Will it ever stop?

Last week I

received a call from my niece asking for my help and advice on a computer

problem she and her fiance were having. Being the family computer geek, a

distinction I suspect many of the TechRepublic membership knows all too well, I

was happy to help.

However, as

they described the problem it became apparent that this was not going to be a

"go to the control panel" issue that could be resolved over the

phone. They had been hit with a malware bomb — and a

pretty nasty one too. The hard drive is pretty much hosed. I have been trying

to avoid a complete wipe of the drive because it is a cut-rate HP computer that

did not come with a Windows CD. The Windows installation files are, of course,

on the hard drive which is completely useless at this point. Selling a PC

without a working CD with a clean copy of Windows should be outlawed. If I wipe

the drive, they won't have a copy of Windows, just a license number. I tried

the restore procedure but it failed because too much damage had already been

done to the files.

This is the

second family relative to have a major problem like this so I guess part of the

blame is mine since I apparently failed to emphasize the importance of keeping

virus software, firewall, and Windows up to date and patched. I forget that all

of that maintenance is second nature to me, but a foreign language to them.

With luck and some gentle prodding from her nice uncle, this incident should prevent

a future incident, at least with this member of the family. It is the rest of

the family that I worry about.

How many

catastrophic events have you had to clean up after for your family? Have you

tried to educate everyone about patches and updates? For me the problems really

hit the fan when broadband is introduced.

About Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to,, and TechRepublic.

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