DIY computer maintenance

Undoubtedly, you are here because I sent you to my site because you are having computer issues.  Here is my basic guide to fixing your personal computer for the usual issue, a virus or twenty.  Follow the steps and save yourself the $75-$200 most computer stores are going to charge you to fix it (or the charge I’d have to hit you with for dropping it off or pickup service).  I have learned this scenario from years of fixing computers that should have been safe from the beginning.  The whole script may take up to 24 hours, but the actual time at the keyboard is likely to be less than 45 minutes.  I have an article I copied from The New York Times that roughly tells you want to do with a new computer.  I’ll tell you what to do when your computer gets “borked”.  NOTE:  Hit up my FAQ page for links to the programs you’ll need.  (here)

  1. The first step I usually do is not actually necessary, but it WILL speed up your computer in the long run.  Disable search indexing.  Disable Windows search (one of the fairly recent updates from Windows Update).  It is supposed to speed up searches by creating an index of the hard drive, but in general it just slows things down especially on a notebook.
  2. There is a utility that is built into windows that is supposed to help you in the case of installing a bad driver or application.  It’s called “System Restore”.  It is found in the “System” control panel.  Disable this for all drives, viruses really love this feature because it gives it a safe place to hide.  If you don’t disable it, removing the virus is generally useless because the virus will reinstall itself on reboot.
  3. There is an awesome program from a company that Consumer Reports gave it’s best antivirus marks to.  The Kaspersky Virus Removal Tool is an awesome tool for removing most of the headaches you will run into out there.  Download it on a safe machine and transfer it to the infected PC via a USB thumb drive or a burned CD.  NOTE: TRANSFER IT AND RUN IT VIA “SAFE MODE”.  Safe mode is when you press the F8 key repeatedly after the computer’s startup splash screen.  If you don’t see the black screen asking if you want to boot into safe mode, turn off the computer and start again.  Run KVRT with it’s default setting once to remove the really nasty stuff first, then run it again with all the hard drives selected (check boxes, should be easy to figure out).  As with many maintenance applications, it might be a good idea to run this a couple times to be safe.  After you exit the program, it should automatically ask you if you want to remove the program.  That’s up to you.  I generally run it once more after the computer reboots, but it’s really personal choice here.
  4. Again, download on a clean PC a little program called “Malwarebytes AntiMalware”.  Install this on the computer and run it.  Try to grab any updates before running a full scan, if you can’t access the updates, check your proxy settings in the Internet Options control panel.  Either you have something checked here that isn’t supposed to be checked or the browser has been hijacked.  We’ll discuss the hijacking later.  If you can’t update Malwarebytes, no biggie, you should have downloaded a fresh and safe copy that should be fairly up to date.  This program is a good helper to Kaspersky.  DO NOT UNINSTALL THIS AFTER YOU USE IT.  It is good to keep around and use in your monthly computer maintenance.
  5. Now, don’t hate me gor this one.  I am going to suggest that you hit google and download Microsoft’s Security Essentials.  NOTE:  BE SAFE.  ONLY DOWNLOAD THIS DIRECTLY FROM MICROSOFT.  Install this, update it and run a full scan.  Seeing a pattern here.  Download, install, update, full scan.  Get it. Got it? Good.
  6. Now it’s time to pop on Windows Update (or Microsoft Update if you have Microsoft Office apps installed).  I always suggest using the “Custom” button and grabbing all the downloads, except for driver updates (especially networking or graphics), Genuine Advantage Notifier, Windows Search and Power Shell.  Not this list is likely to change as needed, but it’s a good start.  After each restart run Windows Update again, and again, and again, until there are no more listed updates.  This will actually be a big help in the long run.
  7. There is a great lil program I use for general housekeeping on the computer, it’s called CCleaner.  It deletes temp files, clears the recycle bin, deletes cookies, you know, general housekeeping.  There is even a registry cleaner built in.  I suggest the “slim” version, I hate toolbars in my browser with a passion.  Screen real estate is precious, don’t waste it.
  8. The final program I suggest, unless it’s a notebook, is Defraggler.  I’m not saying don’t use Defraggler on notebooks, I’m saying there is one more app for notebooks, k?  Defraggler obviously defragments your harddrive for you.  It can speed up your computer more than you know.
  9. Notebook users, install BatteryBar.  Not a nessesity, but it is nice to know in a clear to read way how much battery you have left, right?

Honerable mentions:

HiJackThis – One of the more annoying things that malware can do it block your access to the internet, or forward all web access to one site.  More annoying to me, blocking access to antivirus and antimalware sites.


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