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Please help, my computer goes rogue on me

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 30, 2009 6:03 AM PDT
Question:

Please help, my computer goes rogue on me


I have a three-year-old laptop, a Compaq nc6400. It's loaded with XP and I am using Microsoft Office '07, as I had a new hard drive installed last year when the old one started acting up. Now, I do go online at various hot spots around my community, but always have my AVG Security active during these visits. I recently dropped the laptop onto a hardwood floor while taking it out of the travel case I use. Since then it seems to run fine, except it will frequently (at least once every day or so) go "rogue" and stop responding to any key except possibly arrow up and down. When I repeatedly strike a key it won't respond until suddenly it will respond with multiple lines of a single character (or back spaces) until I hit "page down" or some other random key and it stops its machine gun behavior. I have picked this unit up held it securely and shaken it upside down, shut it down for 5 minutes and restarted it, used canned air across the keys and a Dust Buster-type vacuum with a focused nozzle on the keyboard, thinking maybe a food particle might be hiding back in some obscure corner. I have run Ad Aware, AVG Security, and Spybot Search and Destroy wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiithout any apparent help. What do your knowledgeable and generous tech helpers suggest? Do I spend my limited funds on a "hospital visit" at my local computer repair shop, or is there something else I should try first? Or maybe do again? Do I have a virus? Have I been hacked? Or is there just something shaken loose in the abrupt impact with the floor? I would appreciate your suggestions.

Thanks in advance for all your thoughts and attempts to help with this challenge.

--Submitted by Michael G.

Here below are some featured member answers to get you started, but please read all the advice and suggestions in the discussion thread that our members have contributed to this question.

A few ideas --Submitted by dj_halnon
http://forums.cnet.com/5208-19681_102-0.html?messageID=3162680#3162680

I suspect the hard drive .... --Submitted by Watzman
http://forums.cnet.com/5208-19681_102-0.html?messageID=3162660#3162660

Rogue Keys.... --Submitted by PaulTercier
http://forums.cnet.com/5208-19681_102-0.html?messageID=3162892#3162892

Bust keyboard or loose keyboard cable... --Submitted by darrenforster99
http://forums.cnet.com/5208-19681_102-0.html?messageID=3162976#3162976

Thanks to all who contributed!

If you have any additional suggestions or advice for Michael, please click on the reply link and post it. If you are providing troubleshooting advice, please be as detailed as possible when submitting your solution. Thanks!
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hard drive or loose connectors issue probably
by DComander1 / October 30, 2009 10:05 AM PDT

it sounds like the hard drive might be going into the click of death, which means the hard drive is 80 percent dead now, or the CPU or Memory is loose, I would recommend backing the files on the computer up to a flash drive or multiple CDs or DVDs and stopping by a local computer repair shop, since either one can lead to data loss in the near future

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Laptop Problems
by davidaharon / November 15, 2009 8:59 AM PST

In the question by the gentleman who dropped the laptop on the floor ... in General

I would suggest that a reliable computer repair shop fix it rather than do FIXER UPS by yourself ...

Is this laptop under extended warrantee? Then send it in for repair ...

A 3-yr old laptop IMHO is not likely to be sturdy as a newer model is. Because the average age is around 5 years old

Having said that, the first you must do is BACKUP your computer ... if your laptop can be started.... especially if you download a lot of internet files.

A laptop is a complete computer and not a desktop computer which everything is separated ... Still pay a techie to assess the damage ... and if the hard Drive is a small size in capacity, have an new estimate for a larger hard drive to go in the laptop

I do NOT recommend you tinker yourself to repair the computer ... because it could go again at any time ...

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mr comander!!!
by ravage2k6 / November 15, 2009 1:54 PM PST
In reply to: Laptop Problems

i c y ya name is comander! this forum is about helpin not tellin ppl they r cheap. the guy only have a simple keyboard problem. so for the "techy" who says its a usb keyboard wont work do ya research again. bro try mine n other techs sugestion about the keyboard n you will b str8. dot b miguided.

