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Difficult Laptop Repair
We just finished repairing a laptop after three days of work. This is by far one of the more difficult repairs we have made. This laptop also presents a great opportunity to record in detail what we are capable of as a company!
The client called because of an original single issue. She could not save files from her browser. The computer reported a permissions denied issue regardless of the location she tried to save the file. This actually caused problems with the remote support connection, until we used a remote support program that had a java client instead of a normal download.
Once on her laptop, we easily replicated the problem. Using several different browsers, we observed a permissions problem in the TEMP folder. Checked the folder and found some severe permissions problems. Manually fixed the problems and gained back the ability to run a file directly from Internet Explorer, but saving anywhere else on the computer still produced an error. The user wanted a user profile name change anyway, so we created a new local user profile.
This allowed us to run AutoRuns from Sysinternals. A few particular entries appeared pointing to viruses and spyware (MyWebSearch, among others!). A scan for malware with a few tools caught over 200 malicious entries. Cleaned the infections then started attempting to copy files and folders over from the old profile to the new.
During the file/profile migration, we continued to experience permisisons problems. Manually made additional permissions changes to allow file copy. However, a few files would not copy over, reporting errors that the user did not have the proper permissions. Given that the user was a local administrator, we suspected either a failing hard drive or NTFS permisisons. Ran a CHKDSK in read only mode of the C: from Windows, and it reported errors to the partition. Ran a CHKDSK with fix and repair on reboot, then rebooted.
Important note: this is the first reboot after removing a large number of infected files. By now, it is also after 11:00 PM. The laptop does not properly reboot. A quick phone call with the client the next morning confirmed that the laptop had started a reboot cycle. Picked up the laptop in person and ran a full hardware diagnostic. This came back clean, which was encouraging. Started further review in Safe Mode by disabling a few services and programs, most notably Avast! AV. This allowed the laptop to actually start in normal mode, but continuing to report errors. Ran SFC and repaired a number of corrupted files. However, the laptop hung when shutting down, taking over three hours to turn off! Everythign else about it at this point was normal.
Based on additional errors in the event logs, we circled back to permissions problems. Windows has several security templates that contain permissions for files, folders, and registry keys – one of these templates restores all the permissions back to default. You can access this through either the command SECEDIT or one of the Microsoft Management Console tools. After backing up the existing security settings, we restored the laptop using the default security template. The computer only took half an hour to reboot this time, then rebooted normally the next time! Success!
The entire process took over 15 hours, partly because one malware scan took almost 3, then the full hardware scan took over 3 as well.
Just about all other computer repair shops would have formatted and re-installed Windows on the laptop. They might have even backed up the data. However, we saved Windows with a large number of programs that we likely would not have been able to re-install. This is how much we are committed to our clients!
The key points to remember are:
1. One symptom can have multiple problems underneath.
2. There is a practical limit to remote work.
3. Client satisfaction means the world to us!