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Need help reformatting a Dell Inspiron 1721; 3 GB RAM; 250 GB HDD; Athlon 64 x2 Dual Core 1.9 GHz processor; Vista Home Premium 32 bit OS


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#1 Gary's Girl

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 08:53 PM

Greetings. Hoping someone can help with reformatting a Dell Inspiron 1721; 3 GB RAM; 250 GB HDD; Athlon 64 x2 Dual Core 1.9 GHz processor; Vista Home Premium 32 bit OS.

Reformatted and clean install of Vista 2 months ago. Afterward, everything worked perfectly until a couple of weeks ago. After automatic updates installed Vista SP2, suddenly Windows Media Center (which I've never used and am not at all familiar with and have no plans to learn it and use it in the future) began opening by itself over and over.

Also, a little window popped up on boot up that said something to the effect that my new hardware needed intalled; however, I have not added any new hardware. Have no idea what it was trying to install.

Also, intermittently, programs I'm using just exit out even though I have not pressed exit. And, the mouse intermittently jumps around by itself or won't respond to the touchpad - - it opens programs, opens the start menu, types gibberish into the 'Start Search' line, closes programs, opens browsers or browser tabs, closes browser tabs, etc, etc, etc.

Also, sometimes an odd looking exit menu appears top left screen in a different resolution than the screen is set at. AND, sometimes, when I'm working, all of a sudden the keys won't type but the computer issues a loud beep every time a key is pressed.

When problems first started, I immediately ran system restore. No change.
Tried another date in system restore. Still no change.
Went through all restore points and each time I got the message that the restore was successful; however no change.
Ran CCleaner.
Ran AVG (paid subscription); found nothing.
Ran SuperAntiSpyware (paid subscription); found nothing.
Ran MalwaryBytes Anti-Malware (paid subscription); found nothing.
Ran Panda Online Scanner (paid subscription); it found a file that it said it couldn't disinfect; the file name was \Downloads\HC82_VistaLogo_Drv_...E Encoder x86 V62 Setup Silent.exe - - tried to find it and delete it but couldn't locate it; however similar file names were in the AverMedia folder. Don't use AverMedia even though it came with the computer, so I uninstalled it.
Ran Panda scan again and it found nothing this time.
Started googling and stopped all WMC services and removed every instance of it from startup.
Ran Trend Micro Housecall; found nothing.

Problems kept escalating.
At times, the computer started beeping very fast and refusing to respond to any commands.
Suddenly two or three browsers open very quickly all by themselves.
Periodically, the start menu opens and the computer types gibberish that looks like computer speak into the start search command line.
When WMC opens by itself, it preempts everything else so that nothing else works until it's closed out, and often after closing it out, other programs will not respond to any keyboard or touchpad commands until the unit is restarted.
Twice, the computer has refused to disconnect from the wireless connection when I tried to disconnect.

Sometimes the space bar has to be pressed several times to work.
Shortcuts have to be right clicked, then click 'open' because when a shortcut is pressed, the properties dialog opens instead of the program.
Once on reboot, instead of Vista opening, it went to a black screen and "Vista" had to be chosen from a list before it would open and a couple of times the computer froze at that screen and wouldn't boot up - had to shut down manually and press F12 and chose the HDD option to get it to open.

THEN I uninstalled AVG 8 and purchased AVG 9 and installed and ran it - it's supposed to be better. It found and removed several 'tracking cookies'.
Then I backed up up all my personal files onto a portable harddrive, just in case.
Finally, thinking things can't get any worse, I ran the CCleaner registry fix - - it didn't change anything either
I've been using computers for more than 20 years and have never seen or heard of such weirdness!

The computer was still under warranty when I reformatted 2 months ago and a Dell tech walked me through that and then he took remote access and installed a codec pack which fixed the problems with audio/video (had reformatted because the computer suddenly began to crash to a blue screen every time audio or video was played). After reformatting, the computer worked great until two weeks ago.