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I suspect the hard drive ....
by Watzman / October 30, 2009 10:09 AM PDT

First, from you description (that's all I have to go on), this was caused by SOMETHING that happened when you dropped the unit.

The fact is you could have done a lot of serious things that are not apparent (and that the local "hospital" can't fix). FOR EXAMPLE, you may have "cracked" either a circuit board trace or a solder joint that is usually in position and touching anyway (hence making electrical contact, hence working), but it is, in fact, no longer one piece, there is a "crack" in what is supposed to be a solid conductor of copper or solder, and the laptop is, thus, consequently now "flakey". If that had happened (it could have, but I'm not presuming that it did), the only fix might well be to replace the motherboard, which probably cannot be done economically (in other words ... the fix is to buy a new computer).

Less seriously, a connection (one that can be reseated, such as the keyboard to motherboard cable) may have been knocked loose. That could be fixed.

But I think, from your description, the most likely cause (not the only one) is that when you dropped the unit you damaged, but did not destroy, the hard drive. So, now, when the unit tries to access the hard drive (and, likely, only certain spots on the hard drive), it "hangs" and other things (like responding to your keyboard keys) come to a halt until the hard drive resolves things (or declares failure and gives up). By no means is this the only possible cause, but I do think it's among the more likely causes. Although there may be ways to "repair" the hard drive, my preference would be to try a different drive (not touching the current drive in any manner at all) and see if the problem goes away. For testing (to see if this is the problem), if you don't have a spare hard drive, you can probably find a used but good SATA 2.5" hard drive for $20 to $40. That is the first thing that I would try if this was my unit.

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A Few Ideas
by dj_halnon / October 30, 2009 10:16 AM PDT

That you dropped it, and that it's the keyboard that seems to be the culprit, suggests a few things may have gone wrong. All involve opening the laptop up, which not everyone is able to do. I'm really thinking this is hardware, 'cause it's highly unlikely a hacker invaded it with a ton of malware and took it over, right about the same time you dropped it.

1. A connector between the keyboard and the motherboard has become unseated. Opening the laptop up and checking the connections might fix it. The only cost to you would be the effort to open it up. I haven't worked on that model so I don't know how easy or difficult this will be. Some laptops, such as the Lenovo I have, are fairly modular with lots of access doors. Some are tougher to open up, have tightly packed parts, etc.

2. Something came loose inside the laptop and is pushing on something ... either on the keyboard cable, or contacts on the motherboard, or perhaps is stuck inside or under one of the keys and applying mechanical pressure to it. Finding whatever is out-of-place might fix it. Looking for something like this may take some effort, but again, it might pay off if you can find it and remove whatever is there.

3. A part on the motherboard, or maybe some other component, was itself physically damaged in the drop. If you can see physical damage to the motherboard then you know what it is, but not all damage is going to be obvious to an untrained eye. (Or even to a trained one.) If this is your problem, then a technician visit is in order and the motherboard might need to be replaced.

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Reboot?
by jean harrington / October 30, 2009 10:17 AM PDT

When that happens to me, a simple reboot does the trick.
I have only experienced this with desktops, as I don't have a laptop.
But, it doesn't happen every other day.
I think you have another problem.

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Sounds like a bad keyboard
by bluemist9999 / October 30, 2009 10:34 AM PDT

When you dropped it, the keyboard may have been damaged. Or, possibly, the cable connecting the keyboard inside the laptop came a bit loose.

In any event, this isn't something you can fix on your own. You'll need to take the laptop to a computer specialist.

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Computer goes rogue...after being dropped.
by poodlenme / October 30, 2009 10:46 AM PDT

My guess is when you dropped it you either cracked the keyboard circuit board and theres a short, or a key is sometimes now sticking and that will cause the keyboard to lock up. I'm not a geek or a computer nerd, but may I suggest when it happens again; go across the keys one at a time and tap each one multiple times briskly. Then check to see if your pc is back. This is repetitive and time consuming but if that is the problem you will know what key is sticking. You may not necessarily be able to see the culprit by eyeballing it. It just has to be stuck a little to lock up the keyboard. If you have damaged the computer keyboard in another way by the drop, it may be a good idea to take to someone to check to see what the problem is. I hope this helps in some way.

