Help-my computer was wiped out overnight!

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Tim L, Aug 2, 2005.

  1. Tim L

    Tim L Second Unit

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    I can't believe this happened- and don't know how it could happen-I booted up my computer this morning (windows XP) it seemed to be booting nomally- but when my desktop came up it was only my desktop background-nothing else! everything is gone- I can't right click- infact there is nothing to click on- no toolbars-nothing. Where did everything go- its like my computer is suddenly empty. I am no computer expert so I am freaking on this somewhat-I have information that I cannot afford to lose-any suggestiosn or ideas?
    Tim
     
  2. Mike LS

    Mike LS Supporting Actor

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    Sounds like a virus or a registry problem to me.

    Since you seem to have internet access through a different computer, run a google search with the symptoms. I searched for "blank desktop on boot up" and got a lot of hits with information.
     
  3. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    The first thing is to stop, think through a diagnosis and recovery plan, if even partially, and then take it one step at a time. Don't change multiple things at once, as you risk confusing the problem and yourself, creating new problems. Above all else, Don't Panic. [​IMG]

    Who used your computer last? What did they do? Can you think of any events that might have (inadvertently) led to computer problems or the downloading of a malicious program? Was your firewall and anti-virus sofware disabled at some point?

    Do you have a computer-savvy friend, who could remove your hard-drive, install it working computer and duplicate its contents? Or (something I've never done) is to boot from a floppy or CD-based alternate OS, a Linux variant, and use that to backup your harddrive. The value is to circumvent any Windows-based viruses or malware during the backup process.

    Do you have a recovery disk -- a bootable floppy or CD? If so, try booting from that to see if things are amiss.

    Can you boot into Safe Mode? Pres F8 during the beginning of the boot process and from the command-line menu, select the most basic mode (no network, no drivers, etc.) If that is successful, you can reboot and try more enable-modes of safe mode. I think you can also use a safe mode, with drives enabled, to make backups with your Cd burner (or what have you).

    Those are just some simple ideas. If it looks serious, it may be best to bring in a savvy friend or take your system to a computer shop.
     
  4. Tim L

    Tim L Second Unit

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    Basically it ran fine (kind of) the night before-I was having more pop ups and buggy stuff happening this past month-infact I was in the process of consolidating all of my files for backup this weekend-my friend is going to try and take my drives out and place them in his computer to see if we can read any files 9but he can't come over until saturday)-if so I will buy an external hard drive and copy everything to it- if not hopefully he knows something I don't (I don't know much thats for sure). he mentioned something about Xp not having a bootable disc like 98 or 2000-I don't know for sure.
    I tried getting into safe mode-but it kept telling me I had a keyboard failure. I don't know much about this I've been trying to research the internet here from work for some answers-but it is exactly like mike said "blank desktop on bootup"-thanks guys hopefully something will comeup.
    Tim
     
  5. SteveA

    SteveA Supporting Actor

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    Try this:

    If you can, bring up task manager by hitting CTRL/ALT/DEL. If that works, go to the application tab and hit the button that says "New task" (I think). Type in "explorer.exe" and run it.

    If this doesn't work, then you might really be hosed.
     
  6. Tim L

    Tim L Second Unit

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    Steve-actually the task manager was the only thing I could bring up- unfortunatley I will have to wait until I get home tonight to try this- if this doesn't work you say I'm pretty much screwed? Does that mean everything is lost for good? Thanks again
    Tim
     
  7. Keith Mickunas

    Keith Mickunas Cinematographer

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    Tim, it's entirely possible that something happened to the startup procedure and it just isn't bringing up explorer which is what Steve is suggesting you look for. If explorer is there and not starting, then hopefully nothing is gone from your hard drive. So using his suggestion should get you back into your system so you can back up the important stuff before reinstalling. However, if you can't start explorer then that could indicate a hard drive problem of some sort. Or it could be other problems.

    All the same, at this point I'm guessing it's some sort of corruption of your windows install or the registry, and is not a hard drive problem, since you haven't mentioned any error messages on start up. Therefore its entirely possible that your data is intact and can be copied from your drive.
     
  8. Drew Bethel

    Drew Bethel Screenwriter

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    Were you using an up-to-date virus program?
     
