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Virus infected PC and Recovery Disk?

Posted on 2002-07-29
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I have a friend who's system seems to be infected with a virus. I know that supposedly some viruses attack the "0" sector on the HD. Will doing a complete recovery using the recovery disk that came with the system eliminate the virus, and allow the system to be returned to it's original condition? Or are there other measures that must be taken to get the machine back to it's original ship status? Any help will be appreciated.
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Question by:thereceiver
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by:acmp
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Firstly, what virus do they have?  If it doesn't attack sector 0 then there's no problem ;-)

acmp <><
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by:thereceiver
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acmp, I'm not even totally sure that they have a virus let alone which one. My friend has not had an updated virus protection for about a year, and I know that recently there were several emails in our area that had viruses in them. Several weeks ago I myself had 3 viruses detected by my Norton 2000, one was a "klez" I don't recall the others. I'm just assuming its a virus. I just need to know whether no matter what kind of virus, would doing a complete recovery using the system recovery disk take care of any virus that might be in the system? I would imagine this recovery would entail a format of the HD. The system is so unstable that trying to determine whether something else might be wrong, bad ram, motherboard, or whatever, is almost impossible. That's why I'm just asking whether a recovery of the system would eliminate a virus if it were present? Again any help will be appreciated.
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OK,

Klez is not likly to infect 'sector 0'.

If your recovery disk is a 'format and start again' disk then you should be OK if you fdisk the PC first, to destroy and rebuild the partition information.  If it is a 'roll back' disk then it will not fix any boot or partition sector viruses.

I would look at the symptoms the PC is having, and try to match them to a known virus. A lot of computer oddities are blamed on viruses when they are not really viruses. It is unlikly that he has a new virus that has not been identified yet.

Also upgrade the AV and look to see if it is being stopped, some viruses will terminate the AV processes.  Nice and obvious if you look for it.  A firewall can help to identify any virus or trojon that is trying to communicate over a network connection.

If it all comes up OK then it probably isn't a virus at all.  If you're still not convinced you may want to put his hard disk into your PC and scan it with your up to date Av software.  This is quite safe as long as you don't execute any apps from the HDD before you scan it.

acmp <><
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by:tituba2
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If you can get to the internet with this PC, go to
http://housecall.antivirus.com and scan without registering.

This will scan your hard drive from the internet and tell you if you have a virus to deal with.  You cannot rely on the virus software as some viruses (Klez for example) disable the software so you get a false result.

acmp:  Klez usually drops the companion virus Elkern, however, there have been several cases where Klez is dropping CIH.  CIH is very destructive and will even flash the BIOS.
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by:SunBow
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> This will scan your hard drive from the internet

No it won't, my firewall would not approve of that.

> who's system seems to be infected with a virus.

no, unlikely to be virus if "The system is so unstable that trying to determine whether something else might be wrong, bad ram".  More often the system is left with a stability that is undesireable.

> using the system recovery disk take care of any virus that might be in the system?

no. That is not what it is for.

> other measures that must be taken to get the machine back to it's original ship status?

Only one way, the CD that came with it (and any supplemental diskettes that came with it if alternate HW drivers were used to do the build)

> imagine this recovery would entail a format of the HD

yes, fDisk, reformat, and new OS should do that - clean it up for you

> system is so unstable

define unstable.

> I'm just assuming its a virus

you know what they say about making assumptions (more frequently these days, use of automatic update features is causing more of that than curing - including A/V and MS. but you say "no" to any implications of A/V being culprit, as in no recent updates)

> trying to determine whether something else might be wrong, bad ram, motherboard, or whatever, is almost impossible

not really, if you have points to spend. There is even a EE TA on HW with more expertise. Main real problem is that you do not have computer handy, and were not present when it went belly up, so it is difficult to deal with real behavior and a conversation here about it. Neither A/V nor system recovery, or any other sw will fix bad ram.

