Sick Computer

Sick Compaq Pressario CQ20

I'm Sick!

Not my computer, fortunately.

A friend bought me her laptop computer today. It’s a 9-month old Compaq Presario CQ20 running Windows XP. She said it was running very slowly, had many windows popping up on the screen and would not type in the Thai language any more.

I started it up and indeed it ran very slowly. The first pop-up I saw was for some shareware wallpaper changer. I asked her if she wanted it and she said she had no idea where it came from. Her English isn’t so good and she always clicked “Yes” when she encountered a dialog box. I disabled it without a problem.

She had an old version of the free AVG virus scanner on the computer. I opened it and tried to update it to the latest version. It complained that it could not find the avg.com domain. I tried going to avg.com in her web browser but it got a DNS error. I tried symantec.com, makers of Norton Anti Virus, and got the same problem.

But it could browse other internet sites successfully. Something had inserted itself in between the browser and the DNS service and was blocking access to anti-malware sites.

From that I knew that the computer was very sick, even though it wasn’t showing other signs of infection other than being slow. I asked if she had the original Windows XP install CDs. No – the shop configured her machine for her and didn’t give her any CDs.

I knew it was beyond my capabilities to fix. I think the best solution is to reformat the hard drive and reinstall Windows from scratch. But I’d have to get Windows install CDs and also find all the proprietary drivers for a discontinued computer.

I called a friend who’s a professional at these things and has all the right tools. He agreed to fix it tonight. There are times when you need an expert.

She said she didn’t have any files on the machine that she needed to save; after using it for nine months. I think I could have saved her files to a CD without infecting it but I am not sure even that is safe.

Of course my friend had no idea what I was talking about. She’d used her computer for surfing the net, email and chatting but had no idea what she was doing. Maybe I worry too much about the safety of my computer but this was a good lesson on the dangers of not worrying enough.

I was a bit worried even having her computer on the same internet connection as mine. I’ve turned off things like Windows File Sharing and run a firewall but I expect it was still busy probing for other computers it could infect. I didn’t even trust that the network connection taskbar icon showed no activity. I bet there are ways of fooling it so a user does not know that her computer is doing bad things on the network behind her back.

 

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3 Responses to “Sick Computer”

  1. BKKPhotographer Says:

    My friend reported she has over seventy (70!) viruses on her laptop.

  2. Michael Willems Says:

    Ditto and agreed entirely. And on a slightly related note, I wrote a little post on my private (non-photo) blog here: http://www.willems.ca/blog/?p=1103 about ‘new rules’ when people ask me to fix things. 🙂

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