I've not been very clever... and now I'm stuck!

  BlondeSteve 11:56 14 Nov 05


I have a Sony Vaio laptop (currently at work so not sure of the model, but it's about 4 years old) and have had a series of problems on it going back a year or so. Here's the basic chronology...

- about a year ago, despite having a virus checker and firewall (Norton and ZoneAlarm respectively), a virus/worm/nasty thing 'did for' the poor thing. It crashed, giving me a black screen, and wouldn't even turn on with the manual on/off switch.

- a well meaning programmer friend of mine offered to have a look at it for me. He told me that Windows had irreparably crashed and he would have to 'overlay' a new version of Windows. I have recently discovered that this version of Windows wasn't legit, and in order to put it on my machine my friend removed several key files (again, I don't know which ones).

- since then, the machine has run very strangely. It 'hangs' often, particularly during the loading of large programs like PhotoShop and also sometimes when using the internet. When it hangs something inside it (hard drive? I'm not sure) makes a clicking noise. Eventually it frees itself and carries on.

- more recently, I downloaded a virus checker called Avast Antivirus, which seemed to bugger things up completely. I removed it, and since then really nasty things have started to happen. Few of the desktop icons now work - I can click them but nothing happens. Oddly, all my firewall/ad-ware programs (x cleaner, zonealarm, ad-aware) have stopped working too. The only thing that seems to work is the broadband dial-up and firefox.

Obviously this is not ideal, as I'm guessing my PC is not only completely unprotected, but seems to be sluttishly going out and looking for viruses and suchlike whenever online. Therefore I have unplugged it at the wall for the time being and am using my work PC for banking etc.

The question I have is whether anyone who knows about this kind of stuff has any idea what can be done. I've thought about just going out and buying a new copy of Windows but the clicking sound worries me... if there's something physically wrong with the hard drive or something else internally I will have wasted £160-odd. Am I better off binning this machine and buying a brand new one?

Sorry that this is a long message. And sorry that I am clearly so uninformed about my own computer that I don't have any idea what even basic things are called after 4 years - must be very irritating to people who do know what they're talking about.

Any advice well received, though.

Thanks in advance

  wee eddie 12:24 14 Nov 05

Any of the CD's that came with the Lap Top.

Can you remember which version of Windows it was running.

The Model Number would be helpful.

  BlondeSteve 15:47 14 Nov 05

The only CDs that came with the laptop were Windows recovery discs (it runs XP btw, pre-SP2) and they were no use when the machine crashed out the first time.

The model is a Sony Vaio PCG-FX701.

Hope this helps!

  Skyver 15:50 14 Nov 05

Go into your BIOS, hit delete or F2 as soon as your start the laptop, it may tell you on screen what key (Enter Setup or something) - amongst the pages accessed from the first couple of headings, you should be able to find out what make of hard-drive is in the machine, go to the relevant manufacturers website and download some diagnostic software to burn to a bootable CD - you can then test your HD for problems.
You can find out the same information with this click here

  Diemmess 15:53 14 Nov 05

At best may be a tangle of software which is ultimately recoverable.
Meanwhile since malware was the cause initially, if you can get online, try Trend Housecall for a free online check of your computer.
click here

  woodchip 15:54 14 Nov 05

You Made the right choice, just going out and buying a new copy of Windows. But after as it's a Laptop you need all the Drivers so I would suggest you get these first and put them on a CD so you can load them after for Motherboard Controller, Touch pad etc Graphics, Sound. You should then do a clean install

  wee eddie 16:23 14 Nov 05

But I thought that that was what the Recovery Disk was for.

I was informed, here, that such a Disk returns the Hard Drive to it's Factory settings.

  ade.h 19:17 14 Nov 05

Yes, it would (or should). Whether it will wipe and re-format or just overwrite the installation is less clear. If it does the latter, it might not entirely achieve what BlondeSteve requires. "Band-aid solution" springs to mind when thinking of Windows recovery!

  Forum Editor 21:06 14 Nov 05

are designed to return the computer to its factory state - you woulod end up with a machine that has a Windows XP operating system (Pre SP2) and nothing else - no data files, no programs, ands hopefully - no problems.

If there is hardware damage; a hard drive with bad clusters, or worse - physical damage - then you have options. Either you can dump the existing hard drive and buy a new one (in which case you'll need to buy a retail version of Windows XP), or you can call it a day and say goodbye to a 4 year old machine and get a new one. It all depends on your budget and your inclination. After four years that computer probably doesn't owe you much, and you'll need to make a judgment. Is it worth buying a new hard drive and ending up with a functioning, but ageing laptop, or should you move on and opt for a new machine?

In your position I think I would try the restore disk solution first. If it works, all well and good, if not.........

That programmer friend didn't do you any favours by the sound of it - you can't 'overlay' one copy of Windows with another, and I can't understand why he didn't try the restore solution.

  LastChip 21:19 14 Nov 05

Does this laptop have a built in floppy disc drive?

I rather suspect the clicking noise is the floppy drive being accessed for something that the machine expects to find.

If so, it could also be the case, that as this (non-existent) floppy disc is not being found, the machine is freezing at that point.

Have you tried booting into "Safe Mode"?

In order to do this, switch the machine on, and hold down the F8 key, which should take you to a menu screen.

At the menu, you will find a number of options, but the two I would try are:

Last Known Good Configuration


Safe Mode

If you cannot even get to this screen, then you do have a much more serious problem, which ultimately may require a fresh installation of XP. If you had an XP CD, you could try booting from that and using the "Repair" option.

But suppose you can get to the menu. Once in the system, go to Control Panel; Administrative Tools; Event Viewer; System; and check the log. You will certainly find problems there. Note what they are and come back here for further advice.

  LastChip 21:27 14 Nov 05

If it boots into Safe Mode without problems, then almost certainly, there is nothing wrong with the computer itself. It will be a software problem.

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