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try external keyboard
by friskybutch / November 14, 2009 12:56 AM PST

i use an external keyboard on my laptop. how about trying an external keyboard to see if the problem is cleared up. then you will know that it has something to do with the keyboard.
madman

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my computer goes rogue
by iamemty / October 30, 2009 10:56 AM PDT

i may not have a lap top but my computer has done the very same thing and it turned out to be a video driver. in your case maybe a video board after being dropped. i can't think of anything else since it was dropped

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First try and get it fixed Online
by conwils / October 30, 2009 11:26 AM PDT

When I had difficulty with my computer. I called Geek and they fixed it right over the internet while I was on the phone. My problem took a couple of hours but it was worth it because the problem got fixed, so first before you spend alot of money I would see if you can get Geek to fix the problem. Connie Wilson

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Freezing Laptop
by clap_clap / October 30, 2009 11:26 AM PDT

Your problem happens because the CPU is not able to carry out the instructions of the program/keyboard.
Either the CPU is taking abnormally long to execute the instructions, or the CPU is having trouble interacting with the RAM.

Freezing like that can often occur when you are running multiple ram intensive programs, over time when you use a computer you would install many different programs, and even if not running these will be making use of space on your computer and slowing things down (even to a stand- still). Thats the whole RAM idea, so clear out unwanted programs and run defragmentation and other such system clean-up tools and/or get more ram.
Malware, virus' etc can also cause these problems (not all virus' can be detected by anti-virus programs), although if you have used several anti-virus programs this may be unlikely.

As for the physical damage, this could have broke something, RAM, CPU, or circuitry in between, but it would need to be a really heavy blow to cause that.

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Sounds Like the Keyboard
by tonyny77 / October 30, 2009 11:27 AM PDT

I guess we won't know the exact cause of your problem until you actually get your laptop repaired, but I strongly suspect something pertaining to the keyboard is just a tad out of whack, thereby causing the intermittent problems you're having. Perhaps it's just a loose or damaged internal connector.

I feel that if you had actually damaged any motherboard component or a chip-related circuit, you'd probably get error messages, shutdowns, restarts, or blue screens of death.

I understand that laptop keyboards can be serviced/replaced providing you've got the right tools and expertise. It's not cheap, but it's better than needing a more-serious internal repair and definitely cheaper than getting a new laptop.

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loose memory
by r.colclasure / October 30, 2009 12:15 PM PDT

Hi
I had something like this, I was working on my pc putting new memory in but it was acting funny, losing promgrams, stop typing, and so on. the memory chip that I installed was not seated and locked in place after locking it in my pc work great.

Hope this helps

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Don't drop anything electronic!
by dog daddy / October 30, 2009 12:34 PM PDT

Dropping anything electronic, be it a laptop or a digital camera, can
break the micro-chip, the motherboard, other very sensitive electrical connections.

My advice: go to Micro Center and ask for a free evaluation, telling them, what happen and the symptoms, and ask them, is it cheaper to fix it or buy a new laptop.If you want them to repair it, it's $70+ and 1-week, verses BestBuy/Geek=$200+ and closer to 6-months -before-
you see your laptop ever again!
-Dog Daddy

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Try this program
by Slimjim09 / October 30, 2009 12:46 PM PDT

There is a newer malware program called " Advanced System Care " that works very well clearing up malware problems. This is a free program that does a great job. The bought version which I think is 19.00 that even does much more. This program goes after malware, registry problems, security issues, defrags hard drive if needed & lots more. Normally you would have to buy about 5 to 6 separate program to do what this one program does. Give it a try, you will be glad you did. Jim (IT Tech)

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maybe a shot in the dark...but
by Dale E Marcum / October 30, 2009 12:47 PM PDT

sounds like a crack in the motherboard that gives an intermittent disconnect condition. Can cause weird things to happen. Hope I am wrong

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Please help, my computer goes rogue on me
by feduchin / October 30, 2009 12:50 PM PDT

Having dropped the laptop onto a hard surface, you have broken soldering joints within the computer. Thus, as long as the computer is at rest the joints might touch each other but as soon as it is moved or dislodged they disconnect, ie they don't touch, or don't make a connection.
You need to take it to a computer repairer who will disassemble the computer and check for dry solder joints and damaged connections.
It will NEVER right itself, so get it done ASAP to save yourself heartache and irritation.
Most 'solid state' electronics will last for many years undisturbed, but you have well and truly disturbed yours!

