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Before I Give Up And Reinstall, A Question


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#1 aelfgifa

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Posted 09 May 2006 - 11:26 PM

Hello,

I have been working with SifuMike in the HJT forum. I started out with various malware, most of which were removed, things were looking better, and the last things on the "fix list" were updating IE6 and installing a firewall (Zone Alarm). Then my computer crashed Monday night and after spending most of today with it, the conclusion was that I'd probably have to reinstall Windows XP Pro. So he sent me here.

While I was reading the directions on what to do before posting here, I saw a post from somebody with a similar problem. One of the things I did Monday shortly before my computer crashed (it continuously cycles and will only boot into Safe mode) was to install Zone Alarm. The other poster said that she traced a similar problem to Zone Alarm because it apparently generates a huge amount of temporary files. My questions:

1. Is there an easy way for me to find out if this is/was the case with me? It's already too late for me to back up my data to CD or a thumb drive because now, I get an error message that says the drive is write protected.

2. More stupidly - I'm just going to confess to this since if anybody tries to help me, they'll see it in my logs anyway. I called a friend a few hours ago (in another time zone, so I can't call back) who told me to edit my BIOS (which I wouldn't recognize if it came up and bit me on the nose). But . . . I got into it by hitting CTL-ALT then tapping the DEL key, then forgot what I was supposed to edit and started changing what appeared to have been the primary and secondary masters and slaves at startup. (I don't really know what those *are* , they just seemed promising for a computer that was endlessly cycling and rebooting.)

3. Is there a way to fix this - both the original problem with the malware (we were so close to having it fixed and the Zone Alarm thing (sounds borderline possible)? And then the problem I just created for myself by editing the BIOS? Yes, I know now why Windows hides things like that. But the temptation was irresistable.

I really really do not want to have to reinstall Windows XP and I wish I'd never tried editing the BIOS. If nothing else, can somebody please, please help me put it back into some sort of default configuration so I can try uninstalling ZoneAlarm? Then if that doesn't work, and I can't get it to boot in Normal mode, I will give up and start reading the directions on the install which scares me to death.

Thank you,

aelfgifa

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#2 Albert Frankenstein

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 05:27 AM

Hello again. We will be glad to continue to help you.

FIRST
Boot into safe mode and then go to:

Start > Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs

Find Zone Alarm on the list, highlight it by clicking on it once, and then uninstall it by clicking on the Remove button.

THEN
Go to

Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore
Restore your computer to a date just before these recent problems started. When that is complete, reboot into normal mode and see if you are successful. Let us know.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The BIOS is a piece of software that lives on your motherboard. When you first start your computer, BIOS is what is running when you see mostly black screens with a bunch of numbers and giberish. It, among other things, checks all the hardware on your computer, and when it is satisfied that everything is in working order turns the computer over to Windows, and then you start seeing Windows load. Usually you enter the BIOS by hitting a key when your computer is first starting up, usually the DEL key, or perhaps F1 key. If you hit this key while the computer is first starting (before you see any Windows screens) it opens up "Setup", or "the BIOS". Usually the BIOS has blue screens with white lettering, but not always. At least that is how you actually enter it to make modifications, you do not enter the BIOS through Windows. So, is this how you got into BIOS, or was it something else you got into through Windows? I am unclear on this.

It would be real important for us to know at EXACTLY what point does your computer fail to boot into normal mode? What screens do you see? Any Windows screens at all?

And, what error messages do you get? Write them down WORD FOR WORD and post them here. It will help a lot.
ALBERT FRANKENSTEIN
I'M SO SMART IT'S SCARY!


Currently home chillin' with the fam and my two dogs!


#3 Herk

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 10:27 AM

The Primary Master is your C: drive. (mostly) It is absolutely necessary that this not be changed. The BIOS searches for drives, either manually or automatically depending on which BIOS it is, and sets them so that the bootup process knows where the drives are and which one to boot from.

What these drives are is determined from their jumper settings (if applicable) and their position on the IDE cable and which IDE plug they're connected to.

This is not something anyone should attempt to change!

