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I'm visiting the folks, and mom was complaining about how slow her computer has become.  Of course it has  malware popup ads that say things like "Viruses on you computer!!!  Click here!"  or "Clean Your Registry."  

Here's a short list of what I found:

Control Panel - Firewall:
The firewall had been turned off and could not be found.
I would later be able to check the firewall for unwanted  programs connecting to the internet

Control Panel - Programs:
Under "Install/Uninstall Programs" there were many programs that obviously needed to be uninstalled. For many programs I Googled the names of the programs to identify the malware.  I was looking up something like "CSActive" on Google and the first result said "I'm working on my mom's computer and I found a program called CSActive....." which was good for a belly laugh.

Control Panel - Programs:
Some things obviously needed to be uninstalled:
    Optimizers and registry cleaners
    Toolbars (Ask, Yahoo and others)
    Media player that you never heard of.
    "Bargain Hunter"
    Anything that had not been used in the last several years.
     Anything left over from old antiviral software like MacAffee.
At least the PC had not been set to search for a proxie server.

Any extensions and plugins such as toolbars and downloaders.
Make sure pop-up blockers are turned on.

Antivirus Software
The computer already had  Microsoft Security Essentials, which found a Trojan and a worm.  This also restored my access to the control panel firewall settings, and I was able to turn on the firewall.

I also downloaded Malwarebytes free version at  Scanning with this found 99 instances of malware, which is not unusual in situations like this.

During this process I was restarting the computer every hour or so so that changes would be completed.

After things seemed cleaned up, I ran defrag, which helped a little bit.

We also went to WalMart and bought a LinkSys wireless router so visitors can get internet access.

This was on an XP machine, but if it was Windows 7 I would have also turned the desktop theme to "basic" so the computer was not wasting resources generating pretty thumbnail images.

Anybody else want to share tips or experiences? And what would you recommend for ad blocking software?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Recced for "things I get asked to do" (12+ / 0-)

    despite having no more knowledge than my mom, really.

    If Hobby Lobby is against contraception, why does it buy its inventory from China, the country that limits the number of children by law?

    by Inland on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 01:23:01 PM PST

  •  As Mom is No Longer With Us, I Shall Apply This (9+ / 0-)

    advice to Herself's laptop. She does a lot of Facebooking so there must be plenty of malware on it.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 01:40:56 PM PST

  •  Right there with you. I've kidnapped mom's (11+ / 0-)

    computer while she's visiting the West Coast Gens. She has two installations of Windows that I believe were accidentally installed when it was being set up by a well meaning, but less knowledgeable sibling when she first got it. That, in and of itself, wouldn't be a problem, except they are the same version of Windows, and I have to assume it's creating conflicts, as her computer is faster than mine, theoretically, however it runs like she's still on 56k dial up. Even when she's not online.

    That and, she has a ton of other problems, like those you've described.

  •  another thing that can slow XP to a crawl (11+ / 0-)

    is a Microsoft bug relating to auto-update.  symptom is svchost processor hogging.  can fix by killing that svchost process and manually updating IE

    •  Ah yes, svchost. That brings back memories! nt (6+ / 0-)

      Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

      by bernardpliers on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 01:57:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  memories, or nightmares? (4+ / 0-)

        Lots of things I was happy to leave behind, but I still have a system running Windows XP just because it's the one with the 3 1/2" floppy and the motherboard which I could hook a 5 1/4" floppy into.

        Microsoft is ending support for XP at this time, so there won't be the fixes, updates and protections that keep the various Mom's saved from disaster on their XP systems.  Sure there will still be some anti-virus programs and the like that will be able to keep protecting XP systems, but those will rapidly fade away as well.

        Time to upgrade the OS, just to protect yourself and your data.

      •  This is really great. I had it years ago. (3+ / 0-)
        Malwarebytes free version at
        How often do you have to renew that free version? My computer teckie friend had installed it on an old computer I had years ago. Only thing is the free version expires (maybe every 6 months or so). I guess you know that and are nearby so you can just set it up again. Since it's an add on to having anti virus, it's good.

        I think I had their anti virus too, not sure. Personally know little about the computer.

        I had to get Dell software warranty last year. Was $239 but only $140 to renew. I so need it.

        I just learned how to download pictures. I never download anything.

        My computer friend told me years ago not to download stuff that I don't know what it is. So since I don't know what any of this stuff is, I don't download.