Could all these problems have been caused by the Vista SP2 update? My computer is used almost exclusively by ME and no shady internet sites are visited, so doesn't that mean that nothing 'BAD' can come off the internet? Sometimes, it almost seems that something or someone else has taken over control of my computer - - but that's not possible, is it?

Anyway, Garmanma said to post and get help and do another reformat (as the computer is now out of warranty and I can't get free help from Dell help anymore) - - he believes there are just too many problems to track down and fix.

I have backups of all my personal and business files, and I also have all of my software discs.

The system came with a Dell CD that says, "Operating System" - - the Dell tech let me use that simply because I didn't want to put all the trial software and stuff that came preinstalled - just wanted a clean OS install so I didn't have to do a lot of uninstalling before I got going with my own software. If I use the recovery partition, I get all that stuff back; however, the recovery partition is still in tact and can be used if necessary. With a clean install of course, I have to install all the drivers - I have them on the removable backup HD and have the proper install order written down. The codec pack was K-Lite Codec Pack. The unit was still under warranty when I redid it 2 months ago, and the Dell tech was there to take control and/or walk me through each step - - but the warranty has run out and I'm a bit afraid to try it all by myself.

By the way, when the tech redid things, he just had me put the OS CD in and install Vista - - there didn't seem to be an actual reformat (you know, the C: drive reformatting before loading Vista). If redo is my best option, I really want to make sure the HD is wiped clean before installing Vista in case there may be something lurking on the drive, don't you think? I'm not very 'techy,' but with help and good instructions I can do just about anything. One thing I'm really not sure how to do is the actual reformat part - - I think I can let the OS CD install, let it update; install the drivers; install the codec pack; and then go from there - - just not too sure how to actually wipe the disc clean first. I can google and find out how to customize Vista - - that's what I did before.

Also, one more question: Does anyone know why the rootkit scanner in AVG9 is greyed out and therefore won't work - - I have the paid version and it's supposed to have a rootkit scan as I understand it? AVG8 had a rootkit scanner.

VERY GRATEFUL for the time anyone has to give detailed instructions!

Thanks again for any help forthcoming!
Sharon (HomesickInTexas)

Edited by HomesickInTexas, 31 October 2009 - 09:24 PM.


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#2 ThunderZ

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 10:19 PM

Hi Sharon.

If your game then so am I.

All the things you stated sound like a possible infection or operating system corruption due to unknown reasons. Although none, or a questionable one, was found. I am in total agreement with Garmanma. Also the fact that the rootkit scan is disabled in AVG causes me some concern.

Seems you already have a pretty good idea how to format the drive and reinstall your OS and drivers....... But would like to take it one step further in this case though. I would like to have you wipe the entire hard drive to zeroes prior to formatting and installing the OS. This would include what is called the MBR = Master Boot Record, the partition the OS is on as well as the restore partition. Of course this would leave you only the option of reinstalling via the CD. All pre-installed software will be gone for good. Complete restore CDs are usually available from the OEM for a nominal cost.

The only reason I suggest this manner is, 1)The problems you are describing does somewhat resemble infection symptoms. 2)Depending on the possible infection type a simple reformat may not get rid of it. I have also read that it is possible for the restore partition can become infected as well.

The procedures are really pretty easy, the program(s) to wipe the drive to zeroes is free and we will do our best to get you through the whole procedure as painlessly as possible.

Let me know what you decide.

#3 Gary's Girl

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 12:20 AM

Yes. I want to do everything possible to insure (to the highest possibility) that I don't have the problems after the redo. I am Arts Director at a church - - so tomorrow, I'll be tied up pretty much all day. Maybe have some time late tomorrow night to get started. Then, we have missionaries coming in Monday and Tuesday, so it's likely I won't be able to do much with the computer until late Tuesday night, then for a few hours again on Wednesday before starting prep for mid-week service that night.

But, please send along the instructions for what you mentioned to wipe the drive and I'll get started on it as soon as possible. May have to do a little every day until I can give it my full attention on Thursday. How long does it take to wipe a drive this big?