  9. Tim L

    Tim L Second Unit

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    Actually I'm guilty of having no anti-virus program running (only zone alrarm and ad-aware) because norton's kept messing with some graphics programs I had been using (I know not too bright on my part). Yes my main concern is getting my files back- I can always re-install the programs. I hope its not a hard drive problem (actually I have two installed)- I guess the only way to back up my drives would be to take them out and put them into another computer (since I cannot read anyting at this time).
    I am going to try a few things tonight when I get home if that doesn't work then I'll wait until saturday when my friend brings over his computer (I am not the most computer saavy person)I'm going to purchase an external HD to have so we can just copy everything over (if it gets to that point). If it is a registry problem is that something that can be corrected? thanks again
    Tim
     
  10. Gerald LaFrance

    Gerald LaFrance Supporting Actor

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    Have you tried Safe Mode, Restart computer hold F8 when in option screen select safe mode and try System Restore
     
  11. Paul Padilla

    Paul Padilla Supporting Actor

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    Pardon my outburst...but [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] No anti-virus???? Holy flarking schnidt!! (to quote Kang and Kodos from the Simpsons)

    Sorry...I'm better now.



    Now...increasing pop-ups signal spyware to me, but can also be virus related. You have a number of different symptoms going on here. Spyware/virus...hard drive...RAM problems which can lead to registry corruption. Of course, recovering your data is always paramount. Booting XP off of a floppy (or set, therof) can be done, if a little problematic. Here is an article on creating a set of XP boot disks. Since the hard drive is most likely formatted with NTFS, regular boot disks won't be able to access the hard drive. There are other issues that can come up too, such as having a hard drive controller for which the boot disks don't have drivers.

    As for moving the hard drive to another machine to copy the data, that would be my first move after trying Safe Mode except for the fact that you have reason to suspect it might be infected. In that case your friend risks infecting his/her system if they don't proceed very carefully. If they don't have a current and updated anti-virus program then you're both asking for trouble. And don't forget that 2nd hard drive you have in your machine. If your main drive is infected the 2nd one becomes suspect as well. I'd hate for you to jump through all of the hoops of re-installing only to get infected again.

    If you can boot into Safe Mode...there's hope. If not...in my experience 9 times out of 10 you're better off cutting your losses and wipe and re-install. The 10th time is usually when replacing bad hardware can correct the problem.

    After all is in happily ever after mode...try Trend Micro's PC-Cillin. Nortons/Symantec makes a good product, but they can be too invasive...throwing their hooks all through the OS.
     
  12. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    When this is all over consider AVG anti-virus. Freeware, open source, community supported and updates and runs automatically just like the programs that charge you idiotic amounts of money for annual subscriptions and then force you to upgrade the main program every couple of years. (We won't mention any names. [​IMG])

    I used a set of AVG emergency disks to restore a computer that was badly scrambled by a virus that got past a fully-updated copy of Norton Anti-Virus.

    You have to understand that different progrms do different things. A firewall is there to prevent other people from accessing your system remotely, anti-spyware programs are to potect againt and/or detect and remove spyware. Neither will protect you from a virus. (BTW, if you're using the freeware version of Ad Aware it does not automatically and continuously protect your system. Only the Pro version does that. So you have to manually update and run the program to remain protected.)

    Ad Aware will only protect you from programs that have been identified into the Ad Aware database - so even if you keep your copy updated you won't be protected against things that haven't yet been encountered by memebers of the Ad Aware community. That's why I run three programs on my system: Ad Aware - free version, I update and run it weekly - Spybot - Ditto - MS Anti-Spyware Beta, which is the only one of the three that automatically updates both the software and its database daily, always runs in the background protecting against spyware, and is (currently) free.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  13. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    My simple-minded thought is to boot from a recovery disk (floppy or CD). If at all possible, don't boot back into windows from your problematic drive.

    Maybe it's a glitch that will be rectified with a reboot -- these things happen. Maybe it's something more serious. But you want to be cautious and takes steps to mitigate further risk.

    So boot with a known safe disk that enables access to a removable media drive e.g. CD-RW and use that to copy your critical files (if possible). (As I mentioned, I've heard of Linux-based bootable disks for this purpose. That would be preferable, if possible, but I've no experience there.)

    Once done, set them aside and don't access them from any computer that lacks an up-to-date anti-virus program, and then scan all recovered files.

    After you've done, you can either wait for your buddy to help out, or boot into safe mode and see if it was merely a recoverable glitch.