        But I needed pictures for my facebook profile.

        This morning I tried to download pictures to my picture file and I did something very wrong.

        Next thing I had no internet.

        I was like omg, I need my computer!

        But I have the software warranty and dell fixed it. (After over an hr diagnosing what was wrong).

        I bought my computer from Dell direct. Get the hardware extended warranty too.

        Brought To You By That Crazed Sociologist/Media Fanatic rebel ga Be The Change You Want To See In The World! Gandhi

        by rebel ga on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 04:16:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I just remembered, the free anti-virus software (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I had  on my old computer, was called Avast

        Which with the anti malwarebytes software is a great combo for an older computer.

        The computer I have now, is relatively new and I have zero tech skills. So I have the best and pay.

        Brought To You By That Crazed Sociologist/Media Fanatic rebel ga Be The Change You Want To See In The World! Gandhi

        by rebel ga on Sat Dec 28, 2013 at 05:37:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Run these.... (5+ / 0-)

    JRT ( to remove the junk.

    If the machine really needs malware cleanup help run Combofix ( and follow the directions very carefully.  It's an amazing program.

    “Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have.” ― Winston Churchill

    by paulitics on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 01:46:33 PM PST

  •  Nah. That's my nephew's gig (7+ / 0-)

    He used to do it for a living.

    Meanwhile at home, Trapper's the expert. He should start charging his friends for the housecalls ("Dude! You need to stay away from the Russian porn sites!") but I deserve a discount, right?

  •  AAAH!! Flashbacks!!! (7+ / 0-)

    I used to work for a company that had, among other things, call centers.  You don't want to be an IT person at a company that has call center agents with access to computers.  Trust me.

    For some reason, I always seemed to be the canary in that particular coal mine, noticing slow-downs or viruses spreading before anyone else.  I attribute this to being in psychic link with my computers (they always break when I'm not around), but possibly it was just being more attentive than others.

    Anyway, I've manually - yes, manually -cleaned more viruses off of computers than any person should be subjected to.  Some things I've learned over the years:

    1) Pretty obvious, but no AV is perfect.  Having two is useless - they step on each other.  However, if you combine a good AV with anti-spamware stuff like Spybot, you're probably in decent shape.  Don't use something like BlackICE or a really locked down firewall unless you know what you're doing - parents just click "yes" or "no" to everything, making the problems worse.  You want something that, when it pops a warning, the best bet is to always click the same option.

    2) Microsoft has a tool called "Process Explorer" which, with some help, can actually let you see what threads are attached to running processes, right down to the shell.  Now, you have to be careful, but if you have a truly invasive virus, the only way to kill it is to kill all the running threads, especially those attached to the shell (because it'll keep starting itself each time you try to launch something if you don't).

    3) Most AV companies have free, downloadable rootkit killers.  TrendMicro even has an online-based virus scanner if you really want a "second opinion".

    4) Learn where Run and RunOnce are in your registry.  Seriously.

    5) As far as general speed, check out which programs and services are starting automatically.  Some may not be needed.  Others may be slowing things down by the order in which they start (you have limited control here).  Really, though, the biggest speed issue for most PCs is making sure the computer has enough RAM and disk space available: you should have at least 4 GB of RAM, generally (which will max out a 32-bit OS), and at least 20% of your OS drive's space available.

  •  Got System Mechanic (free) and Advanced System (4+ / 0-)

    Optimizer them both at least once a I pray a lot.

  •  My rule: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Buckeye Nut Schell

    If you're capable of asking me a question about it, you're capable of typing that same question into Google.

    I'm willing to help fix a loved one's computer when they don't know how to solve the problem themselves. What I'm not willing to do is fix someone's computer because they decided that asking me to do it was less trouble for them than doing even the most basic troubleshooting imaginable.

    All I ask is that they make a single token effort to look up the answer. If the solution isn't immediately obvious from the first page of Google results, I'll happily pitch in and help out. If the solution is immediately obvious from a simple Google search... that's when I get mad.

    •  Next Comes The Talk About AOL (3+ / 0-)

      I've been trying to explain for a couple years that AOL is not the only point of access to the internet...

      Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

      by bernardpliers on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 02:16:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not all searchers are created equal (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      belinda ridgewood, ebohlman, Sandino

      I've never figured out out the mechanics, but for some reason a friend of mine and I can both search for a topic and I'll get a valid result on the first page, whereas it'll take him three or four.  It's related to how we enter the query into the engines, of course, but why the differences, I've never been able to determine.

      So, just be careful with this kind of rule.  What seems an obvious search criteria to you, which returns great results, maybe gibberish to the other person.

      •  That's largely because search engines tailor (0+ / 0-)

        their results based on what you've previously searched for (and what their sponsors wish you would search for). Two people with different search histories and browsing habits will get different search results.

        Unfortunately when smart and educated people get crazy ideas they can come up with plausibly truthy arguments. -- Andrew F Cockburn

        by ebohlman on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 07:50:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  What's given me the most pause about helping (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, belinda ridgewood, phenry

      is the bit where you are ever-aftermore responsible for that machine, into the future without end:

      "Hello? It's doing that thing again where it..."

  •  very useful ! (3+ / 0-)
    despite having no more knowledge than my mom, really.
    Ahaha ~ So true ~ it's the one-eyed man becoming king in the land of the blind. It's just that I am bolder / less afraid to look around for solutions than my elders. But if I am their only hope, it's pretty pathetic !

    “Good things don’t come to those who wait. They come to those who agitate!” Julian Bond

    by Dvalkure on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 02:11:47 PM PST

  •  Not today (3+ / 0-)

    but I will be doing it next time I'm there.

    My brother lives near her and is much more of a help to her in general than I am, as I'm on the opposite coast, but this is one task he can't bear and leaves to me. He had to deal with constant phone calls from his father-in-law about computer problems for years, and it almost drove him bonkers.

  •  It developed into a side job for me (along (4+ / 0-)

    with occasionally being my sole source of income) and it keeps me up-to-date by paying for new hardware and software occasionally.  I also am given hardware occasionally that I can then pass on to someone else for re-use, so it's good.  I've got a quad core computer sitting on the floor in my room that I keep telling myself I need to set up as a server, but haven't gotten around to.  I fix my father's and sister's computers in person or remotely and they do appreciate being able to call a tech for help.

    My tip is to investigate logmein, which is a remote control software program.  The basic free version allows someone to remotely take over your computer and I use it to remotely manage and fix my father and sister's computers, and sometimes I've used it to bring up Skype because there's no way he'd figure out how to have a video call on his own.  There are important safeguards, like not allowing the remote user to turn on the computer, not allowing the program to automatically start when the computer starts, having complicated passwords.  I've found it quite helpful for remote management and troubleshooting.

  •  Couple of things (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    belinda ridgewood, bernardpliers

    Firstly, run CCleaner to delete temp files (be careful) and then carefully use the registry cleaner.  I find it removes malware entries and can speed up the system.  You can also use it to turn off various processes at start up (proceed with caution).  

    Secondly, install Firefox with Adblock Plus and SSL Everywhere to improve browsing safety.  

    Third, help make sure that she stores all important files in "My Documents" then setup a free online backup service.  Typically these services have a free service that will backup up to 5gb or so.  

    Fourth, setup something like Teamviewer to allow for remote assistance.  I use that to help my parents.  

    I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

    by DavidMS on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 02:38:24 PM PST

  •  A few things.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    belinda ridgewood

    Periodically run SuperAntiSpyware - the FREE version. Don't pay, just run now and then. Additionally, I'm still a Norton's fan.

    And Spybot Search & Destroy. Beware imitators - Seriously, there are some bad imitations. After you're sure it's all cleaned out, S&D also lets you immunize the system.

    Someone told me you should never make fun of rednecks unless you are one. Well, I are one. - Jeff Foxworthy

    by DeathDlr73 on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 02:40:56 PM PST

    •  Here are the essentials (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      To begin with, you need some tools:

      Sysinternals procexp (task manager)

      Sysinternals autoruns (show, enable/disable autorun processes)

      Possibly Sysinternals Rootkit Revealer

      Piriform ccleaner

      A good (non-Microsoft) defragmenter; I use Jeroen Kessels MyDefrag

      And, alas, a decent free antivirus program, like Avira or AVG, but not McAfee or Symantec

      Now in order...

      0. Take the system offline.

      1. Run autoruns and under "Logon" deactivate or delete unneeded items. This is a big topic that I can't hope to cover in its entirety, so you need some imagination and expertise of your own.

