HolidayBuyer's Guide

Computer Help forum


Seriously effed up computer. What do I do?

by jmanuel17 / February 25, 2014 7:53 AM PST

Running Windows 7 on a personally built desktop PC. It all started when I tried to download Skype, but inadvertently clicked on a pseudo-Skype site and downloaded who knows what. Uninstalled whatever showed up on the list but noticed:
1. My internet favorites were gone. They were still in the folder, but weren't showing up in my browser, and could never figure out how to get them back.
2. Default settings in Word started coming back.
So I got McAfee Total Protection, downloaded it, and it said it found nothing. The next day, all of my folders were empty! No pictures, no documents, nothing! So I restored the system to before, which took out McAfee, and it seemed fine.
Well, I'm using this computer in a network, and tried to change permissions on my personal folder. When I did this, everything screwed up. A list of the problems:
1. Black background. Desktop wallpaper does not work, even though it says it's on a saved theme.
2. Icons missing. Word, OneNote, iTunes, all have a generic "windows" icon.
3. Libraries are gone. The icons for Documents, Music, Pictures, Podcasts, and Videos are different, and clicking on them does nothing. When I right click to go to properties, it says, "The properties for this item are not available." I can still get to these files through clicking on my C: drive, though.
4. Internet browsers don't work. They just stay blank and don't navigate, even though I'm online (which I know from trying to download a new antivirus... speaking of which...).
5. Can't download anything. It freezes during the download process.
6. Can't do system restore. It too freezes during initialization.
7. Can't re-install Windows. It says "The unattend answer file contains an invalid product key."
8. iTunes won't play. Click on a song, double-click, it just sits there doing nothing.
9. Anything I start or open pretty much has to be aborted through task manager.
10. CCleaner freezes.
11. Can't uninstall anything, it freezes.

I've backed up the files I need to an external, so I'm pretty much willing to do what it takes to get this thing up and running again. But nothing works.


Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: Seriously effed up computer. What do I do?
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: Seriously effed up computer. What do I do?
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.

All Answers

Collapse -
I should also add...
by jmanuel17 / February 25, 2014 7:57 AM PST

I changed the permissions back to what would get me around. At first, I couldn't do anything, even though I'm the only user on the computer and I'm an administrator. Even when I got the permissions back, every button that had an administrator shield wouldn't work; it would freeze the process and I'd have to task-manage my way out of it. When THAT happened, the screen would flash, and NOTHING would open until I restarted the computer. I restarted in safe mode, turned off the UAC to zero, and now I can navigate those buttons.

Collapse -
You got the restore media?
by Dafydd Forum moderator / February 25, 2014 7:58 AM PST

Cos from what I read you're going to need it. Good job you backed up your files.


Collapse -
For the most part
by jmanuel17 / February 25, 2014 8:04 AM PST

I can still open most files; many are still screwed up permissions-wise, but I can work around that and save them. My iTunes files are all saved on my laptop and my external. I can still pull what I need, but nothing is working properly.

Collapse -
(NT) Restore to factory settings, that'll reformat HDD
by wpgwpg / February 25, 2014 8:02 AM PST
Collapse -
I looked into that,
by jmanuel17 / February 25, 2014 8:13 AM PST

but everything says that the only way to do that is to uninstall things, which I can't do.

Collapse -
Thanks for the link.
by jmanuel17 / February 26, 2014 12:29 PM PST
In reply to: #7

Sounds like he has the same problem re-installing, since mine too was a Windows 7 upgrade disk from Vista. Thankfully I kept my old Vista install disk, so I'm installing that right now, only to upgrade again!
This is basically my last resort, as I was hoping to identify and find the problem. Would love to know what happened.
Does it sound like a virus/malware/etc., to anybody? Or did I just inadvertently screw up some sort of code or something?

Collapse -
I'm beginning to think an exorcist may be needed.
by jmanuel17 / February 26, 2014 1:12 PM PST
In reply to: #7

It won't let me install Vista. It gets a good way into the process, and then says it can't install certain files, and kicks me out - back into my inept Windows 7 nightmare.

This thing seems to be one step ahead of me. Any other ideas? How else can you wipe clean the whole hard drive?

Collapse -
You built this computer so ..
by Oldartq / February 26, 2014 1:43 PM PST

you must have start with a full version of Vista, right? How could you be back to win7? This tells me you did not format the harddrive before reinstalling vista. You need to do that first so the harddrive is completely clean. Good luck.

Collapse -
I can't do anything.
by jmanuel17 / February 27, 2014 1:17 PM PST

I can't format the hard drive, it won't let me because I'm doing it from within Windows. I can't restore to factory settings, because I built it.

It seems I cannot get Windows 7 off my hard drive!!! Any ideas? It's like a vicious circle: I try to use the boot disk, but it's an upgrade, so it won't let me. So I try to reinstall Vista, to upgrade from there, but it won't let me until 7 is off! I try to boot in safe mode with the command prompt to format from there, and IT won't let me!