It is often necessary to change the boot order so that your computer will boot from the CD-Rom instead of the hard drive or floppy drive. This is usually described in the BIOS as simply "Boot" or in other settings as "Boot Order." Instructions to change settings are on the page somewhere, such as using the + or - key or the Pageup or Pagedown keys. Usually, you do this to get the computer to start from the CD instead of the hard drive so that you can use a different disk, such as the XP disk or an alternate operating system to boot your computer.

Many of the things in BIOS can be very important and will stop your computer from working if they are changed. For instance, if you have a RAID setup, this is something that must be enabled in the BIOS or the computer will not function. If you disable it, you essentially disable your computer. You might also disable onboard sound or some other important function.

When you buy a motherboard, it usually comes with a nice setup manual describing each feature of the BIOS, what the normal default settings are, and what each setting does.

In the event that your BIOS became corrupted, or was reset by a jumper or removing the backup battery, it is very good to know what is set in your BIOS and how, so that you can restore it to what is needed. Default BIOS settings are good for a great many computers, but special setups would require that some settings be changed, and resetting the BIOS to default might just make the computer inoperable.

#4 aelfgifa

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 04:07 PM

Hello,

Thanks for the continued help. This response is to what Albert Frankenstein posted

Yesterday (before I got into the BIOS - and yes it was a blue screen with mostly white letters, some red ones), when I turned the computer on, or hit CTL-ALT-DEL, it would beep, make drive noises, get as far as the initial set up screen which usually flashes by too fast to read, then stop at a page which offered me the chance to choose between safe mode, safe mode with network connection, safe mode with command prompt, last known good configuration and normal mode. I tried each and every one and the only thing it would allow me to boot into was safe mode. (and from there, I couldn't run most of the tools SifuMike wanted me to use from the HJT forum). So - after a day of frustration I called a friend in another state who told me how to get to the BIOS and that's when things got worse.

The exact error message I get *now*, which you wanted is:

Turn on computer. Makes noise at drive. Get Windows XP screen. Get "no signal" screen. Get initial screen which goes by too fast to read but after a few times I could read the very bottom of the screen which says "searching for boot record from . . . " then the screen goes black and I go back to step 2 (makes noise at drive . . . ) and it just endlessly cycles. I can't even turn it off.

At the very beginning, I got an error that said "Windows XP Setup cannot run under SafeMode setup, will reboot now" I clicked OK. The endless loop above started and I wonder if I should shut it off before it blows up or something.

aelfgifa

#5 aelfgifa

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 04:24 PM

Hello Herk,

Thank you for the pretty understandable explanation of what the BIOS does and what the master is. I agree with you completely that I shouldn't have tried to change it. I wish I'd read that before giving in to temptation. But after a long and frustrating day, it just felt good to have something in the computer that would actually respond to me. So, I did change it. :thumbsup:

Now, I guess my question is: Is there a way to change it back to what it was before I meddled with it manually? (ignoring for now the issue of whether or not all the malware I had might have already corrupted it - which is maybe why I was unable to boot into Normal Windows XP mode at all).

Also, one of the few things I do remember is that before I changed it, I'm pretty sure the Primary Master was my Floppy Drive, although the CD drive was maybe third on the list of things it would try. (You said the CD drive should have been the Primary Master and even without a clear understanding of what a Primary Master IS, that didn't sound right. Then, I started changing things and things went from bad to worse.

So - at this point I'd be happy to even be able to boot in safe mode instead of listening to the endless cycling and beeping. I am going to turn it off manually so I can get some peace and quiet.

aelfgifa

#6 seafox14

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 04:45 PM

see if your bios setup utility has a option for loading setup defaults to get the bios back to the default settings. I have found that this can work if you change bios settings and don't remember what settings you changed.
5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Donít be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world

#7 aelfgifa

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 05:11 PM

Hello seafox,

How do you actually do that?

I can't get my computer to do anything at all other than sit there and endlessly try and fail to boot.

I had somebody suggest doing a "repair install" (???) But the directions were not clear and I've been trying to google on how to do that. Right now, I'm using another computer because mine is completely nonfunctional.

Thx,

aelfgifa

#8 aelfgifa

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 05:17 PM

Progress of a sort . . . (I still need help)

Oh, I take that back. Maybe there is hope.

