While travelling on Elba, I suffered the misfortune of a virus attack; I don’t use AV software these days, since it tends to break other things which take a long time to fix, and it’s been many years since I’ve lost a machine to malicious software.

The process, though, was quite entertaining. First, I started getting an error stating that system.exe needed .net to run properly. After a while, a Windows update happened, along with the normal malicious software removal update. This found the virus, probably killed it, then stuck up a dialog saying “Some of your files were nasty, so they need to be restored, please insert your Windows SP3 disk”. Clicking “ok” said “I can’t find the disk, perhaps a) you put the wrong disk in or b) your drive isn’t working”. Or c) you are on holiday, and your disk is 1000 miles away, and anyway, the machine is old enough to have come with SP2. All sort of raising the question why the software that I’d just downloaded from Microsoft, can’t download the system components to replace the ones that it’s deleted from Microsoft also.

After the reboot, all trace of networking software had been blitzed from the machine; I couldn’t even use loopback addresses. In the end, I’ve done a complete factory reset from the recovery partition which I thought I had deleted years ago. The process took about 15 minutes to recover windows, 1 hour to recover the sony application layer, 2 hours to remove all the sony application layer (one application at a time, including the 10 different wallpaper packages, because add/remove programs doesn’t allow multiple select), except for the power management tweaks and drivers, then another hour trying to figure out NTFS file permissions so that I could read my files.

Actually, the process hasn’t been a complete loss; I was thinking of re-installing the OS anyway. The boot had got to around 3 to 4 minutes which was getting daft. Now, with a clean OS, a complete reboot takes under a minute. It’s also been a bit of a walk down memory lane; currently, I have no internet, so my computer is in 2005 state; there is Office 2003 trial, a rubbishy media centre thing Sony probably wrote as an answer to iTunes, and macromedia flash. I had an emacs install exe in my recycle which I managed to recover before the reset so, ironically, Emacs is the newest piece of software I have on here.

Still, this administrative nightmare makes me wonder what to do next; XP is not too long for this world, vista is a poll tax on wheels, and I am just not sure I can be bothered with learning 7. I’ve used windows on the road for a long time, but I think I may go small, light netbook running linux. There have been a couple of times when I have needed MS Office, but it’s not that common, and there is always a work-around.