May 08, 2009

Pulling Rabbits Out Of Hats

It's getting to the point in class where most of us are in multiple interviews each week now and we're getting job offers and in some cases counter offers and soon most of us will be employed in our first IT jobs. I would like to feature stories about troubleshooting victories or as I like to call it, pulling the rabbit out of the hat (please refrain from any stories involving pulling hats out of rabbits) where you can send in your story about a difficult problem, what you did to troubleshoot, what failed, what was successful, how did you come up with your final solution, ect.

I'll start with a semi-common desktop problem that is mal-ware related. I had a customer who could no longer see her desktop icons, start button, taskbar, or anything other than her wallpaper picture. I immediately assumed it to be a virus problem even though she said that she had anti-virus and it was up to date. (remember assume makes and ass out of u and me)

  • So the first thing I did was CTRL+ALT+DEL to bring up the task manager and run a new program. From the run line I entered the http for the avast antivirus program and downloaded it and had it do a full computer scan which took about 45 minutes and I came up with nothing noteworthy ruling out a virus.

  • The second thing I did was CTRL+ALT+DEL to run the http for the SuperAntispyware download to look for other malware, rootkit, ect. and after it did it's full system scan that took about 1 hour I came up with a handful of cookies, but nothing noteworthy again. Now I'm frustrated because I have 1:45 invested with no results.

  • So I do what every good IT professional should do. thats right, you heard it here, google it. Somewhere out there, there is someone smarter than you, thats had the same problem as you, and wants the world to know how smart they really are. I found someone who said that if you run explorer.exe in this situation that it will re-fire explorer and everything will be back to normal, so I tried it and got the error that windows could not find explorer.exe.

  • I went to the command line (cmd) and clearly saw that explorer.exe was right where it was supposed to be so I took an educated guess, went to regedit, found the key for explorer and changed the name to explorer.bak, re-ran explorer.exe and presto-chango-rearrango, windows did it's thing when there is no registry for explorer and it made a new one and everything came back.

  • I learned that the customer already had AVG which found the virus and removed it, but not before the damage was done to the registry.

So to summerize boys and girls

  1. never assume

  2. have your tools ready

  3. bring your laptop to do research

  4. learn how to effectively use google including boolean string searches

  5. never let them see you sweat

  6. don't forget to pat yourself on the back when you finally have that rabbit out of the hat

Feel free to send you stories in on the comment line (use more than one comment if you need and I'll string them together in upcoming articles)

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