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September 16th, 2023 18:33

Windows 11, issues on Optiplex 5060 and Inspiron 3020

Old Computer:  Dell Optiplex 5060, Windows 11, Office 365


Phase 1:  Everything loads but nothing opens

The trouble began on Tuesday, 15 august 2023. A power outage occurred. When it was over, I rebooted. Everything was normal. I was able to make a phone call on Skype. But the mouse pointer had been reset to the Windows 11 stock variety, a real nuisance because it is too small and much too hard to see on a white or light-colored screen (not easy on a colored screen, either). I have been using Real World cursors, and when I went to reload them, the procedure I had always followed produced strange results. I rebooted. At that point something went wrong. It was not obvious at first. The normal desktop appeared. Skype loaded as usual. The mouse moved the pointer as usual. The clock in the system tray still ran. The internet connection appeared to have been made.  But if I clicked on a link icon, the program or app did not open. Instead, I got a drop-down menu. The first item on the menu was “Open”, but trying to click on it produced nothing, and the same was true of everything else on the menu, 

That evening I went to the local library and accessed Windows Community Assistance. I established a chat with Committee member Adeola. She was going to get information on resetting the computer when the library closed and the chat was cut off.
 

On Wednesday morning, I booted up and got a message from Dell, telling me that something was wrong. It gave me several options, suggesting the one designated F3, a scan of the computer, which would have been my choice in any event. The scan ran, and seemed to find nothing amiss, but left me in the lurch. I got no instructions, no advice, and no link to a report, although I expect a report was generated. The Wednesday morning boot-up did produce a notice from Malwarebytes such as I get every morning with a normal boot-up; Malwarebytes had found nothing amiss.
 

I rebooted several times. Each time Skype also loaded as usual, but I could no more make a connection with a contact than I could open a link or communicate with anyone. Skype is of no use as long as this continues. One time when I rebooted Windows Defender loaded, but as clicking on any of the links was dead I could not get any help from it. Another attempt to log on did elicit a message from Microsoft as follows:

“www.windows.com/stopcode

“Stop code:  memory management.”

I had no idea what to do with this.

The next day I attempted to reach Windows Community Assistance again, with no luck; the library allows us two hours on the computer, and no one answered before my time ran out. So I cannot get help from MS Community until the problem I need their help to address has already been resolved. 


Phase 2:  Nothing opens

I did also learn from the internet that three consecutive unsuccessful attempts to boot up would invoke a reset of the computer by Dell, and that the trigger event could be simulated by three interrupted boots. I tried this on Thursday and get only a message that my computer had failed to open. At this point I could return to where I had been the previous day, to an open and online but useless computer.  I tried the Dell reboot several times, and noticed a link to Dell’s “Advance Options” for solving the problem. These opti0ns included Startup Repair, Startup Settings, Command Prompt, Uninstall Updates, UEFI Firmware, and System Rest0re.  Most of these simply kept me in the same vicious repeating cycle.  System Restore did seem useful, and for a time I thought the problem would be solved.  Dell found one restore point, and since I had not had  Windows 11 for long it was no surprise that there were not more.  But when System restore began to run, Microsoft intervened with a set of questions that I did not want to deal with at that time:  Wouldn’t I like to declare Bing my official search engine?  Wouldn’t I like to declare Edge my default browser?  Etc.  There was also a “Not Now” button, which I was not slow to press.  The result was disaster compounded.  Now the computer will not open at all.  I am simply stuck in the Dell hamster run.  Any of the options proves a dead end and sends me back to “Go”.  One thing that does appear to work:  I can still type on Command Prompt.  Tis may well hit the same dead-end wall as everything else, and even if not what to enter as a command is well above my pay grade.          