    If you can reboot, update your system to SP2 if possible, install and run a current AV program, anti-spyware, etc. Then back up all your data (again).

    Hopefully you can get going easily. [​IMG]
     
  14. Tim L

    Tim L Second Unit

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    Okay I'm finally home- infact I am on my computer now typing this- it seems mozilla is the only thing I can get working-I did this by getting into the task manager and browsed and saw all of my stuff but this is the only thing that works for now (barely its really slow) I tried booting normally from safemode- nothing, still blank desktop. I tried running explore.exe in the task manager as was suggested earlier- but that did nothing as well. My friend is installing updated virus protection on his computer -I was hoping it wouldn't come to that though. Lots of good info from you guys-appreciate it- I feel a little better after actually seeing all my stuff from the task manager-so I am assuming its there still- but I just can't get to it[​IMG] I will keep trying all of your suggestions-hopefully somethings gotta work, thaks
    Tim
     
  15. Howie D

    Howie D Stunt Coordinator

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    I've seen this happen at my work and it was related to a bad COM+ registration. We fixed it by going into Add/Remove Programs and selecting to install Windows Components. Just do Start > Run > Control.exe appwiz.cpl (press enter), and if the GUI comes up, choose Add/Remove Windows Components. Don't select to make any changes, just click Next to the prompts. If that still does not work, you might want to do a system file check by Start > Run > Sfc /scannow (press enter). Hope this helps.
     
  16. Stephen Orr

    Stephen Orr Screenwriter

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    Sometimes I have a conflict with a USB device, and all I'll get is the desktop. If I unplug a USB cable, everything usually pops back up.
     
  17. Tim L

    Tim L Second Unit

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    Well I made some progress last night- but the computer will definitely have to be wiped clean and start new-its got major issues-more now than ever. I tried booting up several times when on the last time I noticed n the task manager that there were multiple "SVChost.exe" running-honestly I don't know what this is- but I started deleting some and suddenly my icons and everything started to appear again (slowly). I was able to back up some important stuff (thankfully) but now the computer is having all sorts of problems-
    for example (I won't list them all)-
    - telling me my virtual memory is low (uh?)
    - Computer won't shut down- it goes through each application seperatley telling me that each one was not shut done properly so it checks them all one by one and still won't shut off
    - error message "C.winnt/system32/autoexe.nt is not suitable for running MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows Applications (big black box with error message)
    - Runs very very slow-everything is sluggish-I can only compare it to like my computer having a severe stroke- its running- but its not the same at all.
    I am going to go out today and purchase an external hard drive and just put everything on it and have my friend clean out both drives and I will also be buying some anti-virus software-what would you guys recommend for this? I know AVG was recommended (never heard of that one). You guys gave me lots of good information and advice that I will be sure to follow-I Hope the damn thing will work long enough for me to back up the rest of my stuff-it seemed the longer I kept it on the more flaky it started to act and respond. Thanks
    Tim
     
  18. Steve Deacon

    Steve Deacon Stunt Coordinator

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    Multiple instances of svchost is normal, they are just windows services.

    A quick check with google on any process running that you can't identify will usually reveal whether it is benign or not.
     
  19. Mike LS

    Mike LS Supporting Actor

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  20. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Actually, that's "autoexec.nt", not "autoexe.nt", and basically that warning means you've got some kine of spyware/trojan/virus. We were getting that same message on some of our PCs last year when spyware first started being a major pain for us. It is a (probalby incorrect) generic Windows error that runs in response to some oddball thing that the spyware is doing - one of those Windows "best guess" errors where the system doesn't have a real message that corresponds to the actual anomaly, so it displays the closest match to what it "thinks" it is. [​IMG] Doubtless one of those instances of "svchost" that you stopped was invoked by the rogue program (which is itself invisible to task manager) and killing that instance let you get some functionality back. You might also try running MSCONFIG at the "Run" ocmmand and turning off anything funky-looking in your start-up files. Google MSCONFIG and you'll find sites that explain typical programs that you'll find in the various files - and which ones you shouldn't mess with. This might help in loading Windows without the univited guest and off loading more of your stuff before you wipe the drive. Don't forget that your back up may also be infected, so try to find an anti-virus program that can scan your compressed backup files before you restore them.

    Regards,

    Joe
     

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