A Day in The Life of a PC Technician – Day 8


siamese-cat-tabletThe cat, the tablet and the mysterious virus

A few weeks ago an elderly lady phoned me sounding more than a little distraught, explaining that her much loved Toshiba tablet had stopped working and could I pay her a visit as she’s practically housebound. Naturally I agreed and once we’d gotten the pleasantries out the way, confirmed her age as being 85 and obviously a pensioner, she introduced me to her Siamese cat, Robert (well, it sounded like Robert although it could have been Poppet), whom she described as a monster, but a lovable monster all the same, being responsible for her broken tablet, having catapulted himself from one side of the room to the other using the Toshiba as a convenient trampoline on the way to the bookshelf on the other side of her dining room. The end result of these feline acrobatics being  a pretty lifeless tablet with a broken screen and a grief-stricken pensioner who, by the way, was only half-way through paying a four year credit plan on the tablet. Having jokingly asked her if she’d like me to throw Robert out of her sixth floor window, I took the broken tablet with me in the forlorn search for a replacement screen…

A week or so later I was back with Robert and the elderly pensioner breaking the bad news that I couldn’t find a replacement screen in the entire country, earning Robert a severe telling off and a saucer of milk, when a new problem arose in the form of her laptop which had become as slow as molasses and could I try to fix it please?

recover

Back at the lab, I managed to get the pensioner’s HP Presario booted into safe mode, only to find that every single directory, folder and sub-folder contained duplicates of HTML, text and image files, each uniquely named and multiplied throughout the entire machine. Naturally, my first thought was a Virus and/or Trojan-type infestation, but Malwarebytes, SuperAntispyware, Spybot Search and Destroy and Avira Antivirus (which was already installed), proved unable to either identify the problem files or remove them. I even managed to carry out a global search (for deletion purposes) in the machine which brought up thousands of the offending files, but when deleted, simply duplicated themselves somewhere else.

delete

Furthermore, each of her personal files such as photos and documents were corrupted, so wouldn’t open and the thought of backing up infected files was out of the question, so I nuked the hard drive and re-installed Windows.

recover

Ms. Pensioner was pretty sanguine about the whole episode, I must say, and Robert was simply ecstatic as he had yet another toy to dig his recently sharpened claws into when he wasn’t sitting on my shoulder, that is. And the really good news is that her son bought her a brand new tablet, as I knew he would, and I do like a happy ending.

Fire in the hole!

dvd-molex-burned

During tea and biscuits later that afternoon, whilst I was simultaneously scanning an errant laptop and watching someone make a fool of themselves on a Harley, compliments of YouTube, a young lad walks through the door in a cloud of white dust carrying a gaming PC under his arm. I recognized the computer immediately as I’d not long rebuilt it in a new case and fitted some very expensive new water cooling. It’s odd, I can remember PCs but not necessarily their owners these days, but anyway, it transpired that fire and smoke had started coming through the top grill of the case and they were tempted to throw a bucket of water on it but thought better of it, so instead, his dad broke out the fire extinguisher and emptied the entire contents into the gaming machine as you can see here.


pc-before-after

I’m not an expert on powder filled fire extinguishers, being the first time I’ve witnessed the aftermath, but clearly, they’re preferable to a bucket of water and boy do they make a mess! My first priority was to locate the cause of the fire which turned out to be a Molex-to-SATA Adapter connected to the DVD drive as you can see in the first picture. So, with that isolated and with no other obvious damage anywhere else, I tentatively fired up the machine to test it and breathed a huge sigh of relief that it didn’t go bang again. I spent the next couple of days stripping the machine down to the last nut and bolt, cleaning with compressed air, a vacuum cleaner, brushes and soapy water, vowing never to use Molex-to-SATA Adapter leads ever again.

Return to Mrs Angry

Following my recent Day 7 experiences, many asked, “Whatever happened to Mrs Angry?”

Well, nothing happened to her as far as I know, although I did ride past her on my bike the other morning as she was walking her dog. I beeped at her mischievously just to rattle her cage, but I didn’t even receive a scowl, which was a little disappointing, but there may be interest in how our doomed and short-lived relationship evolved.

massageA few months ago, I injured my shoulder falling off the bike, and no matter what the treatment, I couldn’t relieve the pain. At around the same time someone had popped a leaflet through the shop door offering therapeutic massage services, which I glanced at and considered for further use if the pain persisted.

Some days later an attractive blonde lady came into the shop clutching an Asus Eee Netbook to her chest saying that I had been recommended to her by a shop around the corner and could I please help her as her machine had become unusable. At the time I was still suffering from a painful shoulder that wouldn’t respond to any kind of treatment whatsoever, and when she gave her name, it turned out to be the masseuse from the aforementioned leaflet. Frankly, I was prepared to try anything, so I asked her if I could book a treatment session to which I was given a very firm negative reply on the basis that she’s had all sorts of problems related to massaging male patients in the past. I replied saying it needed no further explanation, changed the subject rapidly, and proceeded to examine the netbook. I did, however, notice a slightly neurotic edge to her attitude which I quietly filed away.


computer-virus-netbookThe netbook, which by the way, was almost falling to pieces, turned out to be chock-a-block full of pop-ups, bogus virus warnings and all kinds of other malware, some of which I was able to remove using Malwarebytes and other programs. But the main problem turned out to be corrupted system files which couldn’t be corrected, so Mrs Angry Masseuse, who also happened to be going through what sounded like a very nasty divorce, agreed that we should format the hard drive and re-install Windows, which I did, and she left as a happy bunny with a fully functional machine, free of viruses, at least when it left my shop.

Fast-forward a couple of months and the lady in question returns with her netbook in a particularly flustered state saying that her ex is spying on her, her Facebook account has been hacked, none of her passwords worked any longer and could I please, please help her? Naturally, I obliged by resetting her passwords, removing the offending photos posted on her Facebook account, scanned the machine numerous times for malware and even ensured that most of this was done with her present, as I was conscious of the neurosis I’d filed away previously and frankly, you just never know nowadays. I even went one step further and advised her to change her passwords once again when she got home, just for peace of mind.

So, imagine my surprise when Mrs Angry Netbook Masseuse threw the gauntlet down a few weeks later, crossing me off her Christmas card list.

Hey, you did ask!

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About the Author

Marc Thomas

Marc is an avid traveler, motorcyclist, entrepreneur, and gamer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. His interest in computers and technology began in the early 1990’s when he was introduced by a friend to a Zenith Data Systems computer running DOS. In the years following he has experienced all versions of the Windows operating system, built hundreds of systems, and fixed many more for his customers.

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