(but trial and error on replacing sticks will, if that is only problem)

A lot also depends on your OS. What happens if you simply boot a known good boot diskette? What is it about the system that still works? What was it that was last done before the problem began? A use of a 'strange' partition manager? A click on 'I love you' followed by a click on messagebox "ok" when asked if you want to clean or wash your drive by removing sectors?  A manual removal of files based upon recommendation of some unknown person in eMail or eChat who claims to know more about viruses in \Windows than Symantec or McAfee?

But your original question is more on only recovery and virus. My answer to those is that the recovery process, rolling back, may fix the actual problem, but that it will not do well at all for virus removal.

If pressed for time, and don't want this box to remain unstable for more days, it is a worthwhile option to completely rebuild the machine. That process in itself can help highlight what may or may not be broken. And if it was a virus, a virus cannot infect a CD. Do a hard boot (from complete power off; very important for laptop) and boot the OS CD. Do not update. Do wipe-out and install new.

Do note: that if a backup system was in place, and if a virus was involved, or another reason to have had files, that any recovery from such a system has to remain suspect. You may want to advise friend to bring over any copies already made of files, so that you can scan them before they are loaded onto the cleaned system.

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by:SunBow
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acmp> you may want to put his hard disk into your PC and scan it

This is a real good next step ... if you can. I assumed 'friend' too distant, but if nearby, twist friend's arm real hard to give it a shot, for it'll tell you many things, including whether the HD is bad in HW sense, and how well is remaining file_system. That can be done in a very short time. (and as Sherlock said, once you rule out this and that, then culprit lies among what remains).
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by:thereceiver
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acmp, first off the AV software she has on the system won't run, says missing .DLL. I sent her a copy of the DLL from my Norton but to no avail. The system throws bad DLL errors, boots then shuts itself off, or reboots. When using Outlook, or Dial up system likes to freeze up. Crtl-Alt-Del, sometimes works and other times not. I just want to try to clean the system using the recovery disk, and see what happens after that.

tituba2, she has tried to run this from the site you mention, but here dial-up keeps dropping her, or the system freezes? That was my first suggestion to her, try a trial software(AV), or one that you can run from a site. But you still have to be able to have the site access your machine and it seems to not like that.


Sunbow, yes I know what they say about assuming soemthing :0). But she has not kept the AV software up to date, and now as I said it won't even run. I'm just trying to help the only way I know how and that would be to do a recovery of the machine using the disks that came with the machine.


If any of you, or all of you think that a complete recovery might work say YEAH, if not, she has a 3 year on-site warranty from PeoplePC and she can call them for help. I don't mind doing the recovery, but not knowledgable enough to do other testing. Let me know what you all think, brainstorm for me :0).
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by:manojanand
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Hi,

VX2000 gives a tool to fixbootsector u can download the AV tool from www.k7computing.com

Bye,
Anand
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by:acmp
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I say Yeah.  A complete recovery is probable the best quick fix.  If you fdisk the HDD.  Turn it off, boot from a diskette, fdisk, reformat then run the OS CD.

manojanand:
<rant>
I don't think that your comment is really an 'answer'. The question was 'will a system recovery disk fix it'.  I'd reread the thread and maybe think of another comment.  Anyway it is bad EE etiquate to pop an answer in during a thread.  It is better to post a comment and let the asker decide if it is a soloution to their problem.
</rant>

acmp<><
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by:thereceiver
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acmp, most recovery disks I've seen give you some option as to want you can do, my dell recovery cd allows for a complete format and then re-install of OS and separate apps. I have yet to see this friends cd, if there is such an option will it (in your best guess) do what you are talking about with FDisk (?), and installation of the OS. I do know one thing, she tried to run the recovery disk and it came back with something about the CMOS, and she had no clue what that meant and stopped the recovery.
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by:SunBow
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er, before a mistaken assumption is made by an anonymous reader, I recommend considering rejecting the proposal asap (ee used to require that prior to allowing questioner to continue). fDisk works fine, as is, without user need to download 3rd party that may break something (and will, for certain scenarios). [also fyi to newbie manojanand if unaware of either]
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> had no clue what that meant and stopped the recovery.

Sometimes the attempts to troubleshoot and fix can introduce further errors, increasing further troubleshooting/fix attempts.