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not a virus!
by love.savenearn / October 30, 2009 1:05 PM PDT

Hello Michael,

As i read your sentiments regarding your computer, i think the operating system and the anti-virus are not the reasons of your problem. It was dropped down into the floor. So first thing you must do is to go to a computer shop and let them check because i think there is a loose contact of the parts inside the laptop. Stop shaking your laptop it may cause fatal problem that will make your problem worst.

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Rogue Keyboard?
by r_shomaker / October 30, 2009 1:06 PM PDT

It sounds like the meeting with the floor may have jarred the keyboard or the keyboard connector. Consult the documentation for your laptop on where to find the connector and how to get to it (screwdriver may be required!). Take it out completely, blow with compressed air between its floor and keys, make sure all keys are in the correct position (slightly up from the keyboard floor), and reconnect it carefully. If you're not comfortable doing this yourself, it should be a quick thing for a computer repair shop to do for you while you wait.

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you are welcome
by Slimjim09 / October 30, 2009 1:07 PM PDT

Let me know how things go with using Advanced System Care. If you still have issues you can drop me a message & will try to help. Hope all goes well which I think it wilL. Jim jm09@comcast.net

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hard drive mabye?
by eovnu87435ds / October 30, 2009 1:08 PM PDT

The logical problem would be some moving part inside your laptop, since they are easily affected by shock (compared to solid state devices.) The only moving part that could cause such a problem would be the hard drive. Here is what I would test (in this order)

Burn a bootable Linux Live CD, like ubuntu, or load it onto a flashdrive and make that bootable. boot into it, and see if it acts up. If it does, that means the problem still persists even when not using the hard drive.

Borrow a friend's harddrive out of their laptop. Note, when you start their version of windows on your laptop, windows will ask to activate. this should work fine.

If it works fine under your friend's hard drive, and the linux distro, then it is definitely your hard drive. It could be a mechanical error with the drive, or just a mis-written file due to the drop. Hoping that it is the latter, format the drive, and re-install xp. If it still does it, chances are you may need yet another hard drive.

Hope this helps

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re: Please help, my computer goes rogue on me
by channa_SBSMVP / October 30, 2009 1:35 PM PDT

Most hard drives are very susceptible to falls such as the one you indicated your laptop took recently. New laptop harddrives have sensors and protection for this kind of accident. My suspicion is that you're looking at replacing the hard drive.

Your other option would be save your data to an external source, and reinstall the OS and programs and see if it continues, if the OS install is even successful on the drive.

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Work uses Thinkpads to avoid that problem
by studmoose / October 31, 2009 2:27 AM PDT

My employer has been using Thinkpads with the Active Protection System enabled. With a couple hundred TPs in the field, one gets dropped every few days, with minimal to no damage. The IBM Rep demoed one to us by dropping it 3.5 feet onto a hard carpetted floor while it was running. No damage to the unit and the system did not skip a beat when picked back up.

The Active Protection System detects G movements on the laptop and automatically parks the heads when it thinks it's falling. There are several modes, such as office, car, etc. that take into account certain levels of force before parking them.

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Re: Please help, my computer goes rogue on me
by PhilParsons / October 30, 2009 1:36 PM PDT

Offhand I can think of a number of possibilities:
1) depending on the installation method, the drive connection may have been loosened by the drop. To many this may seem unlikely, but I have seen it happen with IDE drives where the system continues more-or-less but not 100%.
2) a trojan attempting to connect with a failed website
3) a crashed hard drive. When a hard drive crashes, it doesn't always crash hard. Depending on where the heads park it is possible to have a surface touchdown without damaging the head(s) so the drop could have created a bad spot on the drive that appears to hang the system whenever it is read.
4) the drive had a bad spot that was either marginal during the manufacturing process and subsequent low-level format, or it has developed over time.

