didn't make a difference. Bottom line, the owner is very pleased and wants me to come over when he gets a new laptop next month and set the system up correctly from the start and transfer his data over.

    Thanks to all who listened and provided input. <img src=/S/thankyou.gif border=0 alt=thankyou width=40 height=15> <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15>
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