> back with something about the CMOS

This part has to be straightened before going further. While it could indicate further HW problem, or need to refresh bios, If this is an old system, it is even possible that batteries are running down, and system is losing ability to remember the HW configuration. Used to be good idea to replace battery every couple years, to be safe. Now many replace the PC instead. Old trick was to heed how well it tracks and keeps time. From one month to the next. The clock's ability may degrade prior to the mapping to disks. In any case, if this piece is limping, on how well it can find HD, it may let you install OS, then a little later not let you use HD. So if Bios/Cmos piece is weakened, then NOW is the time to address it, lest a technique like Recovery be attempted and leave more confusion about what it can and cannot do.

> recovery cd allows for a complete format and then re-install of OS and separate apps

I don't have trust in any words of 'Recovery', I'll leave that to acmp.

If this is only HW prob, such as a bios setting or a low battery condition, and a 'something' has adverseley impacted OS, I have had a lot of luck with simply deleting \Windows tree, then installing clean new Windows. This preserves files, (both personal and prospective viruses) which can get system usable quicker, but programs needing registry keys won't function until they are reinstalled.

Where there are no critical files on HD to recover, I'd still go for manual clean using MS' tools to erase disk (fDisk ought to be sufficient, with format/u = unconditional, not quick) even better. Then install OS, not upgrade or recover - either of which may run a transparent 'cheat' and preserve some prior configuration, to be 'friendly', when that may be the precise thing you are trying to erase.

Revisit bios rom and cmos memory
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by:thereceiver
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SUNBOW, you are being just a bit to technical for me. You mean that the battery may just need to be replaced? I thought that only controlled the clock function? If the "recovery" cd allows for a total format and then installation of the OS and additional apps, will that correct any errors in the bios or cmos? Or are these separate from the OS altogether? I have updated Bios, and looked at bios settings, are bios and cmos basically the same? If the "recovery" disk doesn't affect the bios or cmos, where do these settings come from the board manufacturer? Further explanation would be appreciated. As I said I'm not a total idiot, but not a tech whiz either.
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by:acmp
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Hi,

If the PC is <2 yrs old it is unlikely to be the battery, but stranger things have happened.

I used www.google.co.uk (or .com) to look up a good definition of both BIOS and CMOS, look at http://www.sysopt.com/biosdef.html and www.webopedia.com/TERM/C/CMOS.html for info ;-). (Use shift and click on the links to keep EE open)

fdisk is a utility from Microsoft (and no doubt others) that will display and modify a hard disk's partition information.  It is often used to remove partitions and recreate them.  It's not very delicate, so I wouldn't use it on a live system.  But it is very good at resetting a disk prior to reformatting and reinstalling you OS.

SunBow doesn't like recovery disks.  I understand that, some are total nightmares, they often don't have all the drivers that were installed on your PC when it was delivered.  It depends on the manafacturer, Dell is quite good, My HP is good (I even used it a couple of times too).

If you have an OS install disk then it can be nice to reinstall the OS without doing a recovery because that will leave all you documents on the hard disk, a format and recover will kill everything on the disk.

Whenever I need to reinstall I try to move everything I need to another disk/partition then blitz the C: drive. Then when I reinstall I still have my data nice and safe ;-)

acmp <><
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by:thereceiver
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ACMP, My friend was finally able to get and run the AV from "housecall", and it found and cleaned the following virus "PE ELKERN.D"(tituba2, mentioned ELKERN). But she is still having some problems with Outlook, and her dial up for PeoplePC. I suggested to her to delete and reinstall both items? I haven't had the chance to look up this virus yet, but she doesn't get any of the DLL messages anymore. I would imagine there might be some registry entries that might be messed up, or some corrupted files in Outlook, and her dial up. And her Norton AV is now working again, she ran it and it said no viruses found, but I'm not sure how updated her version is. I think she let the update lapse, and should either get a new edition, or pay for the continued updates. Oh by the way, the machine is about 3 yrs old, and is a Toshiba M100(something like that). Can the battery be replaced without harming anything? Just as a precaution, and where would she find a battery? Also ACMP, what do the points do for you people? I found this site a couple yrs ago, have asked several questions, and have gotten excellent help, but don't understand what's in it for the expert?  
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by:acmp
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If Outlook and the dialup are not working properly then yes, I'd reinstall them.  It's good to know that she found the

As an 'expert' I get to ask questions too.  Everyone gets the same points to play with, as you ask questions they go down, when you answer them they go up.

