It's either active malware I can't find, or there's some kind of Microsoft copyright protection scheme in play that I've never heard of. It's a complicated situation, and I'll try to keep it brief.
Originally I had a Windows 7 (32-bit) Dell computer that died, so I managed to migrate the HD from the Dell to this HP, reinstall the chipset drivers and it's been working fine for years. I'm mentioning this in case there is some kind of Microsoft record that shows this O/S as having originally been registered to one machine, now operating on another.
Only substantive anomaly is that the MS Office installation (Oulook, in particular) that used to work just fine suddenly (about a year after the migration) started complaining that it was not activated or legit, and despite having been successfully reactivated several times it still complains, but also lets me use it. I've learned to ignore the complaints for well over a year.
About 6 months ago, I mentioned on an online forum that I wanted to learn how to program Visual Basic, and someone offered to mentor me, and guided me into installing a bunch of stuff and mid-way through the installation process, I realized that I had no idea who this person was, or what he was having me install, and so I quit in mid-process and never talked to them again. So I have no idea what the 1st instance of my attempt at installing some kind of Visual Basic software might have actually done. Malware, cracked software, I have no idea. The system has never really felt "right", but I've never been able to find any substantive evidence of infection, either.
Fast forward to about a week ago, my desire to learn to program Visual Basic reawakens, I download Visual Studio from a legit, online source and it fails to launch after install. It launches the splash screen, then closes, then nothing. A check of the SQLServer Service shows that the path to the executable was never written to the registry, and the error message when you try to launch the service is "path not found".
Since then, I've completely uninstalled every single software that could possibly be related to visual server, and reinstalled. Deleted \temp folders, gone through the registry and manually searched for and deleted registry entries that were leftover, used "Revo" uninstaller, ran multiple "Repair" installations of Visual Studio. Uninstalled Visual Studio from the online source, downloaded a "standalone" Visual Studio for Desktops.ISO, mounted it and ran the installation from there, and it had the EXACT same symptoms.
I get the general impression that there is either a current process that is interfering with Visual Studio's ability to install (perhaps deleting registry entries as soon as they are written), or Microsoft's installer itself is delibarately sabotaging the install, perhaps it red-flags the machine because other MS software was originally registered on different hardware? IDK.
Very frustrating. I've done just about everything I can think of. I've run several diagnostic utilities from bleeping computer such as combofix, FRST, the rootkit one (I forget, from Kaspersky), Hitman Pro, Eset online scanner, Hijack This, autoruns, and several others. A few nit-picky hits for "PUPs", etc... but no substantive malware, no rootkit, etc... Nothing substantive at all to explain the problem. Also, sfc /scannow completes successfully and all system files are correct.
The only other symptom that makes me think this is something larger than just a problem with Visual Studio is this weird symptom with Windows Update, and that is why I am here, because it feels "dodgy" in the sense that, like how MUBlinder tries to fool Windows Update, maybe something like that is in play here.
What happens with Windows Update is that if I go there, and allow the updates to run themselves, they will automatically download, install normally and all seems well. However, if I manually select the updates so that I can go to the screen to pick & choose which updates I want to install, and which ones I don't THEN what happens is that Windows Explorer shuts down, and relaunches and on relaunch Windows Update is back to the 1st screen, inviting me to allow the updates to install automatically. If I try the manual option again, the cycle repeats: Explorer closes, Explorer relaunches, Windows Update relaunches and a automatic update is offered once again.
I've seen malware completely PREVENT Windows Update from running, but I've never see it try to force and automatic update, and prevent any manual control.
This feels decidedly "malware-y" to me, with the 2nd theory being "intelligent design" by those bastards at Microsoft. However, theory #2 gives them credit for being "intelligent", which then forces focus back to the 1st theory, which is that I've got some kind of super-sophisticated, undetectable malware that really cares about taking control of Windows Update and really, REALLY doesn't want me to install Visual Studio, and otherwise allows me to operate my computer just fine.
Surveillance malware? IDK. No pop-ups, no slow-downs, no spikes in CPU activity, no redirects, no symptoms that could be interpreted as "commericial" (i.e. advertisements, etc...), so what gives?
Hoping someone sees the symptoms for Windows Update and a light-bulb goes off. Any help appreciated and thanks in advance.