How to stop my laptop from doing its own thing
June 8, 2016 6:01 AM   Subscribe

My Dell Inspiron 11 3000 series is acting crazy again. The cursor won't stay still, under my control, and it scoots around opening and closing programs, even when they're in the bottom taskbar.

I get some relief from restarting, and occasionally other measures give me hope...but it comes back. I've tried scans, all the google searches w/ recommends that hit snags, all that. Go ahead, ask if I've tried this or that -- I may not have.

Have tried browsers, just music...
posted by noelpratt2nd to Computers & Internet (40 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not your IT Guy.../ That sounds like a nasty virus to me, I would go for a full re-format of your hard drive and reinstall windows. I would also recommenced picking up one of the free anti-virus programs (or even a paid one) that are available. I use Avast. After that, go and change all your passwords to be safe and be hyper-vigilant about activity on your credit cards as some of your financial info could have been stolen, depending on the virus and how much shopping/banking/bill paying you do on line.
posted by deadwater at 6:12 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can you try disabling your trackpad? I had a trackpad that went haywire and did its own thing for a long time until I just disabled it and got an external mouse.
posted by xingcat at 6:20 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Nuke it and reformat.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:23 AM on June 8, 2016

Friend was having similar problems because his snazzy LED desk lamp was causing interference with his touch screen. Does it have this problem in other physical locations?
posted by straw at 6:25 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is the cursor movement random or is it like something/someone is controlling it? If you leave the computer untouched does it purposely carry out tasks (clicking on specific things and selecting specific options) or move/click randomly or not at all?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:42 AM on June 8, 2016

I'll try at other locations. Thing is, it had this problem once months ago but I somehow got rid of it. I'm very not into reinstalling, this Windows 10 was an offered upgrade from 8. and I don't even have it on a USB. I have three other lappys and could be happy just using this as a stereo since it has all my OneDrive music on it. Sure, I have the free scans, even a Pro version of SAS, which finds the usual adware cookies but also recently the pup.Bee--?/Variant and Marvel, Convert pups... I even tried lowering my desktop icons from the top of the screen b/c the cursor would zip up there trying to open stuff. In running chkdsk I couldn't make sense of the difference in bytes you're supposed to be able to tell if it's a virus in the boot sector. HDD check comes up clean.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 6:42 AM on June 8, 2016

Seconding a trackpad issue, I had a Lenovo ThinkPad with a cursor that would occasionally become unmanageable (scooting, selecting or opening files it passed over). Lenovo could see it via remote support & did not have a suggestion. I proposed that is was the trackpad... they reluctantly sent out a on-site warranty repairman with a new one... worked!

kinda similar: I had an old wireless keyboard that learned to randomly/sometime rapid fire trigger iTunes to think an Apple device was just connected.
posted by tinker at 6:43 AM on June 8, 2016

This happens with me watching it across the room, no one even hovering over trackpad.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 6:47 AM on June 8, 2016

it happens even when disconnected from the network?
posted by andrewcooke at 6:48 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

The answer to andrewcooke's question is very important in choosing the right thing to do next.
posted by mhoye at 6:57 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I has a Dell desktop that had something wrong with the USB. Even after a full reformat the mouse would do its own thing and drift around the screen. No opening things tho.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:02 AM on June 8, 2016

Andrew, do you mean when disconnected from the Internet? I can't say, will test it offline. Of course there's my personal one-man network, right, like most people, and I don't even know how to disconnect from that...the one that bears my name and to which all my puters are connected.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 7:22 AM on June 8, 2016

Turn on Airplane Mode, unplug any cables (except power, if needed) and see if it still happens. You will have to turn Airplane Mode off again to access the Internet and your network.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:35 AM on June 8, 2016

(Those instructions apply to Windows 8, here is Windows 10)
posted by Rock Steady at 7:37 AM on June 8, 2016

I'm not at the laptop now, but sure, I know how to do that. Can you tell me what to look for, what it might mean, cuz I won't be home at the machine for a while? Thanks.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 7:42 AM on June 8, 2016

