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I am running Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit on a HP Pavilion laptop, acquired in August 2008. For the past few weeks I have been experiencing a range of strange behaviours that I have not been able to pin down. The steps I have taken to resolve the issues have included: run full anti-virus and malware scans; turn off software firewall; turn off all anti-virus programs.

At each of the different steps, I have run the anti-virus/malware scans again, without discovering anything. At each separate step, the behaviours did not change, especially the browser issue, which is currently my biggest problem by preventing access to where I need to go (I am studying on-line).

The behaviours include:

  1. Unable to load certain web sites. This occurs for the relevant sites regardless of which browser I use. Tested in Firefox 4, Internet Explorer 9 and Google Chrome. It appears to be the same sites every time, although on rare occasions, a previously 'blocked' site will load, then refuse to load subsequently. I queried my ISP to establish whether this was a wider problem - it wasn't.

  2. My PC 'forgets' about the CD/DVD drive, but not every time. I can always restore it by a hardware rescan in Device Manager.

  3. Some of my software programs will not run. Again this is not consistent.

  4. Cannot boot from my CD/DVD drive, even when set in BIOS to load first.

The last item really is a pain, since I had decided on a final solution of a full Windows re-install, painful as it was bound to be.

My next solution was to buy a new laptop, but unfortunately I will not have the means to do that for perhaps another 12 months. I am a heavyweight user, running up to 4 programs at a time and rely on this computer extensively.

My only other option is to install Windows 7 on my iMac, then transfer everything across. I do not really want to do that either, since am running a base storage level that I use daily of 1.5 TB - and that is already bulging at the seams. My laptop internal HDD is 500 GB. I am a retired pensioner, not long out of hospital after major surgery, so I regard my laptop as a crucial connection to the world, not to mention more convenient to use at the moment. I really would appreciate some ideas about what is going on.

EDIT: June 17

I forgot to mention in the above that I have already run the TDSSKiller and it returned a nil result.

In addition I have done a reboot into Safe Mode with Networking, and of course the problem seemed to disappear in the relatively short time I was running it. I think I will do a more extensive test too. I will look up how to load Windows 7 onto a USB drive and give that a go.

The reality is I probably do need a new laptop, but it will have to wait for a few more months - no funds available until probably the new year! Thank you for the replies so far. Next step is to run a full backup onto a spare drive before anything else.

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2 Answers

Are you certain the discs you are trying to use are bootable? If you are experiencing issues with your optical drive before booting into Windows - you are experiencing a hardware issue which will probably carry over to the sporradic appearing and disappearing in Windows.

As far as the web pages not loading ... Are any security sites blocked? I would recommend a free tool from Kaspersky called TDSSKiller - it will catch Rootkits that can cause browsing issues like yours - grab it and run it in safe mode. It is very easy to use.

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It definitely sounds like there's something extra-special going on in your system. I would strongly suspect the motherboard and/or optical drive as having possible hardware failures. Many of your symptoms also point to a deep-seated malware infection.

Some more details that would help troubleshooting would be:

  • What specific programs do you have trouble running?
  • What sort of error messages are you receiving (if any) when these programs fail to run?
  • Is there any notable consistency regarding the conditions under which programs will/will not run?
  • What specific websites do you have trouble visiting?
  • What sort of error messages are you receiving (if any) when you're having trouble visiting the websites?
  • Is there any notable consistency regarding the conditions under which the websites will/will not work?
  • Were there any significant changes made to, or notable incidents on the system around the time you began experiencing symptoms?
  • Does a reboot seem to temporarily "cure" some symptoms?
  • Are your antivirus signatures properly updating?

Some additional troubleshooting steps:

  • Make sure all software and drivers are up to date, including (but not limited to):
    • Web browsers
    • Browser plugins
    • Security software
    • Antimalware signatures
    • Operating system
    • Motherboard drivers
    • Optical drive drivers
    • NIC drivers
    • Affected applications, and any plug-ins for those applications.
  • Check and re-seat all connections, particularly:
    • RAM
    • Wi-Fi card
    • Optical drive
  • Test Internet and optical drive functionality in "safe mode with networking".
  • Test Internet and optical drive functionality in a known-sterile/known-good environment such as a LiveUSB.
  • Scan the system for malware from a known-sterile environment - preferably a bootable CD or USB.

If none of the above yield any good results or more useful information, I'd suggest the following:

  • For your optical drive issue, replace the optical drive. If that doesn't help, replace the motherboard. (Probably may as well just buy the new laptop, at this point.)

  • For your software and Internet issues, re-build the system. Windows 7 can be installed from a USB drive.

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I find that I also cannot boot up from a USB drive, even though it has been enabled to do so. Mind you, even though the laptop is only about 3 years old, it has probably done the work of an average user over 6 years! The only solution I think is a new laptop. End of story. –  Pat. Mitchell Jul 8 '11 at 0:18
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