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Fake hardware failures suck almost as bad as real ones.

Disclaimer: If you’re not of a technical mind, or things like hard drive failures make you run screaming in the other direction, you may want to skip this post. Just a friendly warning from your neighbourhood undercaffinated geek. Particularly when the fake ones in question leave not just you, but your equally technically inclined roommate, staring at the computer as though it’s just sprouted its very own artificial-ish inteligence.

Take this weekend, for instance. I’m minding my own on a Friday evening, trying to invent the best and least hair-pulling way to introduce updates by email–and comments, by the way, not just replies–to the blog, when the desktop decides to throw not one, or two, or three, but nearly a dozen warning and critical error messages at my face. Everything from hard drive failures to RAM usage being critically high, to flat out memory failures. Now, keep in mind, this machine’s nearly 4 years old and just had its wireless card replaced–twice, mind you, so one or two failures of that nature wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility. So I’m going through the usual diagnostic steps, doing what you do when you’re under the distinct impression your primary machine’s about 30 seconds from going flatline and you’ve got absolutely no spare parts kicking around, when this innocent enough looking “Windows XP Recovery” window crops up. It helpfully informs me that Windows is suffering damage possibly related to bad sectors on the drive. This along side yet another of those dialogue boxes cropping up informing me one or more IDE/SATA drives are about ready to self-shoot.

By this point, I’m more than a little WTF-ing. I *just* meaning less than a week ago, had a Dell tech out this way to replace the network card. Was I *really* going to have to have another one out to replace at least one failing drive and lord only knows what else? Not to mention the roommate just 48 hours prior to that got the pleasure of dealing with his very own failing hard drive and the replacement of same–in fact for much of Friday evening, while I was diagnosing, the running joke was that apparently hard drive failures had now become as airborn as your common virus. But I got curious. The only Windows XP recovery utilities, particularly utilities that bare that name, are usually found on the XP CD–and certainly don’t randomly show up when Windows is loaded, though sometimes I think that might be helpful. Enter that tiny little alarm going quietly off in the back of my head while I go hunting for my usual fix me tools.

I keep 3 tools one hand for incidents kinda like this one–one spyware scanner, one virus scanner, one nuke ’em all tool. Because I was testing a theory, and if I was right it would at least manage to nail most of it, I loaded–and fired–the nuke ’em all tool first. Sure enough, within about 2 minutes of the utility running, Windows XP Recovery took a hike. And so did its small army of warnings and alerts and whatever else managed to show up. Yay! I’m free! Except not quite. I nuked the majority of the infection, and probably caught the source, but there was still damage. Have my desktop was toast, and I’m pretty sure I was missing things out of my start menu on top of that. Nice. Wonderful. Nifty. Easily fixed.

I ran my other two tools, which took a little longer than I’d of liked to finish–but they finished and nothing broke, so I’m happy, and removed what I think might have been the last remains of the thing. Easily delt with by a simple reboot. Now, there was just the issue of half my desktop and probably some of my start menu going completely snap all over the floor. Because I was sick and tired of fighting with it, a system restore took care of that–and then some. Yay, again. I took care of what I thought needed taking care of manually, then went on the hunt for info.

Apparently, the infection I just went around with is new. Extremely new. As in I’ve seen postings as early as May 13th, but no older so far. To the tune of every forum, blog, website etc I know to check has something on it. And still, it managed to sneak by my usually pretty solid defenses.

All told, I’d way rather have just had an actual hardware failure. Or several, to be completely honest. The fake ones were a bitch to knock out. Now, to find where I hid my emergency back-up material–just in case.

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