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Computer Tech:
A PC Repair Double Whammy
Posted 21 months ago on 9/3/2018
Take Away:

This is a story about a PC repair encounter I recently had where two unrelated problems made it impossible to fix the computer.


A longtime customer brought me a small laptop computer he needed computer repair services for. He informed me that it was running slow and the hard disk had filled so much that he could not download Windows updates or perform other tasks due to the limited disk space. He also said he let one of these “Microsoft Scam” so called computer repair guys have remote access to his computer. He wanted me to see if the scammer (he later realized the guy was a crook after being pressured, but did not give him any money) had put anything on his computer.

So I began working with the laptop and discovered that it ran off a Celeron processor, which is insufficient for running the modern software nowadays. I also discovered that this laptop did not have a conventional mechanical hard drive. Instead, it had flash drive storage media of only 27.8 GB. That is only 2.7% of the capacity of a typical 1 TB hard disk you get in computers these days. That explains why he ran out of disk space so quickly.

I started uninstalling unneeded software through the “Program and Features” icon to try and free up some flash drive space. I then restarted the computer only to discover that a prompt at initialization kept appearing that read: “This computer is configured to require a password in order to start up. Please enter the Startup Password below.” This is the SYSKEY LOCK-OUT ransom scam. The crook will not let you in the computer until he receives a ransom payment. Well, I obviously did not know this password and could not get around it even in Safe Mode. And I wasn’t going to pay ransom $$$ to a crook, either. Now, normally the next step would be to remove the disk and plug it into another computer and copy the customer’s files to back up media and then nuke the ailing disk to start over with a fresh Windows installation. I was unable to do this, because when I opened the laptop I could not find the flash drive storage media anywhere. Perhaps it was beneath a metal covering I couldn’t remove or somehow integrated into the mother board. The bottom line is I hit a wall.

This was not quite as bad as it seemed, though. The customer said he did not really have much on this PC and he didn’t even buy it himself. Someone bought it for him last Christmas as a present. This is a very rare instance of how two seemingly unrelated problems made my computer fix attempt impossible. I can usually find a way to get around these obstacles and proceed with the repair, but not this time.


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