Most times when this behaviour occurs it is either an application looping until a timeout or the OS trying a hard drive recovery (as in #3 and #4)

I have had several laptops over the last 15 years, including Compaq, and I've only ever replaced hard drives to upgrade, and all the originals are still operational, so 3 years sounds like it might be more than just the hard drive, but I'd still lean towards #3 or #4.

As a first step I'd use chkdsk /f /r to see what it turns up, I suspect it will replace one or more blocks, and if the same thing happens soon after then I'd suspect the head(s) got damaged too.

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INSTRUCTIONS ON DO IT YOURSELF FIXES
by GEO2003 / October 30, 2009 1:36 PM PDT

Hello Micheal,
Make sure you do a complete back up of your data and make sure you have the product keys for any particular program that you have purchased including XP.
The problem could be hardware related as has been mentioned. Opening up a laptop is time consuming and sometimes difficult but if you dare to try out to find out if there is anything inside that is loose, you might be able to re-seat any possible connector that could be loose if that is the case, I am posting here the link to the steps available at HP/Compaq on how to access panels and service certain components on your laptop.
I hope it helps.
http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/CsrDocumentIndex.jsp?contentGroup=BSC_SYSTEM_CG_CSR_PEL&lang=en&cc=us&prodTypeId=321957&prodSeriesId=1847703

Regards,
Geo

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Some suggestions
by si / October 30, 2009 1:45 PM PDT

Shock usually damages the screen and hard drive first; the traces on the motherboard are also a consideration. Usually, when the lid is closed, the drive is "parked" to prevent the head from touching the drive and damaging it. However, severe shock can cause this sort of damage. But, since your display was not affected, I don't think the shock was severe enough for this. I would try, in this order:

1. Remove the hard drive and then put it back in to make sure the connections are good.
2. Install Passmark Diskcheckup [from download.com] and verify the health of the hard drive. If it is failing, this program will tell you.
3. Run CHKDSK with the "/r" switch to have the unit check for any system file damage and repair if possible
4. Run memtest86+ to verify the integrity of the memory. If any errors are found, remove and reseat the memory sticks and run again.
5. Disassemble the unit far enough to view the keyboard connection and verify or disconnect and reconnect. Visually inspect for any debris/damage from the shock.
6.Disassemble further if you are comfortable enough, and perform a visual inspection of all connections and any traces visible on the MB. Clean as necessary and reseat/check all connections.
7.Open Task Manager on your desktop and try to duplicate the problem - watch the load on your CPU usage and the memory usage when it starts acting up. See if that identifies any culprits (processes in particular) which might provide clues for further troubleshooting.

Report back and let us know what you find. Good luck!

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The dropping part...
by Zorched / October 30, 2009 1:49 PM PDT

Seems to be the key clue here. Does the laptop sit level on a flat surface now or does it rock back and forth on its little rubber feet(assuming it still has all of them)? If it rocks back and forth, then you bent the frame of the notebook and it could be affecting the operation of the electronics.

It could be that the drop also jostled the connection to the keyboard and it could be intermittent.

Of the two fixes, the second is really cheap and the first is... painful.

To me, since it started after the drop, it seems to be a hardware issue that needs repair.

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answer of Michael G.
by manoj.joshi26 / October 30, 2009 1:52 PM PDT

dear sir
i have some suggestion for your problem please remove the ram from mother broad and check it clean it and fix on again in slot it is due to losing of ram in the slot or check the configuration of the ram if you have two ram i ave suggestion that use only one ram in place of two

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Rogue laptop
by pitzberg1 / October 30, 2009 1:58 PM PDT

I believe your problem is the Mobo.
Most likely when it dropped, you caused some damage to the Mobo, which is most likely intermittent. I had a desktop that would not fire up on occasion, and I replaced power supply, HD, processor, and after all that it still would fault on ocasion when starting up.
I replaced the Mobo and no problem.
Good luck

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