Tips to Troubleshoot Your Computer & Keep It CleanI figure it couldn't hurt to tell people what I learned messing around with the computer all day yesterday.
First, when we were getting the blue screen of death our computer would shut down and start back up, but since the fatal error happened each time within a minute or so of start up, it was a vicious cycle. The worst part is that I couldn't read what the error was in the bsod, not that I was sure I could understand that gibberish anyway, but you know. Anyway, I found out that Windows XP is set up to automatically restart when there is an error like that. If you need it to stop so that you can read the error, then you right click 'my computer' (Usually under the start menu but also can be on the desktop), then click 'properties', then click the 'advanced' tab, then the 'settings' button next to start up and recovery, in there clear the box next to 'automatically restart'. Now you can read the bsod. There was a line in mine that said: C:\windows\system32:lzx32.sys So I went online and looked up lzx32.sys and found out it is a rootkit trojan with many names but the one I needed to know was backdoor.rustock.b since there is a program made specially to get rid of it, and damn I could have saved myself alot of time yesterday if I knew that.
If your computer is getting the bsod too fast to do this, then it might help to start your computer in safe mode. In safe mode it starts with the minimum drivers so that all your programs aren't loading, and hopefully whatever is causing the error won't load. When you start your computer click F8 repeatedly before windows starts, there should be a screen that you can use the arrow keys to start in safe mode.
The other thing I learned is that some of these viruses and trojans find good hiding places in your computer to self replicate. You need to clean out your temp files and cache at the very least. Windows makes a program especially for this; go to start>programs>accessories>system tools>disk cleanup. Even if you aren't having problems with your PC it wouldn't hurt to use this once in awhile since your computer will run faster the less crap it has on it.
One last thing, these viruses and trojans will hide in system restore, that's right, your computer saves a copy of them in there. That's why it didn't help for me to use system restore on our computer. So if you find that using it didn't help, then you will have to shut it off so that when your virus scan runs it will get all of it. The bad part, if you shut it off you lose all your restore points, but if they have viruses in there they aren't worth saving anyway. To shut it off right click 'my computer>properties>system restore and mark the box to turn it off.
Some antivirus programs are very good, the same with the programs to find spyware, but none of them are perfect. So the best thing to do is use several, what one misses the next one might get, or the next, or the next. I only have one antivirus program on my computer, but when there are problems I use the free online scans too, I also have three spyware/malware/adware scanners, a firewall, and a program that warns me when new programs are being added to my computer. And, um, er, they are all free. Yes everything I use to protect my computer is free, because I'm cheap, and you'd think the free stuff is crap compared to the programs you pay for...BUT YOU'D BE WRONG! Free is good all around. So if you don't already have an antivirus program on your computer, get one! Here's a few to choose from:
The one with the highest ratings in reviews is AntiVir. It catches alot that the others miss.
Active Virus Shield should also be highly rated since it uses Kaspersky's antivirus engine, and the highest rated for-purchase antivirus is Kaspersky. But it's from AOL so they have to spam you if you use it. You can opt out later on the spam.
Avast! also did well in the ratings.
Bitdefender, I didn't find any reviews or ratings, but I know alot of people use it.
AVG did the worst, and of course it's the one I use. D'OH! It was the highest rated when I put it on my computer a couple years back. It does the trick and I have alot of back up for it anyway.
Now onto anti-Spyware/Malware/Adware programs:
A very good one is the new Windows Defender from Microsoft. The downside is that you must be running WindowsXP or Vista, and it's best for IE. So if you prefer Firefox, Netscape, or Opera it won't clean history and cache as well as it does for IE. A Microsoft product that is Microsoft-centric? What a shocking surprise, NOT! I don't use this one, just heard it is good.
Everyone should have Spybot Search & Destroy. I also like the tools, there is one called secure shredder. What I use that for is when an online antivirus screen finds something but won't fix it for me, I shred the file in Spybot instead.
I also have Adaware and it's always highly rated.
I also have Yahoo! Anti-Spy, and it sucks but since I have Yahoo! DSL I got it free. I don't recommend it.
I've heard good things about A2 (A Squared) but don't use it.
Hijack This! will also scan for viruses/spyware/etc, but it's for advanced users. If you don't know what you are doing you could have it "fix" something you actually need on your computer. What this is really good for is if your problem is so bad that you seek out help from one of the tech pros or tech messageboards online. Almost all of them will tell you to download Hijack This! and post your log to the site, then they will tell you what to do from there. (I have it on this PC because my kids had it so badly infested one time I did need help from the techies!)
On the laptop I downloaded the anti-spyware that was offered free from AVG. It worked great and found stuff that I missed with other programs.
Now for my firewall and that program that tells me when new programs are installing:
I use Zone Alarm. It's as good as any you pay for, although I have heard that the one installed with Windows is good now too. We'll see since that is the one on the laptop.
And you gotta have WinPatrol. It shows all the active tasks, the ones at start up, IE helpers, and alerts you when something new is trying to install. It has a little scotty dog in the system tray, and when something is trying to install it puts up an alert and barks. You can delete and disable programs through WinPatrol too. I love this program.
Ok, last thing, how about some online free antivirus scans, in no particular order:
Symantec Security Check
Freedom Online Virus Check
Kaspersky Online Scanner
BitDefender Online Scanner
Trend Micro HouseCall
That's it for my FREE security tips and programs. If you know some that will help us all avoid viruses/spyware/etc or get our PC's running better leave it in the comments. Um, and Mac users, yeah, we know.