Anyone wanna help with some really dunce Windows XP questions?

Mods, if this is just really too stupid for GQ, please move it, or close it. Maybe the pit? I plan on swearing.

Here’s the deal: I’m a Mac guy. Have been for 17 years. Up until about six years ago, I did have to frequently use Windows and it really wasn’t a problem. Pretty easy and when I had a problem I could fix it. Whatever Windows computer I was working on, I never had a problem keeping it in good working order. But that was then.

I’m living with someone with a Dell Dimension Dim4700 Pentium® CPU 2.80GHz, 2.79 GHz 504MB RAM, running Windows XP Home Edition Version 2002, Service Pack 2.

It runs like a piece of shit and roommate barely knows where the start button is. She’s one of those people who are fine as long as their email works and they can surf the web or occasionally type up a word processing document. I’m sick of hearing her whine about it, and frankly I’ll also sick of hearing her hard drive constantly grinding away. it seems to run non-stop. Doing what, I have no idea.

First problem: McAfee. She’s got McAfee Security Center installed. It found some Vundo Trojan or something. It kept saying “remove it? Click okay to restart.” You restart and it would say “found Vundo. Remove it? Click okay to restart.” After about 1000 restarts roommate started screaming. Actually, much sooner than that. I took over and did this, that and the other thing and finally got it to just remove/block/quarentine/compartmentalize/pay child support/find a new apartment for/relocate to a new state or whatever it finally did to the damn thing. Honestly don’t remember what exactly I did now, but i got it to stop.

Windows sucks!!!

So, a friend told me McAfee sucks, I should remove it and install this AVG suite of free apps. Well, I did install all the AVG stuff, antivirus, anti-malware, rootkit (what the hell is that?). It found oh, about a billion viruses, adwares, malwares and assorted other things and removed them all after about 8 hours of scanning and removing and clicking okay’s.

Windows sucks!!!

AVG seems to be doing okay now. Still can’t get rid of McAfee, and every time you start the computer it updates itself and spends three or four hours scanning the hard drive. Did I mention I’m sick of hearing her hard drive grinding away? You can hardly do anything on her computer while it’s doing all this shit.

I looked online and disabling McAfee is easy as pie. Just right click on its icon down in the system tray thingie and choose “disable,” or “exit.” Hah! There’s no disable, there’s no exit, there’s no remove, uninstall - nothing. Anywhere. How do I get rid of this fucker? Even after I tell McAfee to stop its current scan, the hard drive still appears to be grinding away at something. Can’t tell what, but her computer is hardly usable, or least extremely slow, for the first few hours after it’s on.

Is there an application that will tell you what it’s grinding away at, while it’s grinding away at it? Nothing down in the system tray seems to be running, but I’m not sure I’d be able to tell.

The other big problem. Her web browsers. She used to use IE. Everytime it launches it throws up all these windows. Want to play poker? Find a date in your area? Install the latest FREE Windows antivirus protection software? Is your computer running slow? (duh) Could be you’ve got viruses. Click here to download!

She’s got “block pop-up windows” checked. It does nothing, apparently.

I told her I heard Firefox was better. So she downloaded and installed Firefox, and chose it as her default browser. It does the same damn thing. You open a new browser window and then go make yourself a sandwich 'cause it’s gonna take five minutes for all the “wanna play poker, find a date? Install the latest FREE Microsoft Windows anti-virus software because your computer may be running slowly?” windows to all open up. On top of that, once Firefox is done loading lots of helpful popup windows, IE launches itself and does pretty much the same thing.

What up with that?

Windows sucks!!!

Anyone wanna help me out with some of this anyway?

I actually believe you really out to be able to use Windows without all this headache and hassle, but I’m at a loss as to how to make it happen on XP.

Sounds like you’re ripe for a reinstall.

Before starting this make sure you have all the original software CDs and license keys.

Download some firewall software (e.g. ZoneAlarm) and back everything up. Export favourites, cookies, etc. Right-click My Documents and move it to a known place e.g. c:\Data.

Using the XP CD, boot to a command prompt. Rename C:\Windows, c:\windows\win.ini, C:\Documents and Settings, and c:\Program Files. Unplug your netork connection. Reboot and install Windows without formatting. Install your firewall. Reconnect your network connection and apply Windows and application updates.

