As someone who works on a PC for a living and someone with a 1st degree in Computer Science, friends often ask if I can help them out for a variety of computer problems. Usually I politely decline, as strangely enough I’m not a PC-God, I don’t know much more about virus removal or setting up your email client than the next person. Plus I’m usually just too busy.
Sometimes, mainly for close friends, I do give it my best shot regardless if its ‘my area’ or not. In this case, my friends laptop had been hit by a virus and their version of Microsoft Windows Vista wouldn’t boot. They were stuck with a flashing white bar shortly after the POST check. Booting into safe mode wasn’t possible – so it must have been failing before then.
Changing the BIOS to boot from the recovery CD didn’t bring any joy either. The CD spun up and Windows tried accessing the files, but was quickly shown a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) complaining that vital files were corrupt, possibly by a virus. Interesting… I’d never seen a BSOD explicitly reference a virus as a cause before.
Different CD’s and forum-found solutions brought further misery.
- POST check passed completely
- Normal boot sequence hung on a blank screen, with a single flashing white bar in the top left corner
- Safe mode wasn’t selectable before the system hung
- Trying to use a recovery CD produced a BSOD before any user action could be taken
Alas a solution I’d used before came to mind…
Linux to the rescue!
One good thing about Linux is that you can run some of the operating systems without even installing them. I plonked a Ubuntu 9.04 CD into the drive and ran it as a Live CD, that is, without installing it to the hard drive.
My friends data was then made available by mounting the hard drive and copying it to an external USB HD. Data backed up: Check!
Now the only partition with any spare space was the hard drive with the Microsoft OS installed, not ideal, but what was the worse that could happen. I trimmed off a spare 5Gb (probably massively excessive, but hush) and then installed Ubuntu onto the new 5Gb mini drive.
Rebooting the machine, I was presented with a Grub screen, where I could select a variety of Ubuntu cores, a Memtest (which returned a pass) and Windows Vista.
Selecting Vista it booted to a low-res Windows system repair screen, it auto fixed a few chunks of data and then rebooted several times. Once it had calmed down it presented me with the wonderful site of a Vista login screen – boom!
My friend had commented that he’d seen his virus scanner pickup a bunch of viruses prior to the failure, so I’m guessing that the MBR was destroyed by a virus, corrupting the boot sequence. Installing Ubuntu patched the MBR back up to the correct settings for Window. Everyones happy now.
Not for the first time in my unofficial PC-repairman life – a Microsoft OS saved by Linux 🙂