I started out a couple of years ago too, the site was recommended by a friend who I used to work with.  I started out just asking questions, then I spotted a question that I knew the answer to, so I posted a comment.  It feels good when your comments are accepted as answers, you know that you are helping.  It also feel good just to input, even a dumb post can help sort out a problem, if you're lucky.

Now I look at several topic areas that I'm interested in and post comments whenever I feel that I can offer something.

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by:acmp
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Dang PC crashed half way through typing, not sure how it posted the comment, ho hum.

If Outlook and the dialup are not working properly then yes, I'd reinstall them.  It's good to know that she found the virus, Elkern has several variants, see http://vil.nai.com/vil/content/v_99238.htm for details.

If you friend has the manual for the motherboard then it should say how to replace the battery.  It's normal for a motherboard battery to be non-removable, but there is usually a connector to add a new, standard size, battery.

If she doesn't have the manual you may be able to find a copy on the internet, or a simple look at the board may reveal the location of the connector

but that would be a question for the hardware topic area ;-)

acmp <><
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by:acmp
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oh, if you don't want to accept manojanand answer you should reject it.

acmp <><

ps, sorry for the multiple posts
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by:tituba2
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Before you go replacing hardware (battery etc.) I'd find whatever recovery CDs came with this CPU.

Backup what is important to you (files, bookmarks, mail etc.)  Write down all devices (what video card, sound card, nic etc.)  Write down all e-mail settings (Outlook Express Accounts).  Whatever is backed up needs to be virus scanned prior to being put back on the PC.

Then boot with a floppy, fdisk and remove partition.
run fdisk /mbr to clear master boot record
format hard drive with format /u

Then reinstall OS etc.

If this is not something you are not comfortable with doing, then I would suggest backing up what is important, and bringing unit to a repair shop or calling in a technical professional so someone can do this for you.  If you are not experienced with doing a full system cleanup and reinstall, it can be alittle overwhelming.

I wouldn't go installing batteries until all virus issues have been resolved.  While Klez normally can be fixed with the tool, I've seen instances whereby it makes a system so unstable that there really isn't alot of choice but to reformat and start over.
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by:acmp
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tituba2
If only those virus writers would beta test their creations to make them stable ;-)

I was kinda hoping that the PC was fixed now and that the system restor was not needed.  But I am an optomist.

acmp <><
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by:tituba2
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System restore should be the last resort as it can get very involved.  Especially with laptops.  Laptops have a hidden partition that is used for hibernation/sleep mode.  When you fdisk /u, you destroy that partition as well.  You then have to contact the vendor to get the appropriate files to put back.  Not to mention the various drivers, BIOS flash etc.

This is what I would try before I did an overhaul:

On another 95 or 98 system (make sure it is clean of viruses) - go to:
http://www.trendmicro.com/pc-cillin/support/edisks.htm

Download the emergency boot disk creator.  You'll need six floppy disks.  Print the page so you have the instructions.

Boot the infected PC with these disks and follow the prompts.  This will scan and repair viruses in DOS (if it can).  Trojan Worms generally do not get repaired.

If you haven't already done so - go to
http://securityresponse.symantec.com/avcenter/tools.list.html

Download the Klez tool (it'll fit on a floppy).  If you found any other worms/viruses - download the tool to fix them at this site as well.

After the scan is done, note down any additional viruses or worms.  Boot in Safe Mode (hold down F8 when starting) and copy the Klez tool to the hard drive.

Run the tool.  This will remove registry entries Klez made as well as the companion virus.  Note - you may have to run the tool a couple of times.  Make sure to reboot in safe mode before each running.