Its a fairly simple matter to burn a few drivers and personal files to CD/DVD and then be able to reload the whole thing clean. If you still have live virii floating around in other folders its going to take about 3 seconds to reinfect the new install.

Once its reloaded clean and all desired apps reinstalled, download the demo of acronis true image and make a restore set. That way if anything horrid happens again you can reload back to a nice clean machine in about an hour.

I was afraid someone was going to say that. I do suspect when she set this thing up the first time she may have clicked “okay” on something she shouldn’t have. Roomie gets home in an hour or so. I’ll make sure she’s got all her original discs, etc. She’s got an external Iomega HD with 230GBs free space, so I should be able to back up whatever I want onto that. But I’ll be back for more tips on this backing up thing. I don’t know where all Windows hides things you want to keep.

mcafee removal tool

load and run super anti spyware.

its a bit of a memory hog to leave running, but its a kick ass cleaner.

Thank you!

I’m running superantispyware right now. It’s only been running four minutes and has already found 186 adware & trogan items. :rolleyes:

If there are lots of genuine threats flagged up like trojans a complete reinstall is highly recommended otherwise you could spend days trying to clean up. What was your friend doing - surfing porn and warez sites with reckless abandon? :smiley:

A good free prophylaxis against threat on a Windows box is AVG, Zonealarm, Spybot and Firefox with Adblock and the latest Adblock Filterset, all of which are easy to find. It seems like you’ll have to allow automatic updates for these apps as well as for Windows for your friend too.

Sounds like your roommate needs to start running Firefox (and stop surfing porn - That’s the most common way to get spyware and viruses)

It’s not really a Windows problem - It’s a user problem. I know plenty of people who have been running Windows for years and have never had a single virus or piece of spyware. Good user habits are the most important thing. It’s like a car; if you’re a bad driver, you probably need to get more work done on your car than a good driver. So stay away from bad websites and junk programs, and everything will be fine. You start visiting the bottom of the Internet and you’re just asking for problems.

And if you’re quite fed up with Windows, there are other options. Back up what you want, format, put on Ubuntu. It’s free, pretty easy to use and comes with everything your roommate will need.

Never EVER run any kind of Security Suite. They are the modern PC’s snake oil. They merely play into most users’ inexperience and therefore intense fear of the big bad internet by promising a simple, complete, all-in-one solution. But instead of doing any one thing really well they do everything really poorly. And they get their fingers into every possible setting in Windows and just screw everything up.

That’s not to say the internet isn’t full of potentially bad things, it most certainly is. But all you need are:
[li]A good antivirus program[/li][li]A good firewall program[/li][li]Tools for checking for adware and spyware[/li][/ul]
And for these tasks I recommend:
[ul][li]Symantec Anti-virus (formerly Norton)[/li][li]The free version of ZoneAlarm (and I specifically DON’T recommend the paid version!)[/li][li]A combination of Adaware, Spybot and Windows Defender[/li][/ul]Except for Symantec, all of the above are Freeware. Plus using the Firefox browser with some of the more popular plugins (Adblock, NoScript) is a good idea (although IE7 is a big improvement over 6).

It’s done a pretty good job so far. It took a total of 14 minutes to find about 188 threats, including the Vundo thing and the Winantivirus popup nuisance.

Surfing porn? You know, I’m going to have to bug her about that. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t. She swears she doesn’t. She kept claiming she was sure she got infected from some veteran’s website. Yeah, right. Actually, she just came home and after talking about it a bit, I think there’s a good chance she got it from clicking on those “free iPod!” ads and then clicking yes to everything that comes after that.

Now me? Sure I surf for porn, but I’m on a Mac with Safari’s popup blocker & PithHelmet.

Got AVG, and just added Adblock Pro to Firefox. Also used the McAfee uninstaller tool from drachillix. Next I’ll check into this Zonealarm & Spybot. So Window’s built-in firewall is no good?

Using the car analogy, I can tell you she’s a bad driver. Not sure she’s getting all this crap from porn surfing, but she’s getting it from somewhere.

Like I said, I’m a Mac guy. No way is she gonna switch to this ubuntu thing.

