When Mark Taylor saw an error message flash up on his computer screen he feared it could be a dreaded worm virus.
His laptop advised him to switch off the machine immediately before vital information was wiped.
Hoping it could be fixed before the problem got worse, he took the machine to an IT engineer to have it urgently fixed.
Dread: When Mark Taylor saw an error message flash up on his computer screen he feared it would be a worm virus
His heart sank when the computer expert confirmed his fears that a worm had indeed infected his computer – but was shocked to discover it was a five inch earthworm.
The worm had somehow crawled into his Gateway laptop through an air vent, wrapped itself around the fan and crashed the machine.
The heat of the £360 computer’s circuit boards frazzled the worm and slightly damaged the internal workings.
Mr Taylor, 45, who uses the 18-month-old computer with his wife Paula, 45, at their home in Yeovil, Somerset, could not work out how the worm had ended up in his laptop.
However, he decided that the culprits must have been one of his two cats after watching them catch an earthworm in his garden and bring it into the house.
He believes that the cat probably dropped the worm near his laptop and it crawled into the air vent seeking sanctuary.
‘The worm was obviously looking for a hiding place and must have crawled in through the air vent to get away from the cats,’ he said.
‘It was a big old worm and I couldn’t believe that it had managed to get into the computer. Unfortunately it burnt itself in the laptop and when it came out it was all burnt.
‘I couldn’t help thinking that people get computer worms all the time, but not real life ones.’
Culprit: An earthworm had been ‘frazzled’ by the computer’s hot circuit boards and damaged its internal workings
Computer technician Sam Robinson, 28, who found the worm said: ‘The machine was displaying a message saying that the processor fan was unworkable.
‘I took the back off and had a look inside. Then I spotted what at first I thought was some sort of hair band or elastic band wrapped around the fan.
‘I soon discovered that it was a worm which had been burnt to a frazzle. It had obviously wrapped around the fan when somebody had turned on the computer and caused the breakdown due to the fan jamming.
‘The vent in the side of the laptop was larger than normal and there was obviously enough room for the worm to get inside.
‘Needless to say I hadn’t come across a problem like this before but was happy to sort it out for Mark.’
Computer generated ‘worms’ are corrupted programs that invade machines and send out versions of itself to other computers via the internet.
They almost always cause harm to a computer’s network as it uses up a lot of the machine’s internet connection to multiply itself.
Worms can be transmitted through unexpected emails and when opened crash a computer.
Anti-spyware and firewall programs can be downloaded to protect from worm infections.
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