Also, am curious to know if you have an idea why all the scans I ran didn't find anything and why AVG would have missed a virus mean enough to do all this damage? Is there security software better than I'm using? Also, how would the computer have gotten a virus when only the safest of surfing is done on it - - don't spend much time on the internet at all - - just for study and for purchasing a few supplies? Just don't understand how this could happen, and have concern about it happening in the future if it's an infection and not some other trouble. We have DSL, so the internet is always connected - - can you 'catch' something by just that? - - the unit being connected to the internet with no one surfing? If so, I'll start connecting only when the internet is needed and then disconnect from the router at all other times. Because all the auto scans are set to run at night, the computer is usually left on. Any advice you have about any of that will be most helpful.

Also, am really concerned that if this is an infection and it could have spread to the restore drive (D:) - - would it have also spread to my USB HDD when I made my backups? That would be disastrous, as I have GIGABYTES of personal files backed up, along the with the setup files for all the security software that was purchased as download files. How big of a concern should this be?

I truly appreciate your time and your assistance - - Thanks so much!
Sharon

P.S. Will you be able to check back daily to stay with me through the whole process? That would be positively SPECTACULAR!

Edited by HomesickInTexas, 01 November 2009 - 12:26 AM.


#4 ThunderZ

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 09:16 AM

Good Morning Sharon (my time)

Lets take one step at a time. We will cover each of your concerns but one at a time.....just do not let me forget any of them.
Since you have all you data backed up we can bypass that part and get right to the heart of the matter.

I would like you to go HERE then click on # for DBAN for recent Intel and AMD computers. (You probably want this file.). This will take you to a Sourceforge server. The download of a file called dban-beta.2007042900_i386 should begin with in a few seconds. If not then click where it says direct link.

Once the file d\l is complete you will need to extract it then locate the file called dban-beta.2006042900_i386.iso in the folder that was just created. This file needs to be burned as an image.

If you are not familiar with burning .iso files or do not have a burning program to do it, HERE is a good free program to use that should do the trick.

Let me know if you have any questions\problems. Otherwise, let me know when you have the image burned to a CD.

I will do my best to check in often, some days are busier then others. Some other BC members may jump in and assist as well.

#5 Gary's Girl

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 01:53 PM

Trying 5th time today to post reply - computer worsening. Refused to open Bleeping Computer for half an hour though it would open other sites, then refuses to post the reply when written but jumps back to the forums page - - couple of times just freezing completely while trying to write the reply.

Don't know 'ISO' but will download software and attempt to figure it out - - try to post back if I have trouble with it.

Will download DBAN now and see about getting it started - - have a friend who says he used it to wipe his 20 GB drive and it took eleven days - - will that be a problem for this 250 GB drive, do you think?

Anyway, can't say how much your help is appreciated - - thanks a million!
Sharon (hoping it posts this time!)

#6 Gary's Girl

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 02:19 PM

Okay, not sure, but I THINK the ISO is properly created on a CD now. Exploring the CD drive, there is one folder labeled 'ISOLINUX' - - clicking that shows the following files:

About
Boot
Dban.bzi
Isolinux.bin
Isolinux.cfg
Quick
Raid
Trouble
Warning

Okay, those are the files now on the CD (used ImgBurn to burn the ISO file "dban-beta.2006042900_i386.iso" to the CD). Is that right? If so, what's next? Will await further instructions.

Thanks again!
Sharon

Edited by HomesickInTexas, 01 November 2009 - 02:20 PM.


#7 ThunderZ

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 10:16 PM

That sounds perfect. Please go ahead and disconnect anything you have connected to the machine during this procedure. Printers, external drives, mice, keyboards, etc.