If it stops when you are disconnected from the network, it strongly suggests that your computer has been remotely compromised. If it doesn't stop, that doesn't eliminate the chance that it is some sort of virus, but it becomes much more likely it is a hardware issue.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:53 AM on June 8, 2016

EndofInvention -- sorry, it doesn't quite seem to do that all the time, but sometimes enough to where I thought a remote fixer had come back months after I pad them to try some fun and get me to call them again. I deleted every trace of them, even the MalwareBytes Pro they gave me, but the problem persists.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 7:58 AM on June 8, 2016

Some pop-up that came from India back when I downloaded two bad true bad! I paid them $150 for the fix and left the lappy on allll damn night so they could fix things. It was fixed, yes...but with the plan to cause trouble later?? Won't they give up if they see I'm down to only Groove playing (and they know I have other computers, I told them -- and refused heir "comprehensive plan.") Sh**! So: paranoia or scam? I can get this thing fixed at a place I trust face to face... Wanted to see if I could fix it first myself cuz I've had to learn so much the past 6 months.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 8:02 AM on June 8, 2016

are you serious? get it off the net, back up your important files, and then reinstall the os.
posted by andrewcooke at 8:05 AM on June 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

How? It doesn't have a CD drive and I haven't got a Windows 10 disk. How to get it on a USB...or can I just reinstall anyway from Microsoft? Or can my personal fix-it place do that kind of thing?
posted by noelpratt2nd at 8:11 AM on June 8, 2016

"fix-it place" -- the one I trust.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 8:12 AM on June 8, 2016

I also changed my passwords back then after their "fix." After a while I was counting on this "time bomb" ploy to be fruitless for them when they saw I wasn't gonna go back to them for help.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 8:17 AM on June 8, 2016

Help may be at hand... Metafilter member deezil.

Suggest you check out his Metafilter profile.

And then his website.
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:22 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

How? It doesn't have a CD drive and I haven't got a Windows 10 disk. How to get it on a USB...or can I just reinstall anyway from Microsoft? Or can my personal fix-it place do that kind of thing?

If that's the way you end up going, this should let you put a Windows 10 installation image onto a thumb drive.
posted by WCityMike at 8:35 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another solution... walk away from Windows operating system and download and install for free... (Linux) Ubuntu.

It's bullet-proof operating system and comes with, among other things, the free Libre Office (equivalent of Microsoft's Office), for all your copy editing needs.

posted by Mister Bijou at 8:36 AM on June 8, 2016

WCityMike -- I notice that site for installing the image on a thumb is for Windows 7 & 8. Are you meaning it also applies to Windows 10? Thx.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 9:00 AM on June 8, 2016

Help may be at hand... Metafilter member deezil.

Oh dear lord, he's gone and put his terrible advice on its own website.

There is only one way to 100% guarantee you are virus free. Backup documents, backup drivers (use only as last resort) and then do a full format and reinstall.

I really wish he'd take that guide down. In the time it takes to follow that guide, you could be back up and running with a fresh install.

With his guide you could still have the virus - making all that effort pointless and only solveable with, you guessed it, a full format and reinstall.
posted by mr_silver at 9:19 AM on June 8, 2016

You have allowed strangers to take control over your computer. It has been utterly compromised. Changing your password will make no difference. You should disconnect it from the internet via whatever means you can (e.g., just turn off your cable modem or unplug your router or whatever) before doing anything else. Then you need to format your drive and reinstall the operating system. If you don't know how to do that, you'll need to find somebody to do it for you.
posted by waldo at 9:20 AM on June 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

I believe I'll do just that. Just need to get that OneDrive music on another computer. So far my other 3 animals haven't been affected via this one. Thanks all.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 9:58 AM on June 8, 2016

I have it in airplane mode now -- and DID have a program disappear (so maybe the hardware issue). But I never even move this computer! Or like someone said, can't rule out infection.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 12:58 PM on June 8, 2016

I'm voting for a grounding issue. My very-cheapy 'universal' power supply renders the trackpad unusable (crazy pointer behaviour, random clicks), and wreaked havoc on many SD cards and readers before I worked it out. Until then the symptoms looked just like malware. Is the power supply 2 or 3 prong? Does it happen when running on battery? Are there any annoying audio hums when plugged in?
posted by quinndexter at 1:49 AM on June 9, 2016

No hums.
Have to test again for off-battery...
Wow -- it looked like malware? Hmm. Yes, the adapter pwr supply is 3-prong.

