About a week ago, I rebooted my machine (custom built by Origin PC), and when Windows came back up, I immediately knew something was wrong. My desktop settings seemed to have reverted to default. I immediately tried to open Chrome and found that I had no working internet connection. My first thought was to reboot the modem and router, but that didn't work. In fact, my laptop and other wifi devices all still had internet access.
My next step was to look at the network settings. There was NOTHING there. There were no settings, there were no drivers; the only thing that was there was the basic "would you like to set up a new connection". Although this happened a bit later on, I did try to set up a new connection and the only option it presented me with was a dial-up connection. I checked the ethernet cord and all was fine there. I finally realized that every driver had been wiped clean for network use. The computer came to me using Nvidia's nForce drivers and those were gone, nowhere to be found. And this was only the beginning.
I then proceeded to look through my Nvidia files and see if I could find it there. Well, the only Nvidia files that were left were the PhysX and 3D Media Player. My computer was running the generic driver for the Geforce 580. Having no internet on this desktop, I downloaded the latest drivers (and the previous one I was using) and tried to install both of them. Each time I tried to install them, I got a statement saying "Nvidia Installer Failed". Here is a link to another forum where the person has provided a screenshot of what it looks like (though the details are not the same): http://www.evga.com/forums/tm.aspx?m=1338467&mpage=1
There were a number of possible solutions to that particular problem, though none of them worked for me. So I began to think this was more a systemic issue than just Nvidia alone. My suspicions were proved correct when I tried to open a game (Skyrim) and was greeted with a message saying, "No sound device detected. Skyrim cannot run." So my next step was to look at my audio settings. I went down to the audio icon in bottom far-right area of the task bar, where there are bunch of mini-icons next to the time and date. Before I clicked on the audio icon, I noticed that pretty much every other icon besides the factory default had been wiped as well. When I did click on the audio icon, I was informed that there were no audio devices installed, despite the fact that my Razer headset was plugged in.
Finally, I ran the version of MalwareBytes that I had available (no internet, no update to the list), and it found one trojan called "disable.????" I can't quite remember the other part. But the name alone led me to believe I had found the culprit. So, I quarantined it, rebooted, and nothing had changed. I ran a full scan again with MalwareBytes and it didn't pick up anything this time.
I'm at a complete loss now. This is devastating and my desktop is basically useless to me right now. If anyone has encountered this problem before, has some helpful advice, or can provide a solution, I would be very, VERY grateful.
In addition to Malwarebytes, I would also download (on another machine) and create a disk for Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 (it's free) and boot the problem machine from it to check for additional undetected stuff.
Then I would do a repair installation of Windows using the installer disk, which will save all your loaded programs and data but require you to reinstall all Windows updates from the OS version you install (original or SP1). Just to be safe always back up all important data first.
Thanks for the advice! I'll give the Kaspersky Rescue Disk a shot. Unfortunately, when I last moved, I seem to have misplaced the original Windows disk that came with the computer. I would bet it's buried deep in a box in a storage unit. Would I be able to just borrow someone else's copy, but use my own authentication number, to do a repair installation?
Bad luck caused it -- whether an inadvertent trojan download, component malfunction, or whatever. It does, however, give you a good reminder to back up all your important data to something more substantial than just an external HDD.