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Recently a family friend of mine suffered a very severe malware infection on their laptop with a very troubling symptom. The malware somehow hooked into the system drivers to the point that I can use an external keyboard in Windows 7, but if any key on the main keyboard is touched, it will trigger the system to go AWOL causing the keys to map randomly and the mouse to also be taken over.

I've tried removing the system drivers and reinstalling and doing the standard due diligence but I've had no luck.

My main problem however is that this hijacking is so deep it even prevents me from triggering the BIOS (via delete) or using F8 to boot into safe mode. The external keyboard is connected via USB.

Bottom line, what can I do to combat this hijacking? I don't need help with the malware - just this major driver issue. I can't map the keys myself because it changes randomly - and popping the hard drive into an enclosure (while allowing me to do scans) is not going to let me do my full troubleshooting.

Thanks very much in advance for any assistance,

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I've never heard of anything like this! Does using a PS/2 keyboard allow you to get at the BIOS? – jozzas Aug 23 '12 at 1:16
This also is a first on my part. It's a laptop so there's only USB, so even if I had a PS2 device it would still share the same connection. That is a good consideration though. – theonlylos Aug 23 '12 at 1:20
Just to be clear, this keyboard you're using works fine on other machines? And does pressing a key on the laptop have the same result as the same key on the external keyboard? Delete/F8 has no effect on either keyboard? – jozzas Aug 23 '12 at 1:27
Yes, I pulled the keyboard from my secondary machine which I used shortly before the call. I also was able to input into the laptop fine into (the infected) Windows - but for some reason I can't make it input pre-boot. When I try using the laptop keypad pre-boot the keys are randomly mapped. – theonlylos Aug 23 '12 at 1:29
That sounds more like a hardware problem (broken keyboard / misaligned keyboard ribbon connector / broken ribbon cable) than a software problem. Not being able to use an external USB keyboard for BIOS and pre-windows boot is pretty common for laptops. – Brian Aug 23 '12 at 2:04
up vote 0 down vote accepted

So by pure chance, just now I turned on the laptop and it immediately loaded the boot selector menu (don't know how as I last touched the machine last night). I then plugged in my external keyboard and rather than hitting the physical keyboard I hit the external and it actually worked.

I think it might be because the drivers were loaded upon plugin even though it was still in pre-Windows.

Just for reference to any visitors who stumble on this page, here's a more reliable solution:

Go to Start, Run and type "msconfig" (without the quotes).
In the System Configuration Utility select the BOOT.INI tab. Click to check the /SAFEBOOT box, then click mode you want, usually MINIMAL or NETWORK.
Click OK to close msconfig. You will be asked whether you want to reboot now, or exit without restarting. Select Reboot now.
When you reboot to safe mode, there will be a splash screen warning you that you have used msconfig. Click OK to make it go away.
Msconfig will start. You will continue booting to safe mode until you undo the changes within the BOOT.INI tab. Click to uncheck the  /SAFEBOOT check box, click Apply and OK. If you are finished in safe mode choose Reboot now, otherwise choose Exit without restarting.

Although the site is written for Windows XP, I checked the Windows 7 MS Config and it looks fairly similar.

Quoted info taken from:

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