I am going to make an assumption here. The machine should be already set to look to the optical\CD-DVD drive first. Start the PC with the CD in the drive. If all go`s well the PC will treat the CD just like it was a hard drive. A black screen with white lettered messages will appear. After DBAN completely loads you will be presented with several different options. Using the down arrow on your keyboard choose the one that says Start DBAN in interactive mode Or something very similar.
Another screen will then come up with further information. Several of those lines will be preceded by ( ). The first line, set of ( )`s, represents the entire drive. The indented lines below that indicate the different partitions within the entire drive. I`m know you will see at least 2. Would not be surprised it there was not at least one more.
Again using the down arrow key select the very first ( ). Then hit your space key. This will select zeroing out the entire drive. Along the base of the screen is the next option. I think it is F10 you want at this point to start the wiping process. You will know it when you see it. You will be asked to confirm the operation. Do so. Then just let it do it`s job. It will take several hours. No need to set and watch unless you want to.
Once it is completed. Remove the DBAN disk, put in the Vista CD and restart the PC. Follow the onscreen prompts to install Vista> Choose the hard drive, will only be one. Select to format. Quick or full is your option. Then let Vista do it`s job.

#8 Gary's Girl

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 01:05 AM

Okay, thanks, Z. The computer must not be set to read the CD drive first because nothing happens with it on reboot, so I'm gonna try going into the setup and setting it for that. I think thats F8 so that's what I'm going to try.

If it works, then the machine will be nuking for a while. After I get Vista back on and get back online, I will post back.

We have missionaries coming in tomorrow and Tuesday so I may not get much done with it for a couple of days, but will get back to you soon as possible.

Thanks for all your advice so far - - will contact you back here in a day or two.
S.

#9 ThunderZ

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 06:51 AM

I will keep an eye out for return.

#10 Gary's Girl

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 08:30 AM

Bummer. Dban ran 45 minutes and said:

Dban encountered a non-fatal error
Start Date (time and date was here)
Stop Date (time and date was here)
Killed
Kernel panic - not syncing: out of memory and no killable processes

So, I ran it again and it ran about 20 minutes and went to the same screen.

With all the weird problems, the computer hasn't behaved as if there was anything wrong with the memory. (My last computer's memory went bad and I had to replace it and the problems were totally different than with this one.)

Okay, so what to do now. Do we just reformat the drive and then install Vista, you think? Will await further instructions.

Thanks again!
S.

PS Strangely, there was only one drive (SCSI) in the Dban pane that was for the list of drives. However, there are two: one C drive and one D drive with the Dell recovery program on it. Since there was only one to chose, I told it to wipe it.

Edited by HomesickInTexas, 02 November 2009 - 08:56 AM.


#11 ThunderZ

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 09:00 AM

Strange... but ok. Let`s try an older version.

OOOPs My mistake. Please download\extract\locate and burn the .iso from HERE

The one you have probably already d\l will probably work as well but I am not familiar with the interface to walk you through it.

Think I owe you a couple CDs.

Out of curiosity, do you remember how many partitions did DBAN show?

Edited by ThunderZ, 02 November 2009 - 09:17 AM.


#12 Gary's Girl

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 09:09 AM

The program only showed that one partition SCSI. Thought that was odd.

Ok, so just burn it with the same program as before and then run it just the same way as before? I can do that!


Will post back shortly.

Thanks,
S.

PS Know what else is weird? The computer is still as usable as it was before running Dban - how crazy is that?

AND you don't owe me any CDs! I owe you a hundred Cds for all your patient help!

Edited by HomesickInTexas, 02 November 2009 - 09:23 AM.


#13 ThunderZ

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 09:20 AM

That is strange. But, I believe DBAN does some disk analyzing prior to actually starting wipe. It had errors in attempting to fully load, never started to zero the drive.

#14 Gary's Girl

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 09:32 AM

OK, Z, the CD is burned. Walk me through.

#15 ThunderZ

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 09:37 AM

Should be basically the same as the last attempt. Boot with the CD in the drive, let it load, select the drive to wipe with the arrows and space bar. Start the process. Make a pot of coffee, and wait.

oh yea....hope for no errors.




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