My Computer Got the Clap!

Somehow I managed to pick up a computer virus or trojan or some other nasty this past weekend (some time Sunday evening, to be exact). After I’d downloaded and installed all the security patches for Outlook 98, IE5/IE6 (I keep both on my machine for testing web pages), and Windows 98SE, and with my trusty Zone Alarm Pro and AVG virus scanner in place, I surfed, secure in the knowledge (so I thought) that I was immune from such things. I’ve read up a bit about the dangers of “always on” Internet connections such as the cable modem. And the fact that the IP addresses are static (even if you unplug the modem from the computer) making it easier for hackers to always find your computer. And attractive because of its broadband capabilities. Nonetheless, I figured I was safe because I knew (usually) what I was doing.

But after installing a WinAmp update (I do not believe THAT is what gave me the virus/trojan; I think that was just a coincidence), I rebooted my computer. Which then couldn’t find himem.sys. Well, I’m prepared for these little computer emergencies. I have boot disks out the wazoo. I have an AVG boot disk, an Ontrack 2000 boot disk, a Partition Magic boot disk, a Win98 boot disk, and a generic boot disk. Each of them had himem.sys on it, and each time I dutifully copied the file over to my hard drive and rebooted, the computer still stubbornly insisted that it was not there. I even made a boot floppy from my Armada laptop, which I KNOW does not have any kind of virus on it, and still the same old song and dance. No “Hi Mom, Sis!”

After surfing the net for answers — the wonders of having a back up computer (laptop) and a dialup connection — all fingers pointed to bad memory chips as being the reason for this sudden amnesia…. I didn’t relish having to take my computer’s case off yet again. There are three memory sticks in there, a 64MB (what it came with), another 64MB (first upgrade), and a 128MB (second upgrade). That is what was recommended, though, to isolate the bad chip. Desperate to avoid this, I tried to reinstall Windows on top of itself to freshen the files, but each time I did so, I got the same result: no himem.sys, and then it started also telling me it couldn’t find VFAT and “system halted.”

I have to confess, although I have the capability to do so, I hadn’t backed up my computer in quite some time (July 28 was the last backup). So I wasn’t happy about the prospect of possibly losing all this data. So off came the cover on the computer. All the memory was taken out; no himem.sys. 64MB chip replaced; no himem.sys. Second 64MB chip replaced; no himem.sys. And finally, the 128MB stick replaced; still no himem.sys. I refuse to believe that every chip, about a year apart in age, was bad.

I didn’t like it, but I figured there was no other choice. I went ahead and reformatted the drive and reinstalled Windows. Problem solved, mysteriously. I only wish I knew exactly what happened. I do know this: I’m in the process of reinstalling my apps, and I am NOT getting the upgrade of WinAmp. Not right now.

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