I've removed Klez from probably ten systems in the last two months.  Several times, I've had NIC corruption errors afterwards.  I don't know if it is the Symantec tool or if Klez did that.  Just be aware that you may have to reload the NIC drivers.

If you system is still unstable after that, I'd look towards reloading the operating system and various drivers (modem, nic etc.)  I'd do all this before considering a format.  Don't format unless you really have to as it is alot of work.

Before you do any of this - backup what is important to you!  
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by:thereceiver
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insufficient answer to the actual question.
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by:thereceiver
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acmp, tituba2, and sunbow, I would like to give all of you points for your help, being that she has resolved like 90% of the problem (I hope :-) ), for I sent her to areas even she found "house call" on her own to try AV online. But you have great suggestions for me to try to check the boot sector, and other ideas to try before doing a recovery. How can I increase the points and distribute them to the 3 of you? You all have been so helpful. Let me know how to do this and it will be done. I will be fair in dividing the points, promise.
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by:SunBow
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1) I like optimism. I like flexibility. I think/fear that " blitz the C: drive" is best approach. And I really like the way that was phrased.

2) Battery. No matter when changed. Better before loading up c:. They originally went with shelf life of ~2yr (begin count prior to purchase), but have been in duration. We are talking about a little one, likely round disk like used in watches. Not the one that keeps laptop running when unplugged from wall. It is probably a bear to change, so you might as well defer it. No sense spending anything now if your friend gets so frustrated that this turns into an excuse to get 'the latest' improved operating system, larger disk, faster cpu, more ram, for less than ever before...

2b) Heard on radio this morning, some places have a recession deal, for 'back to school', of no sales tax for the weekend. Some PC sellers are advertising that is what they will do (another discount). -fyi

3) Backup. Always good. Beware of restoring a backup made of virus.

4) Klez. So many variants I cannot keep up. Last heard, Symantec may now detect some, but won't repair any. I give up. I'm with not upgrading A/V, or care about running it. Since I don't run viruses, no one wants to send me any anyway      : - (         (unloved)

4a) With status of your friend running viruses, and not checking for latest, unknown is which others may have run, what was installed, etc. and may have been backed up somewhere. Maybe eMail archive of some nature. Possibly something of remote control, then someone later took it over and moved, renamed, and otherwise cloaked presense. I do consider this unlikely, especially for any laptop/modem access. But overall, the suspicions remain of unknowns to resolve. The amount of unknowns lead me to think the clean restart is best approach, to get this to a known state, your reference of "it's original ship status?"

5) MS Recovery tool. This was among my old targets, but fyi we just had one success with it in another thread for an XP system. (it can have a value)

6) Shipped CDs. Generally four flavors. My favorite is the vanilla version of MS. With hologram. With that you know what you have, wherever you go. Problem is the missing drivers, which 'may' be on another CD or diskette, but if when so, there remains likelihood that you need a new one, 'updated', and available on the net. (which you cannot get to until you can get the computer in shape to access the net). Then there's the so called 'image', which is supposed to be a limited copy of the MS ware (no need for unneeded drivers, etc) that has both the drivers needed that are specific to the machine, as well as a modified install process that makes it work with minimal user intervention. Result should be that it restores to factory condition, and is not usable in other environments, platforms, thus protecting licenses. Could have been a fair trade were it not for mfr's changing physical platform but not CD, for others who'd ship to store early and ask store to load another driver they were making or to change a 'something', and for others who actually would leave parts of the OS on the HD to make the install run quicker. For the latter, once a manual format is performed, recovery is no longer possible. These are usually packed and compressed files that are not impacted by virus. So mfr can look good in some ways as being faster or easier than competitors. Use of HD also makes it easier for mfr to load up another last minute driver update or setup/install change. But where does this leave the rest of us when there is a problem? Well, such problems do not (yet) affect sales, so marketeers don't care. If that wasn't bad enough, when you can exercise control, you can still have such issues. My company can swing weight sometimes with bulk purchase. We have PCs in the six figures. For upgrading we can do like, get single order for 10k units at a time for a reduced price, now down to a few hundred US. We can say strongly that we want the CD modified both their way (mfr physical config) and our way (things specific to our company, our environment, embedded base, legacy), before they ship, and before they get paid. Many test processes in place. Yet continually it is found that over half the time, when a unit is restored, the CD has problems including BSOD and misc crashes. I could go on, but by now I hope I've backed up some of my pessimism, in a way that can be applied to the problem.