      2. Reboot, still offline.

      3. Run procexp and check what's running. Other than known Windows software like svchost, are there unnecessary or suspicious items?  Use Google from another computer to identify them, and if necessary, track them down and eliminate them.

      4. You can eliminate many things by uninstalling them.  Uninstall everything that the computer's user isn't positively using and able to identify. In particular, uninstall every third-party antivirus software.

      5. Another reboot, still offline.

      6. Run ccleaner and eliminate the unnecessary files it finds, then the unnecessary registry entries.

      7. Install one single antivirus program, the one you downloaded before step 0.

      Now how is the computer running?  Okay? Then get back online.  How are things now?  Are there grossly excessive network accesses?  From what processes?  If the computer is suspiciously slow and has a lot of network activity, you need to run a rootkit check.

      If other problems have become clear, you may need to run Malwarebytes or Combofix, or even some others depending on the symptoms.  Google is your friend.

      You always have the option of running ccleaner again.  But last -- and especially important for laptops -- only after running ccleaner, run the defragmenter and defragment the system partition thoroughly.

      Of course, if the system was heavily infected, you have to do something about that; but if it was merely clogged down by months or years of inattention and ignorance, these steps will usually get it humming pretty well again.

      I have to note here that I don't use any realtime antivirus program. Instead I use better software (Firefox rather than Internet Explorer, for instance) and exercise good habits. But that's asking a lot of one's dear sweet old mom. Is it asking too much of you?

  •  I at least share this duty with my bother in law (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    belinda ridgewood

    but I feel your pain. Use the uninstallers where possible. Then CCleaner ( first. Then MalwareBytes AntiMalware ( - don't enable the trial mode, just use the on demand scanner. Then ComboFix ( Lastly get her a decent AV program, not Security Essentials or FreeAVG or even Symantec or McAfee. Get Kaspersky Labs AntiVirus or Internet Security ( or Eset Nod32 AntiVirus or Smart Security ( Lastly get her thinking about a new computer since support and updates for XP ends early in 2014.

    "nothing" the unjust man complained "is just" / ("or un-" the just rejoined) -ee cummings

    by figurefive on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 02:51:32 PM PST

  •  Try Ad-Free Time (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    belinda ridgewood

    It's a $1.99/mo service that gives you DNS servers that have filters built in. They block the vast bulk of advertising and a lot of the nasty stuff on the net as well. The beauty of it is that you once you set the DNS servers in the router, the whole network is covered. Even takes some ads out of smart TVs and Rokus and such. Good compliment to solid firewall and antivirus software.

  •  I had to clean up a machine once. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    belinda ridgewood

    It was so badly infected that it would no longer boot up.

    There were several things I had to do - the starting point was a boot CD I made which let me poke  at the system and correct the thing that was preventing booting.

    I physically removed the hard drive and attached it to a different machine.  This let me run AV while the machine was booted from a clean hard drive, and it prevents rootkits from hiding files on disk.  I should add that using something like ccleaner helps in that if you delete temp files, you won't need to disinfect them, and this can speed up the cleaning process considerably.

    In retrospect, it would have been better to reinstall windows rather than attempt cleaning.  But there were all sorts of things like photos and music I would have needed to restore, and there were many drivers for which I didn't have install media.

    The source of the malware was most likely "free" games downloaded from the internet.

  •  I'm the mom (0+ / 0-)

    my kids will be coming here in January and so I'll suffer a slow computer til then (my daughter and sil are both IT workers). I actually learned to defrag a windows unit, however the mac is a little different so will wait for someone who knows what s/he is doing.

  •  Switch to GNU/Linux (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If you're tired of malware, switch to GNU/Linux.  Ubuntu is very easy to install.  LibreOffice (which is included with GNU/Linux) seems to be quite compatible with MS Office.  All this software is free as in both liberty and beer.

    Another possibility is a Chromebook.  I've played with them a bit, but I'm waiting for an ARM-based Chromebook with a 14" or larger screen before buying one.  It's the first thing I've seen that's at all a candidate for my parents, whose tech literacy is pretty much limited to touch-tone phones, i.e., they don't use their dial phones much these days.  But we need larger screens.

    Better to hide your tax returns and be thought a crook than to release them and remove all doubt. [Adapted from Abraham Lincoln]

    by Caelian on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 04:15:10 PM PST

  •  gawrsh, posts like this make me glad we're still (0+ / 0-)

    on Apple products, infuriating as current mgmt decisions are!

