This post may end up being one giant whine-fest - so don't say I didn't warn you!
Thursday morning, I booted up our laptop just like I always do. Everything seemed okay until it got to the home screen. Instead of our background, it was a plain black screen. The only icon showing was for Recycle Bin. And a screen popped up, claiming to be "WindowsRepair", and saying it was doing a scan of our computer and finding major errors. There was a button to click to "fix the errors", so I did...and after attempting to fix the errors, a message popped up saying that in order to fix some of them, we'd have to purchase the advanced WindowsRepair program.
Curious, but by this time extremely wary, I clicked on the button, which took me to a very plain-looking order form. This was sending up all kinds of red flags for me. I picked up my phone and googled "WindowsRepair" and didn't find anything on it. Meanwhile, I tried to look around at the computer, but when I clicked on my documents, it said there was nothing there...empty...same for my photos.
By this time, my stomach is sinking. I'm wondering what in the world could be wrong with our computer, and wanting to stop everything and take it to someone to fix! I managed to calm down, and once I thought rationally, I figured it must be some sort of virus, masquerading as our computer's home screen. This gave me hope that our files were still in there...somewhere.
We decided to hold off on paying lots of money to take it to someone. When I got to work, I sought out one of our IT guys and described the problem to him. He said it sounded like malware, and that if I brought it in Friday morning, he'd be happy to see what he could do to fix it. He was hopeful that it wouldn't be too difficult of a fix.
Fortunately, he was right on the diagnosis - it was malware. He ran a program to remove the malware. Unfortunately, after it was removed, the files were still missing. He was able to do a restore from a restore point on 3/17 - thankfully, recent enough that we didn't lose any files. (All the pictures and videos of my son's first year, for starters - only partially backed up).
Lesson learned, I took the repaired computer home, and before the end of the day on Friday, I had in my hands a 1TB (yep, that's terabyte) external hard drive (for only $50!) to back up our files.
Unfortunately, it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing since then. All our files are there, but they're acting a little funny. Our internet favorites were "missing" even though they were still in the favorites file. I tried to get Explorer to recognize them, but it won't work - so I'm going through them one-by-one, visiting the page, and re-bookmarking them.
Then I get to FlipShare. I've already had to uninstall and reinstall it once because it was acting up. I did, and didn't seem to have any problems with it afterwards, so I figured when it was again acting up, I could do the same thing. Wrong! This time, after the reinstall, it couldn't seem to "find" the video files. And the ones it could find, it was finding incorrectly. So I'd click on a video from August, and it would start playing something recent. Very odd. I messed with that for about an hour (using valuable toddler nap time!) this afternoon. The upshot is, I still can't get it to recognize most of the videos - but at least the ones it does recognize are correct now. I figure it's not the end of the world - all my videos don't have to be in FlipShare. At least I know they're still there (I can view them in QuickTime just fine).
Moral of the story? Make sure your anti-virus software is always up-to-date. Ours should've been, but we had an issue recently with Norton charging our CC for an auto-renewal and then the software not recognizing our renewal code. It was one of those things we kept meaning to figure out, but we put it off...when we definitely should have.
We also should have been better about having a good back-up system. I wouldn't have freaked out nearly as much if I'd known our pictures and videos were safe (they are now).