It looks like I need to buy a new hard drive.

Collapse -
I am a bit rusty here,
by Oldartq / February 27, 2014 1:58 PM PST
In reply to: I can't do anything.

I haven't done this sort of thing for awhile. I think this is right; go into the bios and change the boot sequence to the dvd drive then save that setting. Now put the vista disc in and boot up the computer. At this point I would think vista should be in control and not anything in the harddrive.

Collapse -
Yeah another Hdd. is also an option.
by Oldartq / February 27, 2014 2:03 PM PST
In reply to: I am a bit rusty here,

Price are very reasonable and I am sure there be a use for more storage in the future.

Collapse -
Stop trying to do it from inside the corrupt Windows.
by Zouch / February 28, 2014 6:06 PM PST
In reply to: I can't do anything.

What you need to do is wipe the hard drive completely and then treat it as a new purchase.

To do this, you say you use the computer on a network, so on a clean computer, download the bootable CD version of Partition Wizard and burn it to CD.

Boot your corrupt machine from the CD, either via the BIOS or via the function key that lets you choose a temporary boot drive.

Once it's running, delete all the partitions on the corrupt drive, use the secure delete option if you want to be really sure, though it will take longer, because it overwrites the physical space on the disk.

Then, with the whole disk showing as unallocated, allocate a new partition for your system disk, or the whole physical disk if you prefer. Then from the Disk menu, run the Rebuild MBR command.

When finished you should have a clean empty disk.

Now boot the Vista installation DVD and install Vista, then upgrade to 7 as you did previously.

Alternatively, you could go directly to 7 on a clean install. Because this is an upgrade version, it may ask you to put in the Vista DVD to verify that you have a valid previous system. Then when it's verified that, it will want the 7 DVD back in to complete the install. This mechanism was provided by Microsoft to allow upgrades from Windows XP, which cannot be upgraded in place and must be "upgraded" via a clean install.

Good luck!

Collapse -
You shouldn't have to uninstall anything
by wpgwpg / February 26, 2014 7:24 AM PST
In reply to: I looked into that,

It simply doesn't work that way. Restoring to factory settings formats the hard drive which removes anything and everything that's installed.

Collapse -
Get a copy
by itsdigger / February 27, 2014 1:44 PM PST

of Dban or Gparted and format the HDD than install Vista than 7 upgrade;

When you've accomplished this, create a set of System Image Disk's , you'll be happy you did.

Also . get an external HDD for back ups


Collapse -
boot disk
by hothta / February 28, 2014 12:13 PM PST

you need to start your pc and watch to see what f-key you need to hit to run your boot up.
nect put your boot disk or vista disk in the drive do a power shut down ( hold the off on button till the pc shuts off.
now restart your pc hitting the f-key you located as it is trying to start this will run your boot and allow you to format5 from there. good luck

Collapse -
Did you google the virus?
by VivamusMea / February 28, 2014 7:09 PM PST

When I got the skype virus, Norton Anti-Virus was not able to un-install it at the time. I got a free copy of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. Put the computer into safe mode and ran it. It returned my computer to an operational mode. I then backed up any critical files and re-imaged the computer and changed all of my critical passwords. I find it hard to trust a computer that has been infected.

If that fails google the virus and characteristics, these things are generally documented pretty well by bloggers on line.

Collapse -
Do this
by tosim00 / February 28, 2014 10:46 PM PST

1. Get a Bootable Linux CD such as gparted or parted magic; both are free.
2. Set your BIOS to boot from CD
3. Reboot, with this CD in your optical drive
4. Follow instructions that are simple, to format
5. Now, if you are smart, forget Windows, download and install Linux Mint-MATE(or Linux Ubuntu); both free, along with well over 30,000 free programs.

Collapse -
by trilldax42 / March 1, 2014 8:34 AM PST
In reply to: Do this

Does Fdisk work in Win7? If not, what would be the equivalent? Just a thought.

Collapse -
His computer system is all screwup now and...
by Oldartq / March 1, 2014 9:14 AM PST
In reply to: Fdisk

I think tosim00 has the best solution. Got to start with a CLEAN hdd. I have just learned an "upgrade" disc won't do a thing for you. The only thing it does is to look for an OS to up grade. It's not like the old day where all one has to do is to show it the OS that's being upgraded. Yeah, MS like to see dance. I have come to the conclusion never to buy an a bit more for the full one.

Popular Forums
Computer Newbies 10,686 discussions
Computer Help 54,365 discussions
Laptops 21,181 discussions
Networking & Wireless 16,313 discussions
Phones 17,137 discussions
Security 31,287 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 22,101 discussions
Windows 7 8,164 discussions
Windows 10 2,657 discussions


Cameras that make great holiday gifts

Let them start the new year with a step up in photo and video quality from a phone.