My Turn

Blast From the Past

Jody Dugan - 2001.11.12

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

As a Macintosh collector, I have acquired numerous machines ranging from the Apple Lisa to PowerPC machines. In all my years of collecting and resurrecting Macs, I have run into obvious problems such as bad power supplies, cold solder joints, bad floppy, and hard drives. I have never been infected by a virus and have always felt that it would not happen to me. I have always recommended that my clients back up and run virus protection programs on a regular basis - if I had only practiced what I preached!

It all started when I picked up a Power Mac 8500 last weekend to replace the aging 8100 that I used for analog video editing. I got a great buy on the 8500 with 17" monitor and a flatbed scanner, and I was thrilled to install a G3 card and ATI 3D graphic board. After an hour of cleaning and installing the cards, it was time to transfer software to the new computer, which went over without a hitch until the 4th or 5th reboot - then the machine would freeze at shut down. I figured the Finder was shot, so I reinstalled the Finder from my OS 8.5 CD and went back to work. On the next reboot the machine would crash with a Bus Error on startup after loading the startup screen. Well, the simple solution would be to remove the startup screen and go back to work, but it was not so easy.

The Bus Errors and Finder Errors continued to pop up moments after reinstalling the OS, which I tried several times, so I came to the conclusion that there was a problem with the hard drive and maybe bad blocks were located where the System Folder was located. I copied all my applications and documents to my iMac, which I use for file transfer storage, and formatted the 8500's drive. Twice I did this with the problems creeping up after a few reboots. As I scratched my head in confusion I pulled the Bible (Mac Secrets) from the bookshelf and looked up Bus Errors for some help. After some reading, it looked like it was a memory issue, so I went on to removing pairs of memory and rebooted over and over with no luck. I went as far as removing the cache and pulling the G3 card and PCI cards, but it was looking like I got myself a lemon. After four days of tinkering I decided to shelf the unit and pull a spare 8500 I had to put in its place - this 8500 had proven itself a good machine since day one.

As you might guess, the good 8500 puked on me after installing the files from the iMac. At that point I was about to believe the problems were related to bad Feng Shui, but I figured there was one last thing to try, and that was run the only virus program I had (it was dated 1995, but it was all I had). The program managed to locate the MDBF B Virus on the system and on every application and document I ran after booting the machine. I breathed a sigh of relief as the software sought out and killed that virus and the machine was back up to par, proving I didn't get myself a lemon after all. But all was not peaches and cream.

Yep, the iMac was sick as well, and the virus was particularly nasty on the iMac. The iMac suffered corruption of the boot block, making the drive useless as a boot volume. so I had to go through this all over again. After transferring more than 50 gigs over my network to my wife's iMac and formatting the sick iMac's hard drive twice, a week later the virus had been banished for good - and I only lost one file that was unrecoverable. I consider myself lucky to have survived such a nasty infection with virtually no loss, but I could have saved myself so much grief by using a background virus program (which I now have on all machines).

If you start getting strange responses from your Mac, don't rule out a virus. The MDBF B Virus was written in 1993 and managed to find its way onto my network after all these years.

Do you know where your computer has been?

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