Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Just call me geek

We've had a minor problem with our laptop recently. In reality, it hasn't been so minor. As in: we couldn't log in to use our laptop at all.

It all started with some malware that somehow managed to find its way onto our laptop. I'm still not sure how it got in since we have a couple of different antivirus and antispyware/malware programs, but it managed. No big deal...let the anti-everything programs handle it, right? Except that part of this malware's design is that it changes registry entries, including some of the entries related to login. Which means when the anti-everything programs go through and erase the malware changes, the registry entries for login no longer tell the computer to do the right things. In our case...login.

We ended up with what I like to call the "login screen of death"...you log on, it says it's loading your settings, and then it bumps you right back to the login screen again.

I looked at a few different options for getting past this and none of them were very pretty--in fact, they were all highly complicated, extremely time-consuming, and only had a small chance of working. So I decided the best option was to retrieve the data off of the hard drive (since the drive was fine) and reformat the hard drive.

Which brought up the next issue...how to retrieve the data when you can't login??

After lots of researching (what I do best) I found an external hard drive enclosure. This handy little device lets you plug a laptop hard drive into a desktop computer through the USB ports. I purchased it at a local computer store and hoped my drive would fit since I hadn't taken it in with me.

Long story short, it worked. I transferred all of the files we wanted off of the laptop hard drive to the desktop and will be reformatting the laptop drive probably tomorrow.

Notes to those who might follow in my steps:
--Hard drives are easy to remove. However, it would have been helpful if someone in all of the websites I read had mentioned that I needed to remove a set of pins from the hard drive to get it to fit with the enclosure. As it was, I figured it out and hoped I wasn't destroying the hard drive in the process (I didn't).
--Our laptop hard drive slides out of the side of the computer which means that there is a side piece of the computer attached to the hard drive. I could not get this off, which meant I could not actually put the hard drive into the enclosure. I carefully attached the end cap and cables of the enclosure and balanced the hard drive on top of the enclosure. I really had my doubts that this would work, but it did.
--It is always good to remember to put the pins you removed back on the hard drive before you put it back in the laptop. ;)

I'm sure someone with more computer experience than myself would find my lack of skills highly amusing. I'm just happy to have our files back. :) :)

And if anyone in the St Louis area needs an external hard drive enclosure just let me know!

3 comments:

Tina said...

So... all I can say is that, man, I'M IMPRESSED!! You're pretty much one of the most resourceful people I've ever met!

E said...

Your "lack of skills" is amazing. I would have been at standing at Best Buy telling someone to just fix it.

Marilyn H said...

Hi Courtney,

My husband runs a Computer consulting business that specializes in this type of thing, should you ever need a professional. :)