The friend reported that their Windows 7 Dell laptop was bluescreen-ing.
Now this was going to be a post about how simple it was to fix, but as it turns out, it was one of the more difficult problems I’ve worked on. If it was a customer laptop, I would have just re-imaged it and that would have been that. But as it was for a friend, there was the issue of no Dell Recovery Disks and no backups. And there was the small matter of pride involved …
Long story short:
The laptop had two viruses, removing those viruses broke the Dell Recovery partition and the laptop now constantly blue screened. I created a custom Windows 7 install USB stick to fix the laptop.
The long story follows below
Loading up the Action Center, the Bluescreen code was 0000001E. Windows 7 suggested that the fix was Microsoft Security Advisory: Update for the Windows Operating System Loader. But before applying that patch, I ran the Malicious Software Removal Tool. It found the Trojan:DOS/Alureon.a virus.
The laptop had McAfee AV installed.
Now McAfee in my opinion is a piece of crap. Certainly didn’t do much protecting in this case. I grabbed a copy of Microsoft Security Essentials and installed it. It detected TrojanDownloader:Win32/Unruy.H
At the end of the scan, after trying to completely remove the virus, Microsoft Security Essentials suggested that I download the System Security Sweeper. Which has now been renamed Windows Defender Offline. Windows Defender Offline is, essentially a version of Microsoft Security Essentials, on it’s own boot CD/USB.
Windows Defender Offline removed the virus. But it broke the Dell Recovery partition, and Windows boot loader.
At this stage, if it was MY laptop, I would have just thrown on a generic Windows 7 Home Premium edition. But this was a friend’s Dell laptop which came bundled with Office 2010 and other stuff, such as webcam software. To give you some idea of the amount of extra “stuff” Dell bundled, consider this. A standard Windows 7 image file is 2.1GB in size. The Dell one? 6.1GB. Close to 3 times the size.
Remember earlier I said I didn’t have the Dell Recovery DVDs? The tech consensus is that “if you don’t have a copy of the Recovery DVDs, you’re screwed.“. And most of the time, they’d be right.
I had copies of the Dell image files (preload.wim & factory.wim). I didn’t have a way to create the Recovery DVDs. So I was stuck with a 6.1GB image file I couldn’t use. But I did have a generic Windows 7 Home Premium install USB stick.
The Windows 7 Home Premium install USB stick.
I created the USB stick from the Home Premium ISO file, by using the Windows USB creator utility. The reason for using a USB stick is that it allowed me to replace the generic install.wim image file with the Dell factory.wim image. And this worked! Yay for me! I was able to re-image the laptop with the Dell factory image.
After the new Dell install.
The first thing I did was install Windows Service Pack 1. It was a toss up between installing that first, or the Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) anti-virus program. My thought was that it was better to get the SP1 done first, then install other programs on top of that.
The rest was easy. Installed the security updates for Windows 7, Acrobat Reader, Skype and assorted Dell utilities.
And I removed McAfee anti-virus.