Samsung NC20 Laptop Slow, Malware--Should I just reinstall Windows?
November 15, 2013 8:17 PM   Subscribe

I have a Samsung NC20 laptop that I bought 4 or 5 years ago. It runs Windows XP and has some sort of malware, IRP Hook, that AVG has found but cannot remove. In addition, it runs significantly slower than I would like, and cannot play most videos at all--the sound plays fine, but the image just staggers and jumps.

I do not have any sort of Windows installation disks that I know of, though there is a product key attached to the bottom from the original XP installation. Should I just reinstall Windows? If so, how would I do that? The laptop does not have a CD-ROM drive, either. I would prefer to stick with XP if possible, though I wouldn't be averse to running a different OS if I had to.
posted by Slinga to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Deezil has a nice collection of tools to fight malware. But a re-install is certainly easier, IMHO. A good opportunity to start over fresh. Depending on the age of the machine you can install Windows from an USB stick. But how to obtain WinXP from a trusted source and get it transferred onto your USB stick, I do not know. Hopefully someone else will chime in.
posted by nostrada at 9:09 PM on November 15, 2013

Those weren't fast laptops on a good day.

There is probably a recovery partition on your disk - I've seen it suggested that you press F4 when it is at the BIOS screen, but my google-foo isn't good enough to be sure. The BIOS screen will probably say what to press to go into the recovery partition.

In any case, running through the recovery partition will definitely wipe your disk and restore it to approximate factory defaults. It may not get rid of malware, since the malware could possibly infect parts of the computer that won't be wiped. Expect to spend many hours reinstalling software afterward and reapplying Windows patches.

Unless you are broke or wedded to the small size, you might want to look for a reconditioned business windows XP core 2 duo laptop - those will be substantially faster.
posted by wotsac at 9:20 PM on November 15, 2013

[One comment deleted. Let's go ahead and stick with the question here; OP can ask about a new/different laptop in another post if they decide they want to go that way.]
posted by taz (staff) at 12:07 AM on November 16, 2013

You can reinstall Windows over a CD drive shared on your network. I've done this on legacy systems. I've never tried, but I'm sure you could do it from a USB stick.

A reinstallation guarantees nothing without a format. Still possible. Above, wotsac hints at boot sector viruses or rootkits. That's possible, but try the reformat first.

Where you find a copy of Windows is up to you. Not your lawyer, but, you have the license key. All you need is an installable copy.


So, I urge you, please don't break into a Best Buy.
posted by converge at 2:11 AM on November 16, 2013

Just to add a data point: I've used Deezil's methods in similar situations with success - they resulted in a completely clean machine. WRT to improving the speed - have a look at ProcessLasso, which made a laggy old 2005 ThinkPad usable again for me (and it's still in use as a secondary machine today).
posted by Chairboy at 2:48 AM on November 16, 2013

when I used windows, I'd reinstall about once every six months, and that usually kept it running reasonably fast. I've been using Ubuntu for about 5 years, and have never had an issue with malware or speed. it won't be suitable if you use a lot of Windows specific software, though (games, etc)
posted by jpe at 7:07 AM on November 16, 2013

I've never tried, but I'm sure you could do it from a USB stick

I have never found a verifiably malware-free way to boot the XP version of Windows Setup from a USB flash memory drive. My usual process for doing bare-metal XP setup on netbooks involves plugging in a USB optical drive.

You will need an installation disc for the OEM variety of whichever Windows XP flavour (Home or Professional) is named on your product key sticker. The easiest way I know of to acquire one of those is via unofficial channels: do a web search for the SHA1 checksum of the ISO image file you need, then run a checksum verification tool on whatever you download to make sure its SHA1 checksum exactly matches the one you searched for.

The ISO image for Windows XP Professional OEM with Service Pack 3 will usually be named grtmpoem_en.iso and the SHA1 sum for an unadulterated version is dda4ac450b2174cac6c15295711330160c237418.

For Windows XP Home OEM with Service Pack 3 you're after grtmhoem_en.iso with a SHA1 sum of 7f395b9ec84cffcc43c855bf89ab91ef3bfad612.

Those are generic OEM images so you will also need a complete set of drivers for your particular machine, which you should be able to download from the Samsung support site. Install the chipset driver first, then the others (there's no need to install drivers for hardware options not installed on your individual machine, but attempting to do so will do no harm).

Then there's activation: the product key from your sticker will unlock the matching version of Windows Setup to let you do the installation but won't usually let Windows activate via the Internet, so you'll probably need to choose "activate by phone" and talk to Microsoft's activation robot. In the extremely unlikely event that you end up talking to a human being, tell them you've just used generic OEM media to reinstall Windows after replacing a failed hard drive and that this is the only Windows installation you're using with that product key, and they'll give you the activation code you need.

It's a fiddly, time-consuming, maddening process but you do get a nice clean installation at the end of it all.
posted by flabdablet at 8:33 AM on November 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'd advise against the inconvenient re-install of Windows XP, at least until after you've tried the inconvenient manual removal process for IRP Hook:
posted by the Real Dan at 12:18 PM on November 16, 2013

flabdablet has it right about Microsoft giving you a activation code, it took some time on the phone waiting to get to the right person but once I got to that person it went fast. I mean, we're talking a very old OS here, it's not like your asking them for Windows8 or whatever; the people I spoke with were really helpful. In fact, if I recall correctly, I didn't even have the OS that corresponded with the key on the puter but instead did have a copy of XP Home -- they gave me a key for that. Nice people, in my experience, who want to help you.

But. Do consider linux. A friend of mine had an old laptop that was totally crippled with every kind of speed-sapping virus on the planet, it was a total dog, it was a garbage can. Comical -- I asked him did he go into bad neighborhoods online IE porn sites, and he's all "Oh no way, I'm Mr. Clean." or whatever. Upon going onto that hard drive, you wouldn't *believe* the places he'd been; this guy has some interesting tastes.

Anyways, I formatted that drive then loaded Ubuntu onto that machine and it was really sweet. It wasn't of course a screaming demon of a machine but it sure didn't balk at all, played youtube no skipping, did pretty much all that was needed. I'm not into any gaming or anything where I'd *need* windows to live my life, I found every other piece of software I could need or want, in fact much of it came loaded with the Ubuntu install, if I recall correctly.

Warning: I'd had problems with prior attempts at linux, most esp with it finding the way to get online. But Ubuntu walked through it absolutely no problem. Maybe do a couple of searches online to see if people have good luck with Ubuntu installs on your particular machine.

Anyways, I wish you good luck no matter what direction you take, you've signed up for a number of hours.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:36 PM on November 16, 2013

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