Fixing family computers

Gina Trapani wrote about fixing her mom’s computer. In my case, it applies to my brothers’ computers, as my mom actually runs Linux.

A few days correcting Windows XP’s mistakes — like first not allowing downloads from any application, then secondly accidently eating the partition it resides upon (which had crucial information with no backups) — is painful. My other brother’s computer would log out as soon as logging in was attempted.

They’ve both been running Firefox and using for some time now, and each are interested in switching to Linux (which would’ve happened if it wasn’t for the fact that the WinXP problems ate up too much time, leaving none left for Linux with Linksys WUSB11 v2.6 wireless adapter support).

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8 Responses to “Fixing family computers”

  1. Nico says:

    Concerning the login-logout problem: did this computer log out immediately, without any further error notice?

    I had a similar problem two days ago, Windows logged out immediately complaining about “a command was issued, but wrong issue length” or something like that. No chance of getting in, the “repair” installation failed and made the system not only un-bootable but also un-installable (maybe because I installed Win XP over a Win XP+SP2). After scratching off all important data using Knoppix, I found out that the problem was an automatic Windows Update going wild — System Restore could have saved hours…

    I love Linux for its console and for its logging features…

  2. It did not show any error; even “Safe Mode” did not work. Just like my other brother, he wound up reinstalling everything. What a way to spend Christmas, huh? \:

  3. I switched my mom to Linux a few months ago. Saying “my mom runs Linux” has to be one of the coolest things ever.

    My brother actually just bought a new PC, after not really using one for a while since his old one was a an original Pentium with something like Win95 on it. He asked me whether he should pay Best Buy for their $80 “hole-plugging” service, which is where they install Norton SystemWreckerWorks/AV and enable the Windows firewall.

    I told him no, because I can do that for free and install AVG’s free AV product. Then later when talking about hardware firewalls (in routers), I said well, when you’re running Windows, the sad truth is that you’re going to get a virus or a worm at some point, so the only thing you can really do is buy an external hard drive and be sure to do weekly backups. You literally cannot depend on your data being safe, ever, if it’s on a Windows computer.

  4. zebulon says:

    Windows itself has pretty much nothing to do with data safety 🙂 I’m not saying it doesn’t have security flaws, but you can manage to get it working OK and never have a single problem with worms, virii and other bad things.

  5. Windows itself has pretty much nothing to do with data safety…I’m not saying it doesn’t have security flaws…

    In my opinion, security flaws — especially numerous and frequent ones — have everything to do with data safety. And I think that by any rational appraisal MS software is by far the worst offender, both in terms of sheer volume security flaws, and in terms of failure to take responsibility for them and delay in fixing them.

  6. Brandon Enright says:

    I’ve run into the “log on/log off’ problem with Windows XP on friend’s computers a number of times in the last year and it took me several full re-installs before I figured out what was causing the problem.

    Actually the problem isn’t with Windows but with Spyware/Adware/Malware that modifies the log-in section of the registry. On particular piece of malware that comes to mind is Windows Search Assistant – but I’ve seen others do the same. What they do is change the user initialization portion of the login to point to their software, thereby loading their software at login and then passing the control off to Window’s userinit.exe.

    All by itself this doesn’t cause any problems (other than starting the malware), what does cause the problems though is how it is removed. If you use a program like Ad-Aware, often what will happen is that Ad-Aware will identify and remove the files on the hard drive associated with the login hijacking but won’t fix the registry keys. Then when you go to log in Windows passes control to something that doesn’t exist and aborts the login – without a visible error.

    The fix is generally really simple but requires editing the registry. If you can’t log in editing the registry can be difficult. There are a few options:

    * If the “Remote Registry” service is turned on load the hive over the network with another machine and edit from there.

    * Use this Linux based boot disk to edit the registry offline I’ve found the NTFS write support to be poor though and has about a 50/50 chance of fixing the problem or making it worse.

    * Use BartPE with RegeditPE.

    * Use ERD Commander (The best/easiest/surefire option) but it costs plenty.

    * I’ve heard you can use Knoppix to edit the registry but I haven’t looked into it. Perhaps someone has more information about this?

    The registry key(s) that need to be changed are at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon

    Look for the “Userinit” value. It should be “C:\WINDOWS\system32\userinit.exe,”. The comma is correct at the end. If Userinit is not this value then you have found the problem. If it is then the problem is with the GPExtensions. Compare the GPExtensions of a working machine to a broken one and delete any extras.

    I know it’s a little late for your brother’s machine but perhaps this fix will be useful down the road.

  7. anonymous says:

    Well, you can make your mom run anything you want if you take care of her machine. Which Linux distribution did you install on her computer?
    BTW, my mom runs FreeBSD 😛 (current uptime 95 days)

  8. […] y of friends. No, I’m talking about that time to fix all the computers in the house! While Garrett worked on his brothers’ computers and Gina Trapani fixed up her moth […]