 

New Computer:  Dell Inspiron 3020, Windows 11

Phase 1:  Everything loads but nothing opens

Acquired Monday, 4 September 2023, but it took me some time to devise a monitor that would work with it, so it was not until Thursday, 14 September that I attempted to install the operating system.  I was not familiar with the current system that Microsoft uses to do this, which seems to be a cooperative effort between Microsoft and Dell, mostly automated so that the user is presented several times with “yes or no” questions and otherwise has little to do.  I would have preferred a sort of basic setup at this stage, but the system was eager to make the new computer as similar to its predecessor as possible.  So it went on for a while, installing this and that and seldom giving me any initiative.  One installed item, thank God, was McAfee anti-virus program.  The system rolled on until suddenly a message from McAfee informed me that my info was on the dark web and that there had been 61 breaches.  This message was displayed briefly and then disappeared, and I recognized immediately thereafter that the new computer was in Phase 1 of the disaster that afflicted the old one.  The McAfee program had been able to recognize malware as the source of the disaster, apparently a trojan, but was not able to stop it. 

On the old computer I had Malwarebytes anti-virus (which did a scan every morning), a Zone Alarm firewall, Superantispyware and Spybot Search & Destroy (the last two I run approx. weekly;  granted that their main task is eliminating nuisance cookies, they do download new anti-Trojan material ever week) , and the Windows Defender matter compatible with the anti-virus.  It wasn’t enough.

Of course I am now terrified that anything I might do could trigger Phase 2, so I do nothing.  I worry about Dell and Microsoft, because it was shortly after Microsoft butted in to my my efforts to run System Renew in accordance with Dell’s instructions that the Optiplex entered Disaster Phase 2.  But I have to depend on Dell and/or Microsoft to tell me how to recover.  I have no working computer at home and must rely on a library several miles away to talk with Dell or Microsoft.  I cannot, for example, let an online Tech take control of my computer, because I cannot open a browser.  Obviously the first thing to attempt is to recover the Inspiron.

2 Intern

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1.1K Posts

September 17th, 2023 15:24

Hi @Curmudgeon_871135 :


It looks like your topic has been moved from the About the Dell Community board (where I noticed it yesterday) to the Windows 11 board.  I have a Win 10 OS, so hopefully someone with more experience resetting a Windows 11 computer will jump in to this thread and provide assistance.

Sorry for the long post, but it sounds like you have to travel to your local library to access a working computer, so while you're waiting for further assistance I'll throw out a few ideas to get you started.

Have you tried phoning Dell Customer Support from home instead of doing your troubleshooting online from the library?  If you don't know the 1-800 number in your region go to https://www.dell.com/support/incidents-online/en-us/contactus and scroll down to the bottom of that page. My Dell Inspiron 5584 would not boot up about 10 months after I purchased it and nothing I did (including three consecutive restarts) would allow me to enter the Dell SupportAssist OS Recovery environment.  I phoned the Dell help line and the tech support rep helped me to access my Windows Recovery environment from my BIOS (i.e., tap the F12 key until you see the "One Time Boot Menu" and select Windows Recovery as instructed in the support article Booting to the Advanced Startup Options Menu in Windows 11, and Windows 10) and I was eventually able to reset my computer back to factory condition.  Luckily, I had a backup of all my personal data on an external hard drive, but it took a few days to reinstall all my third-party software and get everything updated and properly configured again.

Just based on your initial comments I'm not sure the problems on your two computers are related.  It's possible your Windows system files on your old OptiPlex 5060 was damaged during the power outage because Windows did not shut down properly, or that there was a power surge when the power came back on that damaged a hardware component.  Let's leave that computer aside for now since you recently purchased a new Dell Inspiron desktop that still has an active support plan.

Could you clarify what you mean when you say that your new Dell Inspiron 3020 is in "Phase 1: Everything loads but nothing opens".  Does that mean that you can't log into Windows to see your Windows desktop, or do you mean that you're afraid to log in and use your computer because you believe it's been infected with a trojan?

When you receive a new computer from the factory and turn it on for the first time (or reinstall your Windows operating system) you are prompted with a series of questions called the Out-Of-Box Experience (OOBE) setup that you must answer for the initial setup.  If you finished this OOBE then you would have created a user account that you need to log in to Windows at each system restart. See the Windows Central article What's New With the Out-of-Box Experience (OOBE) on Windows 11.  Do you know if got to the end of the OOBE setup on your new Inspiron 3020 and created a user account?

