New Computer (used)

I was out shopping this last weekend at the computer megastore. (Goodwill :D ) And ran across an old computer. Unlike most of their machines this one was actually somewhat decent. For starters it was a Dell it also still had the Windows XP Home sticker on it with the licensed serial number still in tack. This interested me enough to crack it open and take a peek inside to see what else it had. I’ll spare you the details but found it was decent and quite clean and free of dust. So I picked it up, checked out and brought it home.

I ran it inside opened the case and proceeded to clean the fan and heatsink and remove the dust bunnies. I opened up another machine and started swapping video cards and stuffing extra ram into the computer. I grabbed an extra monitor vga cable, keyboard and mouse. (All the while making a large mess in the living room floor.) Put it back together hooked it up pushed power and waited on the magic to begin… Blank screen. check… Power light. check… LED’s. check… fan’s. check… still no display :/no beep codes. So I proceeded to trouble shoot it instead of just return it. A little while later after swapping parts and fiddling around I remembered something important. I had left the MILK OUT on the counter! ACK!  and then it got interesting…

After swapping a few parts around I discovered that my issue was a stick of ram that had gone bad. After putting working parts back in I turned the machine on once again. Only this time it fired up and I got that famous Windows logo. Great! Now it’s time to dig in. As I saw icons starting to load I wondered where to start peeking around first. I was promptly interrupted by several errors and programs spamming the desktop with flashes of colors much like the fourth of July. Initially the system tray (all those little icons next to your clock) screamed out at me. I was wondering when it would stop loading garbage down there. After exiting a few programs from there (I needed to free up resources to navigate around the machine) I then turned my attention back to all the pretty colors and errors on the screen. Ah, how lovely the spyware and virii were. I closed out the errors and the programs that were launching themselves and one of the last ones I canned decided it didn’t like me closing it and proceeded to reboot the machine. Great… some stupid program decides if it can’t load properly that it will just continue to reboot the machine in an infinite loop.

So after it rebooted I put programs on hold and switched over to cleanup mode. My browsing would have to wait. But I started getting excited about the spyware and virii that riddled the machine. It was like I had walked into a warzone. (I felt like someone told me we were going to the beach and handed me a watergun and a towel. But instead of being dropped by the ocean they threw me outta a plane into the jungle.) I immediately switched gears to uninstalling and removing simple programs that were sucking up my resources so I could use more processing power to take care of the bigger monsters later. After I stabilized the machine I decided to grab what I could incase something else decided to rear its ugly head and catch me off guard. This is where the real fun begins.

I looked at a couple of programs seeing what was installed. The only noteworthy thing was Microsoft Office 2003. Meh, Office is alright but what’s more interesting is the content she may have made in Office. I grabbed the serial for Office and looked at the serial for Windows XP. Oddly enough the Windows XP key was different from the sticker on the computer case (On retail machines like Dell and others the key is a sticker stuck on the side of the machine so incase you have to reinstall it you don’t lose it.) Being different means one of two things. Either the person bought another copy of Windows and used it on this machine (which would be strange since they were identical versions) or second, being the most likely… pirated! Ah ha! If she (The name of the account is a womans) pirated a copy of Windows and riddled her machine with spyware likely she doesn’t know what she is doing. I just love newbie’s.

I found some peer-to-peer software (P2P). While I was busy digging around looking for stuff buried my wife asked what was in the recycle bin? *smacked forehead* I was so busy browsing through her download history, cookies and internet files I forgot to check the trash. And lo and behold it hadn’t been taken out! I thought even the most basic computer users emptied this especially if they were giving it away. Opening it up was like busting open a pinata! I was overwhelmed with the content I found. I quickly made a new folder and dumped the contents out into it for review.

First I discovered her music taste. I found music video’s, mp3′s (likely from her P2P client) which included a lot of Britney Spears… blah! Nothing of interest there. I sorted out the music and movie files and went to see what other file types were floating around. Bingo! A Microsoft Money file! Ack why on earth would you keep this on the machine. I now have access to her bank account records and spending habits. It’s a good thing I’m an honest person. She also left her MSN Messenger to store her password. I quickly ran a few programs and walla. Now I have her Hotmail and messenger username/password. Do people realize that if your computer remembers these things that someone who has access to your computer can get them as well??

Remember how I noticed MS Office was installed earlier? I found some Word documents whose titles ranged from some guys name,  bathroom pass and even final exam! Bathroom pass? What on earth is this is she a teacher? Yes, it appears so but this pass was not for a school but a conference. Umm ok why do adults need a bathroom pass? Moving on I came across the final exam document. That sounds like fun. Wonder what her paper was on? So of coursed I opened it up :D