My friend Jenny has been having problems with her computers. She has 4 computers in her house and only one of them was still working. So I went over there last Saturday to work on them which is when I found out about heat pipes. That computer was still overheating some, but the bigger problem was that a virus (or something) had associated all .exe files with Windows Media Player and they wouldn’t run anymore, just open the media player (which in turn couldn’t do anything with the .exe files since they aren’t music or video). Since all anti-virus software is an .exe, this prevents fixing it. And I couldn’t re-associate .exe since Windows Explorer wouldn’t open (it’s an exe too). So I wound up taking the hard drive out, scanning it in my desktop computer that I brought over there (I actually brought my new and old desktops over since one has SATA hard drive connections and the older one has IDE and I wasn’t sure what kind of drive the affected computer had in it; it turned out to be SATA and mounting it was no problem except that in the BIOS I had to enable that hard drive port instead of the computer just recognizing whether a drive was present or not). A scan turned up 79 viruses or threats, at least some of which were trojans (sometimes browser “cookies” are considered threats, but they don’t really do any damage, unlike trojans). So Kaspersky got rid of all of the viruses. The computer would run and could browse the web, but you still couldn’t open executables and it would overheat and shut itself off in a few minutes. But I found a Microsoft online wizard named Mr. Fix It that would reset the .exe association and that worked perfectly. There are also a lot of shady website out there that offer fixes like that, but I didn’t want to try anything like that with a site I wasn’t familiar with.
So anyway, we started addressing the overheating issues and that computer seemed okay, but by that time I had to leave. I took her two non-functioning laptops home with me to work on. Her older laptop is an HP that originally came with Windows XP but won’t boot now and she lost (or never made) recovery disks that would reinstall Windows. I had an old Windows 2000 disk at home that I could use. Windows 2000 is good because you don’t have to actually register it with Microsoft like XP and Vista: you just enter a CD key. But Win2k is pretty old and I wasn’t at all sure it would do everything it needed to. After I first installed it (using the option to format the drive and then install), it was set to VGA output with only 16 colors and it wouldn’t even acknowledge it had a wireless card. The equipment was all newer than the software. I used Internet Explorer to do Windows Update, but it wouldn’t work. It turns out I needed to download IE 6 because Windows Update won’t run in older versions like the one that came with Win2k. Once I did that, I got software and driver updates and I had a decent display again. Jenny has a legit copy of Office 2007, but it won’t run under Windows 2000. However, I also had Office 2000, which works and doesn’t require online registration, and isn’t limited to 3 installations like Office 2003 and Office 2007.
The biggest thing was getting the wireless card working and Windows 2000 with Service Pack 4 includes support for wireless. I was surprised Microsoft was still making updates and service packs available, but I downloaded all of that and then had to get a Wireless driver from HP. And the computer runs great, booting up quickly and being really responsive. I could only go to Internet Explorer 6, but the latest Firefox runs fine.
I wanted to get some anti-virus software, but it looks like most companies no longer support Windows 2000. But I think one of the Windows updates included Microsoft Defender, so it’s not like there is zero protection.
As a backup, I also installed Ubuntu on a partition of this hard drive. That way if Windows fails, at least she could use the laptop for the web. Installing Ubuntu took me back to when I was first trying it out on my laptop a couple of years ago and gave up on it. It installed a lot easier this go around, but I still had a few issues with the grub loader. I was able to give this computer back to her on Tuesday but not before I copied the entire hard drive. This way if something happens, I can reformat the hard drive and drag everything back over without downloading and configuring everything all over again.
The third computer is more of a problem. It has a hard time finding it’s boot record or something so it won’t start (this computer is on its 4th hard drive; I don’t know what keeps killing the hard drive). I put a partition with Ubuntu on it and that seems to boot no problem, so that may be as good as it gets. Even though she has the Windows Vista CD and this is a newer laptop than the HP, I just can’t fix this one. I had it booting up a few times and got new drivers and BIOS installed, but it soon went back to its old ways and won’t work. I’ve tried repairing it dozens of times and had Vista installed for the third time on it.