Yet another machine comes into the office all messed up with viruses and spyware. Well, so what else is new?
The bugs die pretty easily, but while debugging the poor compy I notice that the graphics are really doggy, which might be part of the reason why the customer thinks the machine is slow. A quick look in the Device Manager reveals there is no display driver, but at the same time there is no “VGA adapter” listing in the unknown devices section either. Now that’s a bit odd.
Hardware detection reveals nothing. Adding a different VGA card doesn’t work. I don’t find it hiding in the ENUM part of the registry. It’s like this machine is convinced that it doesn’t have a graphics card. Stupid Windows.
In the Display applet selecting Settings->Advanced->Adapter reveals that we are using something called “vgasave” for a graphics driver. In the Device Manager you can also find it by selecting View then checking “Show Hidden Devices”. When you look down the list of Non-Plug and Play Drivers, you’ll see it. It’s the default VGA driver Windows puts in when it has no proper driver for the graphics adapter. For a reason I’ll probably never know, this system has convinced itself that the slow and featureless vgasave driver is the correct one.
Naturally, this is about where my moment of enlightenment ends. I try a dozen different things to try to get Windows to detect the “real” graphics card, but it reverts to vgasave every time. So in my incredible wisdom, I decide to disable it. “Yeah, that will force it to detect the proper adapter”, I think to myself.
This turns out to be something of a dumb move. When I reboot the system all I get is a blank screen. No detection, no vgasave, no VGA at all. The hard drive chatters away and I can hear sounds from the soundcard. When I push the button on the front it makes that happy little noise and shuts itself off. Well, disabling the video driver is what I told it to do. Stupid me.
There is a way to for people in my situation to turn vgasave back on. Using a Windows installation CD you can boot to the recovery console and unless the owner has changed the administrator password on you, you can log into Windows and give it the following command:
enable vgasave SERVICE_SYSTEM_START
When executed, it will tell you that the driver is now enabled. So I do this and reboot. But still no dice. Still no picture. I try it a couple more times before I give up on it. Stupid Windows.
Okay. I’ll do a repair install. This often fixes messed up settings like this and it doesn’t erase any data. I should’ve just done it from the start and saved myself a bunch of time.
So I start the repair install. The first half of the install proceeds along normally but after the first reboot Windows shows me who the bitch really is. The second half of the install begins alright, but with no picture. OMFG, it has no graphics! It’s going to do the second half of this install with no fucking graphics because I told it to! The hard drive merrily chatters away, installing an invisible operating system for me. It eventually stops, probably waiting for me to hit a Next button, or type a product code into little boxes I can’t see. I turn the computer off. What a stupid, messed up, fucking useless bunch of code Windows is! God, do I hate it some days!
I call the customer up and tell him what’s been going on and tell him the only way is going to be a full re-install. I ask him what kind of data files he wants saved. He tells me that he’s cool with a re-install and they have no data to be saved. Sweet. At least now I can do an quick flush-install and put this whole vgasave debacle behind me. He offers to bring by his Windows disc, but I tell him that it’s not needed, as we have the discs and your licence sticker is stuck to the port side of your case.
Partway through the flush-install I gently turn the machine around to have a better look at the product code on the license sticker. Like all Microsoft software, you must enter this unique 25 digit number to complete an install. Without it, no Windows.
When I do get the system turned around I immediately recognise another problem, one even more annoying than vgasave. I close my eyes, sigh and try to fight off the rage.
The sticker is ripped in half. I only have 10 of the 25 digits.
FOR FUCKSAKES!!! Okay, I give up. Time to go to the pub.