I'll have a look at the computer the next time I see that lady. I don't understand everything you're suggesting, but I'll run a spyware test and will have a look a the Windows update. Everything else seems to be working fine with the laptop which is NOT used a lot (the lady is in her 70s!). She mainly checks emails, plays card games offline or works in Word.
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To change the Ethernet port you need you open up everything and tell some technician who can repair mother board. But still i'll not suggest you to do that because after repairing mother board you never know when you might get some other problem too. So i'll suggest you to buy and use USB to Ethernet converter which is Cheap and easy to use also.
Great presentation of your problem. One thing I would check is the screen saver. You say as long as you use the computer it looks normal. Look at your screen saver settings to see if the lined appearing coincide with the screen saver time. With computer parts, failure on a periodic basis (based on time) usually indicated a heat problem. This does not appear to be the problem in your case, as you say you can use the computer for an extended period without a problem. This is why I was suggesting a screen saver problem. You might even try a different screen saver just to test this. Possibly the part of windows that controls the screen saver (and don't ask me where that is, 'cause I haven't a clue) is corrupt.
Actually the procedure is really easy.
You need an installation CD of the Windows version you have installed on your system.
Insert it in your CD ROM, and boot your computer from it.
After a short time (maybe 30 seconds to two minutos) you will be asked to select your language.
Next screen you'll see a big INSTALL NOW message......
But if you look closely, on the bottom half on the left hand, you'll read among other things, something like "Repair your Computer"
Click there, and after a little while, Windows will find the problem and a message will say:
Windows has found the problem and fix it.
Press the button to accept the suggestion, remove the CD, and your computer will restart all the way to your Desktop.
Start your computer, during bios loading press F8 repeatedly. You'll gone see in next screen few option to start your computer. Choose "Last known good configuration" and press enter, from next screen choose a restore point before service pack update was installed and follow the steps from that window, after that you'll gone have your computer restored. This in case you don't have system restore closed. If this is not work write a message and i'll give you another method to repair your computer a litlle bit heavier.
No, it is not hopelessly broken. I would suggest this: When you start it, get into safe mode. Do this by tapping on the F8 key soon after you turn it on. When you see the white menu on a black screen, choose safe mode and let it start. Once it starts, you can do the troubleshooting. In your case, I would suggest doing a system restore back a few days when you know it was working. That should do it.
The Battery will loose its normal functionality with time as also you have not used it for more than 3 months. However, I want to suggest few troubleshooting steps before coming to a conclusion. I suggest you to perform the steps mentioned in the below link:
seems like you have hard disk issue. I would suggest that the next time you computer power up fully you backu up everything that is important to you. you will need to take your computer to service so they will check your hard disk.