I'll post back about the dark web monitoring message that McAfee displayed on your new Dell Inspiron 3020 in a separate reply, but I'm guessing it's not as serious as McAfee has led you to believe.
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Dell Inspiron 15 5584 * 64-bit Win 10 Pro v22H2 build 19045.3448 * Firefox v117.0.1 * Microsoft Defender v4.18.23080.2006-1.1.23080.2005 * Malwarebytes Premium v4.6.2.281-1.0.2131 * Macrium Reflect Free v8.0.7279

2 Intern

 • 

1.1K Posts

September 17th, 2023 15:46

Hi @Curmudgeon_871135 :


Further to my previous post, unless you enrolled in some sort of McAfee identity monitoring service and provided them with personal information like your bank account numbers, credit card numbers, social security number, etc. then I suspect the dark web monitoring warning you saw on your new Dell Inspiron 3020 was simply to an inform you that your email address that was stolen in an online data breach (an incident where your email address or other data like a login password was unintentionally exposed to the public) of a server that was storing your login information.  This happens more frequently than most people suspect (if you've ever had a spam email sent to one of your email addresses then it was likely stolen in a data breach and then shared or sold on the dark web) and it doesn't mean that your new computer is infected with malware.


The first thing I would advise you do is to go to the Have I Been Pwned (HIBP) site at https://haveibeenpwned.com/ (you can do this from any computer) and enter your email address(es) to check if your email address has been stolen in a data breach. HIBP is a reputable site that is managed by Troy Hunt, a Microsoft Regional Director and MVP, and several protections are in place to assure your anonymity (see my 13-Feb-2021 post in lisianthus' Personal Data Checkers on the Web in the Norton forum about HIBP and Norton's Dark Web Monitoring service).  For example, when I submit a "spare" email address I use to register for computer forums then the HIBP report shows that this email address has been exposed ("pwned") in multiple data breaches, including an Oct 2013 breach of the Adobe forum and a March 2014 breach of the Malwarebytes forum, which probably explains why I get so much spam sent to that email address now.

Antivirus companies like McAfee and Norton often offer "dark web monitoring" as a free service in order to scare users into purchasing an expensive subscription to an identity theft monitoring service like McAfee Identity Protection or Norton LifeLock that offers extra features like credit monitoring.  As far as I know most free dark web monitoring services that are bundled with an antivirus use the HIPB database when they perform your email address lookup.  Chances are McAfee submitted the email address you used to create your McAfee account to the HIBP database and then sent you a warning that your "personal data" had been found on the dark web, but it doesn't mean your computer has been hacked, and restoring your computer to an earlier date or performing a reset factory condition isn't going to fix this problem if this is the main reason your want to reset your computer.

If you are able to log in to your new Dell Inspiron 3020 and can see your Windows desktop then the next thing I would advise you do is to install Malwarebyes Free for Windows v4.x on your new Dell Inspiron 3020 and run a scan (IMPORTANT: If you use the 14-day trial of the Premium real-time protection features then be sure to DISABLE the setting at Security | Windows Security Center | Always Register Malwarebytes in the Windows Security Center as shown below.  This will ensure McAfee LiveSafe or whatever other antivirus you use is registered with Windows as your main real-time antivirus and has the primary responsibility for malware detection and remediation, while Malwarebytes Premium will essentially run in the background as a "backup" to look for any potential threats missed by your antivirus).



If both McAfee and Malwarebytes do not detect any malware on your system but you are still concerned that you still have malware hidden on your system then you can post in Malwarbytes' Windows Malware Removal Help & Support forum (see the posting guidelines <here>) and one of their trained malware removal specialists will work with you one-on-one to ensure your system is clean.

Note that my Dell Inspiron 5584 shipped with a free 1-year trial version of McAfee LiveSafe, but after 5 or 6 months I removed it from my system using the McAfee Consumer Product Removal (MCPR) tool and now use the built-in Microsoft Defender antivirus for my primary protection.  I also run Malwarebytes Premium v4.x (with Security | Windows Security Center | Always Register Malwarebytes in the Windows Security Center DISABLED) in real-time protection mode to provide a second layer of protection.
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Dell Inspiron 15 5584 * 64-bit Win 10 Pro v22H2 build 19045.3448 * Firefox v117.0.1 * Microsoft Defender v4.18.23080.2006-1.1.23080.2005 * Malwarebytes Premium v4.6.2.281-1.0.2131 * Macrium Reflect Free v8.0.7279

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