Help, can't install Ubuntu or Debian on my laptop!
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My best guess would be that your computer can't find an installed operating system, that's why it's not booting up. Without access to the machine it's hard to tell if there's nothing installed or something installed just broken. The "mini-linux" is to run a browser and mail client without the need to boot the full-blown operating system. I don't like those functions which are appearing on more and more modern laptops, but they may have their use.
The secret partiton will most likely be the rescue partiton. Have a read in the manual of the laptop, start the HP rescus tools and reset the whole lot to factory defaults. It the laptop came originally with some Windows installed you should gain it back using the rescue system.
Distribution: Debian Sid AMD64, Raspbian Wheezy, various VMs
Perhaps if you asked for help or gave evidence of why you think your machine was hacked rather than just posting command results someone could help.
Personally, I would suggest you find out what the partitions on your hard drive are (I think there's a clue in a post above), recover any files you want, then do a clean install of whichever operating system you want.
I would do the above regardless of whether your machine has been hacked (you've not given evidence it has, that I can see) or not, since it's probably easier to just to have a clean start.
Distribution: Debian Sid AMD64, Raspbian Wheezy, various VMs
Is there any information on the laptop that you don't have a copy of somewhere else?
Do you have a Windows recovery or install CD?
Which operating system do you want (if you have a Windows recovery option)?
This sounds more like your Ubuntu install is broken, for some reason, and you're flailing around trying to thwart a hacker rather than just repairing it -- does Ubuntu have a "repair install" option? (sorry not explored Ubuntu installer in a while)
Basically, ignore your other partitions as they're likely to be Windows a restore partition and that mini-os one referred to above. Concentrate on repairing Ubuntu or reinstalling it. I'd be tempted to reinstall if you have the patience as you'll need to learn how to use this yourself and it's good to start afresh.
That sounds more like a hardware error than a hacked system.
Please start from a Live-CD (your Ubuntu CD will do the job), launch the following commands and post the output here (please use code-tags for that):
Distribution: K/Ubuntu 10.04/12.04, Scientific Linux 6.3, Android-x86, Maemo
Originally Posted by rkliever
Also when I run Ubuntu (try it - not install it) and examine the file system and hard drive, it says there are two partitions that are "off set" but also it won't allow me to delete.
There are partition types that a standard Ubuntu live CD/USB can't read, out of the box. One example is exFat, which is used by some OEMs to put the "recovery" partition on their disks, maybe even the limited fast-boot system someone else referenced. ExFat's a proprietary MS partition type (sometimes called Fat64). A normal Linux distribution may not be looking for these partitions, while Gparted can (mostly) detect them (at least).
FUSE is somewhat telling, and may indicate a virtual machine partition on the drive, or an attempt to work around an exFat partition.
If the exFat partition is offset, as you say, that may cause problems installing other OSes on the drive. The offset might be just the fact that it exists at all, and isn't detected. The distribution you are trying to use may be unable to resolve the drive geometry correctly, and bombs out. HP is notorious for this sort of thing. I typically buy a new PC, and wipe the drive entirely, installing fresh, and setting up a separate Linux /home partition to save data on subsequent installs (requires a little bit of care on installation & reinstall or upgrading to a new version).
By The Way; Check your BIOS to make sure nothing like UEFI secure boot, or boot sector protection is preventing installs.
I would use Gparted to help detect and potentially recover saved information from readable drives on the machine to a spare USB memory stick,... And then consider your options:
1) Get the OEM to re-image the drive back to factory spec (potentially not covered by warranty).
2) Wipe HD and re-install Ubuntu.
3) Find a distro that recognizes the presence of exFat partitions, and install it new around that.
4) Delete the exFat Partition and move/resize the rest with Gparted.
Obviously, you need to evaluate what you have on the machine versus what you want to do with it. If choosing to install fresh,... I would recommend Kubuntu 12.04 LTS, if you don't like Unity. The latest KDE desktop is better than previous versions (tamed nepomuk, stringi & akonadi server, which can easily be deactivated in the system config utility). It's UI is also very close to what MS Win7 looks and acts like (MS stole,... sorry,... modeled their Win7 ideas after KDE, not the other way around).