The Silence of Our Friends

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Tips to Troubleshoot Your Computer & Keep It Clean

I 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
McAfee FreeScan
Freedom Online Virus Check
Kaspersky Online Scanner
Panda ActiveScan
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.

21 comment(s):

Donna, seriously, get a mac. ;)

*scuttles away from flying objects*

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/17/2006 4:11 PM  

Why do you people suffer so? Masochists, the lot of ya!

*back to scuttling*

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/17/2006 4:13 PM  

LOL Jenny, I knew the Mac users would abuse us PC users, but since we are masochists...

OUCH! Do it again! OUCH! One more time! OOOOOWWWWWW!

By Blogger Donna, at 12/17/2006 4:17 PM  

Well okay.

THWACK!

*hits Donna over the head with a rolled-up newspaper*

Ahhhh. That feels better. ;)

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/17/2006 5:39 PM  

Scuttles in to tickle Donn's toes!

"Nah nah na nah nah!"

Sucttles out again.

BTW, props to you for sticking it out and battling the evil demons.

*snicker*
scuttle

high fives Jenny on the way out....

By Blogger Ravenmn, at 12/17/2006 11:12 PM  

Ouch! I really sympathize, Donna! I had a similar problem a few months ago, involving a Norton utility (Go back) which is apparently not needed when you have Windows XP, and probably not even if you don't. My laptop got stuck in a loop of tryin to "go back," but to no avail.

Once we got past the ugly phase known as reformatting (fortunately, most everything I have is on the web, and I just started using this laptop a few months before)... I swore off Norton, and installed something else recommended by the folks who sold me the laptop (from Computer Associates, I think), and reinstalled Spy Sweeper, which now takes the place of AdAware.

I almost considered moving to a Mac when I got this laptop last Spring, but needed to reinstall my salon blog software from an existing license, and didn't want to create any unnecessary complications.

The dealer has since expanded into a larger space and now handles both Macs and PCs. So, next time, I'll probably make the leap.

Just for the record, I live with a computer consultant, who was pretty unhappy with me for starting the reformatting process before he got home from work, and without asking his opinion first. (I was just trying to be self-sufficient, too.) He got over it, though.

By Blogger Karen M, at 12/17/2006 11:32 PM  

girl, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all this great amazing stuff. I have already cleaned up my computer and am working on installing some of the other stuff...thank you SO much for spreading your knowledge!

By Blogger brownfemipower, at 12/17/2006 11:44 PM  

High-fivin' ravenmn!

snicker
*scuttle*

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/18/2006 1:01 AM  

My head is spinning with all of this. Just proves your patience.

I want a Mac too.

By Blogger ChasingMoksha, at 12/18/2006 1:49 AM  

We should have gotten a Mac especially now that you can put Windows on it if you need it for certain programs. But no, we got this laptop and in less than a month I'm already fixing glitches and removing trojans.

Karen, I'm the computer expert around here, which means we are in deep deep doo doo. LOL We've had computers since 1997 and when you don't have much money, you gotta figure out how to fix it yourself or (((gasp))) go without a computer. I've never had to reformat yet (knock on wood) but came very close a few times. One time the harddrive was ruined on our first computer, before I knew anything about having any type of security on it, so a virus wiped it out, but it was new so I was lucky and sent it back and they sent me a new and bigger hard drive.

BFP, glad to help! You gotta love all the great free stuff out there.

Unless you own a Mac and don't need all that free stuff out there and you just sit back laughing at PC owners...

WooHoooo! I am so glad to see you back and posting Moksha!

By Blogger Donna, at 12/18/2006 2:40 AM  

Wow Donna, this is a great post.

Though I was taken aback by the AVG rating--I have used it for 2 years now (and it was a godsend after Norton) and I just renewed another 2 yr sub, not even thinking to look around to see if anything else was better. Though I have to say that I have been very happy with it.

I also have a blue screen problem. Apparently--according to a techie, my disk is corrupted (this goes back over 2 yrs now). It is a very rarre occurance--and is related to my CD/DVD player/burner. Before my warrranty ran out recently, I got a new free one, but I can't burn--though I can play.

So, the tech person said my only option was to erase my hard drive and start all over (this beginning to sound like Dear Abby!) and what I have been wondering (since a lot of my software was bought or updated online etc etc) is if there is an easier way to back up my program files before I erase the whole thing. The idea of spending an entire day (or 2 or 3!) reconfiguring my computer sounds nightmarish, which is why I have been procrastinating with this thing for so long.

I an wondering if I should just bit the bullet and pay someone to do it, as it really does seem like a daunting task.

And yes, now that Macs can run windows programs, I have a feeling that my next computer will be a Mac!

By Anonymous sunrunner, at 12/18/2006 11:41 AM  

I have a friend, a sound engineer, who swears by the Apple refurbished products. If I decide to get a laptop that's where I'll go. Looks like some pretty good deals...

http://preview.tinyurl.com/y5pdft

Great deals on Apple Certified Refurbished Mac models and Mac accessories. Apple Certified Refurbished products are pre-owned Apple products that undergo Apple's stringent refurbishment process prior to being offered for sale. All Apple Certified Refurbished products are covered by Apple's One-Year Limited Warranty. For extended coverage, you have the option of purchasing the AppleCare Protection Plan with your Apple Certified Refurbished product. For your convenience, we have placed the appropriate AppleCare Protection Plan at the bottom of each Apple Certified Refurbished product collection.

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/18/2006 12:35 PM  

Excellent post, now there's no excuse for anyone not starting the new year with a spiffy clean hard drive.

Now if there was only something small and nifty that would fix the actual physical bearings on my old HD so I can get all the data off it...

By Blogger Republic of Palau, at 12/19/2006 2:25 AM  

Still a live thread below with a good discussion going:

http://the-silence-of-our-friends.blogspot.com/2006/12/buh-buh-buh-butfighting-racism-is-too.html

By Anonymous op99, at 12/20/2006 7:18 PM  

bfp - you should have oodles of software on the disks we sent!

By Blogger Bitch | Lab, at 12/29/2006 10:41 AM  

Thanks for the info on the blue screen of death.It comes up occasionally but I hate losing everything.

By Anonymous Radfem, at 12/31/2006 2:05 AM  

Geez I should check my older posts once in awhile! Hello to everyone and glad if it helped anyone.

Radfem, I have a post up at the top that is negative towards radfems and I'd like your take on it. Am I misinformed? By the way, I don't want you to read it that all sex-pos fems are the wonderful and all radfems are awful. Not true. I really do hope you'll stick around so we can pick each others brains and teach each other a few things.

By Blogger Donna, at 12/31/2006 4:41 PM  

Thanks. This was very useful.

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By Blogger gfh, at 7/14/2009 5:52 AM  

Its really helpful. I think 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.

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