Last night conflicting data: in airplane mode or wifi -- either way, no more such a cray-crazy cursor (maybe just one burst all evening of it "slipping" away from me, enuff to confuse me). And, after successful scans w/ SAS (same old couple of pups) and Windows Defender, I got only two instances of a program acting bad; it was Groove (MS's newest music player...the new Xbox), but one time was in airplane and the other was in wifi network!! So I don't know what to think. But for the longest time, after reconnecting to network, the beast acted right and played in Groove and Windows Media Player and caused no jumping around or opening/closing.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 5:50 AM on June 9, 2016

I don't think you understand how serious this situation is. You allowed people, nefarious people who immediately scammed you out of $150, remote access to your computer. God knows what they've installed on your machine and what information they've taken already. They could have your bank account and credit card information, your SSN, your e-mail and social media login information... everything. Follow the advice you've gotten here from numerous people to reformat and reinstall. Get a friend or business to do it if you're uncertain. Change your passwords (on a SAFE device) immediately and find the option to log out of those web sites or services remotely and do it. DO NOT use your new passwords on your compromised computer until it has been wiped. I found a document re: what to do in case of identity theft from the FTC.
posted by Stonkle at 12:22 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I am generally pretty nonchalant about computer security, but you almost certainly have a situation where someone has remote control of your computer whenever they want it. The reason it wasn't acting up last night is because they weren't choosing to access it at the time. I guess it is up to you in the end, but you really should reinstall your operating system on this machine, and assume any information that has ever been on it is compromised.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:35 PM on June 9, 2016

I am going to do the refresh first, saving only a OneDrive music folder I scanned last night and was clear.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 3:37 PM on June 9, 2016

You guys know more than I, granted. But what I surmise:

1. "They" have a limited staff..
7. That I might aas
2. They have waited 8 months to eff with me (makes sense for the reticent poormouth I presented to them).
3. They haven't touched my bank account at all (after a reset password) since that fix they did.
4. That fix they did -- I wouldn't not have known WHAT the hell to do, therefore they rescued my ass. Worth the $150, to someone like me.
5. Yet you confirm my darkest fears, i.e., that a They have have access to my puter since that Oct. 2015 date. Frightening.
6. There are better fish in the sea for them going forward. But I am in the midst oof refreshing...and if that ain't woik, reinstalling!
7. Other surmizables a-comin, if'n be dey comes...
8. Y'alls fulla good advice n' shit, which is why I'ms a part of youz...but m'possible t' splain evry-god** daim thing. Bless everyone. I'm at 65% on the refresh; if dat don't work, den come duh reINSTALL.

Much thanx!
posted by noelpratt2nd at 4:59 PM on June 9, 2016

Where's the typo-fix?! Forget that second item, so-called 7.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 5:10 PM on June 9, 2016

That didn't work -- reinstalling NOW!
posted by noelpratt2nd at 3:18 PM on June 10, 2016

Some relocating cursor / opening & closing screens crap persists, intermittently, so now trying for a full restoration of factory settings. Thinking now there's at least some issue w/ the hardware, though as I say, intermittent. Have had it before...I think even prior to my gaffe of getting compromised. A Dell thing? A Windows 8 then 10 thing...?
posted by noelpratt2nd at 9:57 AM on June 11, 2016

P.S. This behavior happens on none of my other three laptops, all of which have touch/trackpads, not mouses. Three use Windows 10, one Windows 7. Three are Dells, one Lenovo.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 10:09 AM on June 11, 2016

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