Anyway, I’ve already seen a drastic improvement just by removing McAfee & cleaning things with Superantispyware. Her computer boots up now and I can only hear it grinding while it boots up. Firefox starts with no problems, no popup, etc. Things seem to run faster. Life is better already!

If she continues to screw things up, we just might have to look into this Ubuntu thing. She can’t find her XP discs.

You don’t just get spyware & viruses from porn sites. From what you’ve said, she almost certainly picked up some crap from that ipod thingy. Does she also install cute little screensavers or cursor customizing programs? Those things are rife with scumware, as well.

Don’t forget to run your scans from Safe Mode (Safe Mode = Windows running a bare minimum of drivers and services). A lot of these critters dig themselves so deeply into the registry that this is the only way to be sure to get rid of them. Just hit F8 when you reboot to get into safe mode.

Ubuntu is a drastic solution and shouldn’t be entered into lightly. No matter how much Linux GUI interfaces have improved over the years, it can still be a royal headache, even for experienced users, if you run into problems. And don’t forget to give her shit for losing her XP discs. I do sporadic PC support for a few friends and family members and if there’s one thing I pound into their heads is to NEVER lose your Windows discs.

There is a problem with the Windows firewall, at least the version I have, and it is that it only blocks unwanted incoming connections. Zonealarm monitors outgoing ones too, and given the history of the PC in question this is needed. More support for you, but it doesn’t take long to tune the thing to suit the user.

I don’t know the scanner that you have used, and don’t know whether it has actually cleaned the problems. I’d still install the software recommended in this thread, and let it have a go, but if a reinstall seems not to be an option, viz

then download HijackThis and post the resulting text file here, or in the forums as indicated by the software.

No cursors, I’ll have to check her screensavers. she shuts her computer down after using it so I haven’t seen what she’s got on there for a screensaver.

Yeah, good point. I keep hearing about safe mode. I’ll do that.

I guess I was wrong about that. She’s got the discs, but somehow doesn’t have the registration code. Guess she could get it from Dell?

One cool thing about Ubuntu is that you can download it and burn to a CD (or they’ll even send you a CD free,but it takes time). It is a live CD, which means you can boot with it in the tray and test it out to see how it works and how you like it. If course, it’s slow running from a CD, but you’ll get a good idea about it.

It comes with a bunch of freeware such as Open Office, photo editors, a program that automatically forms the new partition, etc.

From what you’ve said about your SO, it just might be the thing for her if all she wants to do is surf, email and do an occasional word processor document.

I hate Windows, but still too much of a hassle to switch everything over, get new drivers for my printers and other USB devices, etc. It ain’t easy, but if you want a challenge…

I think it was on their site where saw a truism, to the effect that Windows is like using drugs. The longer you use it, the harder it is to quit. If it were not for that, I’d get a Mac. :smiley:

The product key should be on a sticker on the side of the tower.

Too funny. Sure enough, there it is.

Thank you!

For the love of all that is holy, don’t buy an AV solution. Plenty of free apps are out there and like it or not, no antivirus program is bulletproof, no matter how expensive it may be.

At least when one of the free apps finally does fail you, you can spend your money on skilled help instead of another update/program. I just helped a guy that fell for one of the smitfraud virus, “click here for the program that will fix your problem for just $29.95” When it had problems he called their tech support line and they told him ad-aware was blocking it from working properly!

I’m going to say the same thing I always say in threads like this - if your friend really only needs to “surf the web or occasionally type up a word processing document” then she is a prime candidate for running windows under a non-privileged account. That would have avoided these problems. She may complain that it doesn’t let her install applications, but installing unknown crap is kind of the problem, isn’t it? XP Home lets you easily switch between privileged and non-privileged accounts, if you need to do something administrative.

You would get these sorts of problems on any operating system if it were usual for non-expert users to run under privileged accounts. But that is only the case with Windows.

Something I have found that will speed up and help a windows box particularly for a non expert user is PC Pitstop Optimize it’s not a freebie, but I feel it is worth the $29.95 they charge for it.
The nice thing is you can schedule it to run once a week on boot, so it keeps the machine clean.

Defraging the hard drive also make the machine runs better.
From Windows explorer or my computer select the C drive and right click, select properties, and then the tools tab. Click on defragment.
This will take a while particularly if you have not done it before. go grab a beer or go out to dinner.