Recovery 169-580-90We do a fair amount of data recovery from hard drives that are still functional, but for whatever reason have a number of bad sectors. So if a tool like Acronis cannot clone the drive because there is significant file system damage, we’ve had great luck with the Linux dd_rescue tool in the System Rescue CD.

However, some problems crop up when you rescue clone from an older hard drive onto a newer Advanced Format Drive – dd_rescue has no concept of the new AFD layout. Tools are available from most HD manufacturers to repair this misalignment, but afterwards it can cause other problems. For most Windows Vista and 7 computers, there is a recovery partition on drive D:  Often after alignment, the boot information is incorrect and the boot loader cannot start the WinRE environment on Drive D:After much trial, error, and research – we were able to fix most issues with the F8 Recovery console on Vista and Windows 7.

The good news is, it is fairly easy to fix if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty in a command window.

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  • Filed under: Microsoft
  • MS Security Essentials Removal Script

    206546-microsoft-security-essentials_originalWe have encountered a variety of systems where a virus infection has corrupted Microsoft Security Essentials in a way that makes it impossible to remove or reinstall using normal methods. Unlike most AV vendors, Microsoft has not released a ‘Removal Tool’ that will remove every trace of the anti-virus, so most people have had to try and use a variety of manual methods. We recently wrote about a handy script that was able to remove MSE in a number of cases, but the owner took it offline (along with the rest of his very useful reference site) and it was lacking a few additional keys.

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    WindowsGlassRegistry corruptions don’t always require a wipe and reinstall. You can often get the registry ‘back’ using a backed up copy. Microsoft published a procedure for doing this way back in knowledge base article KB307545. The trouble with this procedure is it is very tedious, utilizing Windows XP recovery mode  (basically a DOS prompt) and tricks to get into the System Volume Information directory.

    Instead, utilizing the fantastic System Recovery CD, you can quickly restore a backup copy of the registry.

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  • Filed under: Microsoft
  • Don’t Overlook The Obvious….

    powerbutton2Sometimes overlooking the obvious can result in a repair being much harder than it needs to be. A laptop came in with strange behavior. It would just shutdown randomly. Not a normal shutdown – a hard shutdown. The computer would just turn off. Sometimes in windows, sometimes during boot, heck sometimes during POST. No errors, no blue screen. Just OFF.

    Older systems had primitive overheating protection like this. CPU gets too hot, system turns off. Nowadays the systems will throw a BIOS alarm before shutting down and this was a newer laptop, so it made no sense. Heatsink was clean and the fan was working fine. The exhaust temp was reasonable.

    The bizarre nature of when it shutdown pointed to hardware. So we swapped out the CPU. It ran well for a while, then suddenly started doing it again a few days later as we worked to update windows and such.

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    netlogoHave seen this on a couple of Windows XP systems – .Net 2.0 Security update KB2804577 will successfully install, but then it is flagged to be installed again. And again. And again.

    Weeding through a variety of MS support forum posts, I finally found the answer at the bottom of a thread that mainly contained ‘THIS IS THE WRONG FORUM’ replies. SMH. Thankfully someone answered the question:

    GMazeika replied on May 17, 2013

    Check file C:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v2.0.50727\System.Security.dll

    In XP version of file must be 2.0.50727.3646. My old file had version 2.0.50727.3644.

    Replace System.Security.dll with version 2.0.50727.3646 and restart Automatic Updates service.

    Sure enough – grabbed the right version from another Windows XP box and the update stopped requesting to be installed. Scary that the top answer to that thread is ‘just hide it’ when it’s a security patch.

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  • Filed under: Microsoft
  • 206546-microsoft-security-essentials_originalWe have recently started to see some systems come in where Microsoft Security Essentials is damaged by a virus infection to the point it cannot be reinstalled. Yes, MSE has gotten some bad press lately due to their performance in AV-TEST.org’s evaluations, though Microsoft has published some interesting data trying to map out the real world impact of what they missed.

    But the troubling issue we are seeing is MSE being damaged beyond repair, even for what seem to be minor infections. You can’t uninstall it, and when you try to manually remove it, the reinstall will still fail with a variety of errors.

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  • Filed under: Virus Removal
  • The Power Supply Did What???

    powersupplyWhen it comes to hard repairs, power supplies are the easiest things to replace, but sometimes that hardest to troubleshoot. Most testers only measure the voltages – with minimal load. So a number of problems aren’t caught. But it’s still basically a two step process. Power up on the tester and ensure all voltages are within spec. Then toss in a new or known good working supply and see if the problem (usually the system not power up) goes away.

    Easy right?

    Well we encountered one of the odder power supply issues we’ve seen in awhile. HP Pavilion desktop that the user said would sometimes boot, other times it would hang on the BIOS screen. When we powered up the system, it booted fine. We ran some virus scans, then rebooted and it hung at the BIOS screen. Multiple hard resets later, it was hanging or it was booting and when it would hang, it wasn’t always at the same point. Bizarre.

    Tested out the memory and hard drive. Working great. Checked the motherboard capacitors, since this system was a few years old when that was a problem. They were fine. But that reminded me that systems with blown capacitors could sometimes act very similar  and unstable. So for kicks we swapped out the power supply and sure enough – system was rock solid. Clearly one of the rails was not stable and was causing the system to not boot even though it would always power up.

    So if you have a computer that’s behaving strangely – it certainly could be the CPU or motherboard, but don’t overlook that a power supply that seems to be working fine, could be the culprit.

    Getting HP Support Assistant Installed

    HP Support AssistantIt took entirely too long for the computer manufacturers to start including an application to update the hardware drivers and firmware on their systems. But with Windows 7, most seem to have finally gotten on board with ensuring their hardware is using the latest software. (Except for Dell. Akami Netsession that auto starts plus some unstable browser based analyze tool?? Embarrassing!) One of my favorites is HP Support Assistant. It’s very easy to use, automates the updates if you want, and updates *everything*.

    But occasionally I have seen it get corrupted and either crash often or fail to completely uninstall, preventing a reinstall. This is not a common problem, but once it does happen, many forum posts indicate it can be difficult to get around.

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  • Filed under: Applications
  • The FBI/MoneyPak virus (known as Medfos or Midhos) is showing up on a number of computers. It can be tricky to uninstall the current variants of this virus, as it locks the computer up in both Safe Mode and normal mode.

    Virus Warning

    A common ‘scareware’ warning from the FBI/MoneyPak virus

    We’ve seen a number of systems come in with this and have developed a removal procedure that is fairly quick…
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  • Filed under: Virus Removal
  • We Fixed It!

    How NOT To Repair A Computer

    How NOT To Repair A Computer

    One of the more enjoyable parts of fixing computers is finally figuring out those REALLY difficult repairs. Sure, a wipe and reinstall will fix most problems, but customers hate it because they lose their settings and programs. So it’s fun to try and find the method that will finally get a sick system back up to speed.
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  • Filed under: Miscellaneous
  • IT Xpress Fixed It!

    A collection of articles from difficult & unique computer repairs we've done here at
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