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Short PC reinstall became long

Yesterday a friend asked to look at his old computer. He told that computer crashes randomly with Blue Screen of death (BSOD). He suspected to be an HDD problem due to bad sectors or so. He also wanted to save his pictures if nothing else can be done to make it work. Well, I took the PC for inspection.

caps_exposed

First of all, I tried to save photos – copy them to flash memory. Started up the computer and what you know – Antivirus software expired long ago, the virus is thriving. Found out that it is worm: Win32/Brontok@mm. From its description, I found that:

Win32/Brontok is a family of mass-mailing e-mail worms. The worm spreads by sending a copy of itself as an e-mail attachment to e-mail addresses that it gathers from files on the infected computer. It can also copy itself to USB and pen drives. Win32/Brontok can disable antivirus and security software, immediately terminate certain applications, and cause Windows to restart immediately when certain applications run. The worm may also conduct denial of service (DoS) attacks against certain Web sites.

OK, problem solved, I thought. Of course, the virus took over the whole system, and I couldn’t install any antivirus. I didn’t want to dig deeper into cleaning it—I wanted to copy about a couple of gigs of photos and format disc for a new installation. I took blank flash memory and started copying. And want you to know – the computer started throwing BSOD screens. After the restart, I could only copy a few files before it threw another. OK, I thought – virus done quite a damage; let’s load mini windows XP from Hiren’s boot CD. Maybe here, I will have enough time to copy files without BSODS. There was the same – after a few files were copied, I was faced with BSOD. Every time different error message, so no point in looking for solutions on the web. The only thing that was in mind – hardware problem. During several restarts, I managed to copy all files with viruses to a flash drive. A virus created several .exe files on flash. I deleted them and ran an Antivirus scan from another PC. The virus was gone from flash, and photos were saved.

Catching hardware problem

Time to catch hardware problem. From the same Hiren’s boot CD, I started the memtest86 program. This is a number one RAM test utility that runs several thorough tests on RAM modules. And what you know – it found one bit where errors came on every test. So I thought – problem solved! Luckily I had one smaller DDR2 module lying around (1G instead of 2G) with no errors. Replaced RAM, formatted disc, and started installing new windows. And what you know – just before windows started copying its file – BSOD. It cannot be, I thought, and started over – again BSOD with different errors. Maybe there are hard drive problems – run surface test for some time. No errors appeared. So HDD seemed intact. Another thought that came to mind – may be a bad install DVD. I took Ubuntu disc and tried to load it – nop, it even didn’t load itself from DVD.

So we came almost nowhere. Checked the CPU temperature and core voltage in bios. It seemed alright, maybe a little too low by a couple of hundreds of millivolts. Nothing very suspicious. But just in case, I decided to clean the CPU cooler from dust. And what you know. Look what’s hiding:

hiding_caps

It seems that two capacitors near CPU radiator were blown.

This is a problem I thought and disassembled computer motherboard and replaced both caps with new.

caps_replaced

I left one in the middle because I had only two that matched size and capacity for replacement. Other at least visually looked OK. Put the computer together, and all problems were gone.

It was quite fun that took all day with breaks. I am not some professional PC hardware engineer, but with intuition and engineering knowledge, any problem can be solved. The difference is how much time it will take. I hope you find this somewhat interesting and useful.

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