Finally, if I hold down CTL-ALT and keep pushing the DEL key, after many many many tries, it finally brought me back to a blue screen with white letters titled: AMIBIOS SIMPLE SETUP UTILITY - VERSION 1.44. This is where I got into all that trouble yesterday. The first option is : Standard CMOS Features, the next is: Advanced BIOS Features and there are a whole bunch of other choices.

OK, at least it is quiet now and the %^$# beeping at me has stopped.

aelfgifa

#9 Herk

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 09:57 PM

Also, one of the few things I do remember is that before I changed it, I'm pretty sure the Primary Master was my Floppy Drive,


No, I said that someone may have wanted you to change the boot order so that your CD-Rom would boot first. You seem to have a problem understanding the concept of "primary master," so I'll offer some more information: "Primary master" refers to the first drive on the first IDE socket. In other words, the master drive on the cable, which isn't something that you could change without physically removing the drive from your computer.

"Boot order" is what you really seem to be talking about - and it's quite common for the floppy drive to be first in the boot order in older computers because without a bootable floppy in the drive, the next thing to boot would be the hard drive. In the event of a failing hard drive, you would be able to put in a boot floppy to start the machine from the floppy instead of the hard drive. So the normal order used to be: floppy - hard drive (primary master) - CD-Rom.

These days, many computers ship without a floppy drive. Some BIOS's are set up by default to boot from the CD-Rom first, and if there's a bootable CD in there, it will be what the machine runs on. Most of these machines will then offer you a timed choice on startup whether you want to boot from the CD-Rom or the hard disk. If you choose number one, you boot from the CD, if you choose number 2 you boot from the hard disk.

Sometimes, you need to boot from the Windows CD to make repairs. If the computer is not already set up to give you that choice, you can go into the BIOS and change the boot order to allow the computer to boot from the CD. When you've finished making repairs, you would then go back and reset the boot order to boot from the hard disk. At this point, if there is no bootable CD in the drive, and the second boot choice is hard disk, it would start normally. (Assuming it can start.)

One point I should make here. When you make a change in the BIOS, you have to exit saving changes. If you exit without saving changes, you haven't changed anything!

From what you've written, your computer is still trying to start from the hard disk, otherwise you would not see the XP screen at all. Chances are you have changed nothing in the BIOS. The real problem is with the corrupted operating system. There is a possibility of doing a repair install of XP - after which you would have to reinstall all service packs and updates again. (If your XP disk has SP2, you would have to reinstall updates you got after that; if your XP disk is SP1, you would have to intstall SP2 and updates after that.)

In this Michael Stevens tutorial, pay special attention to the part about not booting into the recovery console, and if Repair is not available in the Windows installation, do not continue. If you do, you will lose everything. It is possible to recover data other ways, and if you do not have your data backed up, you may still be able to get it. My only fear is that, if it should be a failing hard drive, you may have more frustration.

Another obvious solution may be to replace your boot record, since you get the message about searching for boot record and then the restarting. In that case, you would have to get the computer to start from the CD (here we go again . . . ) and then, using the Windows XP CD, get into the recovery console - if you don't have an administrator password, you just press enter. Info here.

If this gets to be too much, you might want to take the thing to a repair shop and see if they can get it going for you . . . your data would be safer. It depends on how important that is to you. Meanwhile, you can't help but learn a little, abeit the hard way.

#10 Albert Frankenstein

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 01:42 PM

I had somebody suggest doing a "repair install" (???) But the directions were not clear and I've been trying to google on how to do that.

Repair install of Windows.
Insert Windows CD. Reboot computer. Allow the computer to boot to Windows CD. When prompted choose "Install Windows" at the first opportunity. Then at the second opportunity choose "REPAIR" (which is hitting the R key). Then let windows do a repair install. Theoretically this will not affect your data or programs, but I suggest making full backups first anyway, as backups are never a bad idea.

Also please note: Not all versions of Windows install CDs have the option for a Repair install. Let us know if that is true in your case.

NOTE: Choosing 'R' at the first opportunity will give you the Recovery Console and this is NOT what you want. You want to choose 'R' at the second opportunity.
ALBERT FRANKENSTEIN
I'M SO SMART IT'S SCARY!


Currently home chillin' with the fam and my two dogs!





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