Symptoms of Infection:
There are a number of symptoms which indicate that your computer has been infected. If you notice “strange things” happening to your computer, namely:
- Unexpected messages or images are suddenly displayed
- Unusual sounds or music played at random
- Your CD-ROM drive mysteriously opens and closes
- Programs suddenly start on your computer
- You receive notification from your firewall that some applications have attempted to connect to the Internet, although you did not initiate this, then it is very likely that your computer has been infected by a virus.
Additionally, there are some typical symptoms which indicate that your computer has been infected via email:
- Your friends mention that they have received messages from your address which you know you did not send
- Your mailbox contains a lot of messages without a sender’s e-mail address or message header.
These problems, however, may not be caused by viruses. For example, infected messages that are supposedly coming from your address can actually be sent from a different computer. There is a range of secondary symptoms which indicate that your computer may be infected:
- Your computer freezes frequently or encounters errors
- Your computer slows down when programs are started
- The operating system is unable to load
- Files and folders have been deleted or their content has changed
- Your hard drive is accessed too often (the light on your main unit flashes rapidly)
- Microsoft Internet Explorer freezes or functions erratically e.g. you cannot close the application window
NOTE: Paranoia is not a symptom of infection!
What to do if your Computer is Running Slow?
Computers need regular maintenance, I know this comes as a shock to some of you, but it’s true nonetheless. It’s best if we break things down into two sections, the first are those that should be done regularly, the next are those that only need to be done once, or very infrequently.
1. Tasks that need to be carried out regularly.
- Clean out Temp files
During the normal operation of your computer, Windows and your other programmes create an awful lot of temporary files. For the most part they are just that, temporary. But for any number of reasons, when they’re no longer needed they don’t get removed by the programme that created them. So over time their number builds up, and unless you clear them out they can slow down your computer noticeably.
In the case of your Browser, the problem can be worse. All browsers cache the web pages you visit. The original reason was to make loading pages faster. When everyone was on dial-up this was quite a good idea, but with modern fast connections it’s mostly unecessary now. However browsers still cache webpages, and unless cleaned out regularly they build up to a position where they can have some pretty dramatic effects on how your browser works. Any number of wierd browser problems are caused by nothing more than an overfull cache.
So once a month, or once a week if you’re a heavy user, it’s a good idea to clean out your Temporary files.
Steps To clean out temp files:
A good program to run regularly is CCleaner.
- Download CCleaner from here
- Double click on ccsetupXXX_slim.exe to start the installation of CCleaner. (XXX is the version number)
- Click OK
- Click Next
- Click I agree
- Click Next
- Click Install
- Once the installation has finished, click Finish
Open CCleaner if it’s not already running.
- Select Cleaner Settings.
Check Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, and System so that all items are checked. Then under Internet Explorer, Uncheck “History”. In the Advanced section, have a check only on Old PreFetch Data.
- Click on the Options block on the left. Select Advanced.
Check Only delete files in Windows Temp folders older than 48 hours.
- Set CCleaner to Run When Computer Starts. Click on the Options block on the left, then choose Settings. Check Run CCleaner when computer starts.
- Defrag your Hard Drive
Every time you write a file to your Hard Drive, the drive controller has to find space on your drive. It will often break files into fragments, so that it can use the available disk space efficiently. However over time files can become very fragmented because of this, and your drive controller has to work harder to find all the fragments and re-combine them so that a programme can use it. This slows things down, depending on the amount of fragmentation of your files, it can slow things down a lot.
So once a month (for heavy users), or once every 3 or 4 months (for light users), it’s a good idea to defragment your hard drive.
This will re-arrange the fragments on your drive so they form contiguous entities which are much easier for your drive controller to deal with.
It’s a time consuming operation, usually taking several hours, so best to do what I do, and start it going before you go to bed.
To defrag your hard drive:
- Click Start
- Type: Dfrg.msc and click ok.
- Select your main Drive or “Volume” (usually C)
- Click Defragment
This may take a while so as said previously, best to leave running over night. Once it has completed, repeat the procedure on any other drives you have on-board.
