Computer fun, or not

Well, middle of the day Friday I attempt to open a PDF attachment emailed to me (from a trusted source), and Windows XP tells me it won’t open.

And that marked the start of things.

Some other programs started falling over, so I did a restart. And here’s what I found:

  • many of my program shortcuts had their ‘Target’ fields zapped, so they wouldn’t link to programs
  • many of the programs which still had their links would not start because they were not recognised as valid WIN32 programs
  • of the ten or so websites I attempted access in Chrome, my own site and IMDB were the only ones that worked
  • when I tried backing up folders to an external USB hard drive, where any file had an extension of .exe, .dll, .ini or .bat, it would create a file of the same name at the destination with a size of 0 bytes, and then the dialogue would ask if I wanted to overwrite it. If I said ‘No’, then the copy would proceed, with the next file. If I said ‘Yes’, then the copy would terminate.
  • when I did a reboot I had a brief window of opportunity in which I could start up some of those ‘Not WIN32’ programs. Tens of seconds, not minutes, was the size of the window. After a minute or so the window closed.

Looked like a virus to me. Perhaps Zone Alarm could have detected it, but it had ironically launched a virus scan and then had a number of its own DLLs marked as not valid, and so was stuck in its scan without any way of getting its control dialog up.

I finished the copying in a command prompt window in Safe Mode. It took me a half hour to re-familiarise myself with the quirks of the XCOPY command, but I was able to complete the copying, including all those otherwise troublesome files. XCOPY is amazingly powerful once you know what it can do.

I couldn’t find my motherboard or graphics card install discs, but I was able to find out what they are (reboot, check My Computer Properties and Display Properties quickly before they became disabled again) and downloaded their drivers on another computer.

Then a low level reformat of C: as part of the Windows XP reinstall. Unfortunately my version was SP 2. So the full install also involved at least 70 Windows updates.

Then it was a matter of reinstalling everything bit by bit. Still can’t get the Blu-ray drive to recognise the file system of Blu-ray discs. Maybe I’ll be able to fix that one too.

Update (a few minutes later): It came back to me. Of course, Windows XP doesn’t support Blu-ray. LG the drive maker included assorted applications to do stuff with the drive, but not the ‘UDF Reader’ driver, which is what is required to allow the disc contents to be read as though it were a normal drive. I’d quite forgotten about that for a while.

I found the driver on my backups (it’s actually a Toshiba one, made for HD DVD, but it does the job), clicked on the .inf file, and voilĂ , now I have the Blu-ray drive working properly again!

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