    "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

    by chimene on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 05:00:58 PM PST

  •  If Anyone's Still Reading, We Ran the Quick Scan (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of malwarebytes on Herself's laptop. The report shows a hundred some objects.

    The action report has every object name starting with "Adware" checked for removal; everything else seems to start with "PUP" and none of these is checked for removal.

    We'll go ahead and remove the stuff checked and leave the "PUP" objects unchecked because we can obviously re run the scan any time.

    Software seems easy enough to use. I'll check back to see if anyone has given advice.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 05:56:53 PM PST

  •  safe to turn javascript back on? (0+ / 0-)

    last spring we heard all about it here, haven't heard anything since, keep getting java updates.

       I also turned off update automatically since last spring, it hollers: 'you have 64 Important Updates' and when I looked at the list, they were not in date order....I have no faith it won't update older ones over newer ones...any advice?

    This machine kills Fascists.

    by KenBee on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 06:37:36 PM PST

  •  I did my neice's computer once. (0+ / 0-)

    It had thousands of copies of an adware program which originally came from a mini disk out of a cereal box. It was slowed to the point that it took 4 days for the cleanup to run.

    © Tomtech! My comments may not be used without my permission outside of the post which it is posted in..

    by Tomtech on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 07:11:46 PM PST

  •  What I do when (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ex wife's computer gets bogged down with malware/spyware is throw in trash and buy her another. Spending 4 or $500. is just easier than wasting hours cleaning it.
    I use Mac exclusively, so don't have to deal with PC bugs, but can't talk her into spending the money for a mac.

    Severely Socialist 47283

    by ichibon on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 09:13:46 PM PST

    •  Well Donate It To Someone Who Will Fix It (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tinfoil Hat

      Reformatting the disk and reinstalling the operating system takes no skill and less time than a trip to 7-11.  The time consuming work is trying to save a computer and all its files, but nuking it is quick and easy.  Then it's often better than new because it comes without trial versions of software and other bloat.

      Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

      by bernardpliers on Sat Dec 28, 2013 at 07:25:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Drink more water. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Hey, I don't know jack about computers, but I wanted to offer you some advice along with everyone else.


    The better I know people, the more I like my dog.

    by Thinking Fella on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 09:31:42 PM PST

  •  Does chkdsk still work? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That was a favorite of mine from the DOS era.

    I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business.

    by CFAmick on Fri Dec 27, 2013 at 10:12:22 PM PST

  •  Now that mom has a mac (0+ / 0-)

    I don't have to do that anymore, though I did need to show her how to organize her email and not click on too much spam.

  •  I find that fixing... (0+ / 0-)

    an old WinXP PC is usually unworthy of the amount of time it takes. It seems to me like Bernard's experience with his mom's WinXP PC took him a day.

    If the WinXP PC supports adding another disk drive and has (or can be upgraded to) 512MB of RAM (or more).


    1. Buy a second-hand disk drive. (E.g. IDE PATA drive of 80GB for $5), and install it along with the existing WinXP drive.
    2. Download a linux distro. E.g. Ubuntu 12.04 (long term support) i386 Desktop. Download the 32 bit version from here.   The file name is ubuntu-12.04.3-desktop-i386.iso (707MB)
    3. Burn the Ubuntu iso file that you downloaded to a blank DVD.
    4. Boot the DVD and install Ubuntu onto the second hand disk drive that you added.
    5. Boot the second-hand disk drive and perform an on-line update of Ubuntu to receive the latest patches.
    6. Drag and drop across the data files from the WinXP disk to the Ubuntu disk.

    The above could be done in one hour. Now sit around for a few hours and teach your mom the things she needs to know that are different in the desktop environment between WinXP and Ubuntu. A somewhat intuitive task.

    If you go looking for anti-virus software for ubuntu, you may not find any. That's because ubuntu doesn't get viruses so it is not necessary.

    Also don't go looking for a disk defragmenter utility to run as it doesn't exist. By design the files are contiguous and will not be fragmented.

    Enjoy braking on through to the other side.

  •  I like Glary Utilities (0+ / 0-)

    free for personal use, has "1-click maintenance" that does all sorts of things in one pass - cleaning the registry, removing malware, freeing up space, etc.

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