2. Tasks that don’t need to be carried out so often.
- Reduce the number of Start Up programs.
Pretty much every programme you install these days is set to auto start when you boot up. The programme manufacturers tell you it’s for your benefit, but the truth is for most of them it’s just not necessary that they do so. Lots of auto starting programmes will severely slow down your startup time, and having lots of unecessary programmes running in memory will slow down the running speed of your computer as well.
Luckily it’s not hard to prevent unecessary programmes from auto starting. Doing so does not mean you can’t use the programmes, you start them by double clicking on their icons, just as you always have, it just means they won’t be running when you’re not using them.
Of course programmes like your Firewall and Anti-Virus need to auto run, so we won’t be touching them at all.
To remove programs from startup:
- Download StartupLite by Rubberducky to your Desktop.
- Doubleclick StartupLite.exe to launch the programme.
- Ensure the Disable box is checked.
- Click Continue.
- A pop up message will tell you the unecessary startup items in your list have been disabled and ask you to restart your computer.
- Re-start your computer.
- Check the amount of free space you have on your Hard Drive.
Windows (XP and Vista) needs a certain amount of “overhead” (free disk space) if it’s to operate efficiently. If it doesn’t have that space, your processor has to “page out”, which will slow everything down considerably.
Ideally you need at least 15-20% of your disk to be empty, if you don’t have 15% then it’s time to start freeing up some disk space.
To check your free disk space:
For users of XP
- Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter
- Look in the last column (top right) under % Free Space
- Exit Disk Defragmenter
For users of Vista
- Click Start > Computer
- A window will open
- Information for your Hard disk drive(s), including the exact amount of free space available, will be displayed in the uppermost portion of the window.
Presuming you don’t have enough free disk space, here’s a couple of suggestions for freeing some up
- Remove unecessary programmes.
OK, time to be honest with youself, are you really using all those programmes you’ve got installed, or are there some that you haven’t used in a lifetime. If there are, then why not get rid of them and free up some disk space. Your hard drive will thank you for your efforts.
To remove unwanted/unused programs:
For users of XP
- Click Start > Control Panel > Add or Remove Programs
- Click on the programme you want to remove to highlight it.
- Click the Change/Remove button and follow any instructions given.
- Repeat for all programmes you wish to remove.
For users of Vista:
- For Control Panel Home view – Click Start > Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features
- For Classic View – Click Start > Control Panel > Programs and Features
- For either option, to uninstall a program, select it from the list and then click Uninstall.
- Reduce your System Restore Points.
Windows creates System Restore points on a regular basis (every 24 hours), they take up a great deal of space on your hard drive (upto 12% for XP, 15% for Vista). If your computer has been running without problems (other than the slowness) for some time, then you can free up a lot of space by reducing the number of System Restore points to one (the latest).
Windows will continue creating more RPs, but it’ll take some time before you need to thin them out again.
To reduce the number of System Restore points:
For users of XP:
- Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup
- This will bring up the Disk Cleanup window.
- Click the More Options tab.
- In the System Restore field, click Clean up
- You will be prompted if you want to remove all but the most recent Restore Point.
- Click Yes.
- Click OK.
- When prompted whether you’re sure you want to do this click Yes.
For users of Vista:
- Click Start > All Programs > System Tools > Disk Cleanup
- Select Files from all users on this computer
- Click on Continue
- Select the appropriate drive letter (usually C:)
- When the Disk Cleanup window opens, select the More Options tab
- Under System Restore and Shadow Copies click on the Clean up button
- All but the latest restore point will be removed
- Note: In some editions of Windows Vista, the disc might include file shadow copies and older Windows Complete PC Backup images as part of restore points. This information will also be deleted.
What to do if your Computer is Infected?
Start by searching the Self Help guides HERE. Use the CTRL + F feature and type in the name of the Rogue Anti-virus or symptom of infection and see if anything comes back.
If nothing comes back, seek free, professional help from our trained helper’s only