Specific to Dell, what I have heard lately is that they only ship a single 'restore CD' specific to unit, it may or may not work, and this has been going on at least a year. Since this system is older, the user may have more choices available. Specific to Toshiba, I think they at one time had some critical install files on HD, but I cannot truly say. It is possible that they left things in what tituba2 referenced as hidden partition. For both I have not the experience. So I dunno whether manual fdisk or format would impact.

7) The biggest problem here, really, is the distance. You do not have immediate physical access to PC. Or to EE. This gap is the real slowdown to debugging and getting it up.

8) EE. When I heard of EE I thought it never of much value, or rare value. About a year later I had some unanswered questions, so I thought, why not try? It did not take long for me to follow acmp and toss out comment. Before I knew it, I was learning more from participating in comments than in asking questions. I got answers to questions I did not know I had, so to speak. The points are a sort of a scaling factor, not a big deal, but a unique method to attempt to place a relative value on questions/answers and answerers/experts. IMO. Admittedly some treat points like EE is some pinball game. Pinball holds no interest for a SunBow.

9) PE ELKERN. Or Klez. Or what. I dunno. If this was involving a flash of bios, you best go back and do that before fixing the disk. Whether your bios was damaged or not, I don't think it'll hurt to get the latest from the web onto a bootable diskette, before continuing (in fact it should help) to ensure the unit maintains control of the HD. You may also want post Q: in HW TA relative to these things.

10) If it was me, my system, after sufficient downtime, I would sacrifice all data, applying logic that if I had not already backed it up, that it could not be all that important. Or that by now there would be something more important to have as data. I would then use whatever tool available to go after getting it back to a factory condition. In this case, your recovery CD. Let it run its own way. Watching. See if it runs a good fDisk and a good format on its own. Likely it will, and likely also give a choice for formatting, when detecting presence of OS. Whichever, preserve nothing, wipe and start over.

11) This is between you and your friend, and how well you know each others capability and habits.
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by:SunBow
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Over?
If you've been around, you've probably seen something like, for a single questioner, ### pt question of text question, then a few others beginning "Points for "[ExpertName] This is a tradition. I do not like. But you are welcome to, as it is the main way to provide pts to multiple experts, where others understand it is not a new question for them to look at. It holds nonotify. It holds no real data for PAQ infobase.

I like the subject reflect a real question. But OK to append ExpertName to make clear. In content I try to place another line of explanatory text and a pointer back to original question, to help anyone doing research on prior PAQ'd questions.

My subject would come from something learned in thread. Such as names Klez, Elkern instead of original more general 'virus'. To help others, including original participants, with their memory and lookups.

Or supplemental words from thread, like Toshiba, housecall, outlook, whatever may have come up with such experts. I like value.

But your call. You need not do a separate award. You could ask CS to help do some split.

> she has resolved like 90% of the problem

You may also consider a coming need for addressing the 10%
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by:Asta Cu
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Have you been helped here, or is more needed?  If you've been helped, just choose the comment from the Expert who helped you to convert it to the accepted answer to then grade and close this.

This is a helpful link in terms of virus/trojan/worm activities, cleaners (pay and free) and some step-by-step information.  Also includes some Critical update links from Microsoft to minimize security risks and more.

http://www.burtonsys.com/virus_advice.html

":0)
Asta
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No comment has been added lately, so it's time to clean up this TA.
I will leave a recommendation in the Cleanup topic area that this question is:
Accept a comment Split between acmp, tituba2, and sunbow
Please leave any comments here within the next four days.
 
PLEASE DO NOT ACCEPT THIS COMMENT AS
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When you create an app prototype with Adobe XD, you can insert system screens -- sharing or Control Center, for example -- with just a few clicks. This video shows you how. You can take the full course on Experts Exchange at http://bit.ly/XDcourse.

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