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Lately I've been having a bunch of weird issues with my Windows 8 laptop. I don't know if and how they could be related.

Symptoms

  • Less than a week ago a glitch caused my start screen to be rendered without any icons. I still have a screenshot.
  • Sometimes my computer refuses to boot. The screen just sits their blankly and nothing happens after the BIOS splash screen. What I do in that case is turn my computer off and try again. That usually works around the issue.
  • This Friday I was trying to save a Notepad document. When the Save dialog was opening, I heard my hard drive working disproportionately hard and Windows froze almost entirely. I had to reboot after that happened.
  • Yesterday I discovered that avast! seemed to have vanished from my hard drive. It could have been malware, hard drive corruption or anything else, I don't know.
  • On Sunday morning - a day after I installed Windows 8.1 - the boot problem became permanent. Because the failure happened after the BIOS screen appeared, I was still able to boot from external media. I used my Windows 8 recovery disk to restore the boot record and MBR, which fixed the issue for the time being.
  • As of Sunday morning, some text and graphic elements are rendered poorly by Firefox. I haven't encountered the problem outside of Firefox yet. This happened just now while I was typing my question:

Poor text rendering by Firefox

Do you see any pattern in these symptoms? I ran quick avast! and Malwarebytes scans that didn't come up with anything. The main reason why I suspect malware is that my laptop connected directly to the internet using a public IP address for a few days, but that's a long story. Are there any other tests I should run to get to the bottom of this?

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