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Part 2: Checking Your Computer Health

Now that you've identified some items that indicate you might have something installed that you don't want on your PC, you need to track down what is causing problems.

During this part, you will be finding out if you have problems on your PC and will be correcting problems as you find them. The final article will talk about how to protect your PC. While you are cleaning off your computer, if it makes sense, disconnect your computer from the Internet after you have finished downloading items. This can help reduce the amount of cleanup time needed. And, in the future, if you aren't using your computer, turn it off. A computer that is off can't be infected and is secure from other problems.

Techies out there can of course ignore this and pick and choose what they want to do. But don't complain to me about stuff that doesn't work, if you got yourself into the mess, you can probably figure out how to get out of it.

 

  1. First off, if you don't have any virus software, go out and get some. There are some free packages out there that can do the trick as well as the pay for use ones. Here's a list, the important thing is to pick one and use it.
    • Norton Antivirus
    • MacAfee Antivirus
    • AVG Antivirus

    If you already have Antivirus software installed, make sure the virus patterns are up to date.

  2. Now that you've got updated antivirus softwareI Now, with your updated software, do a full scan on your computer. If necessary, leave it on over night to do the scan. Hopefully, nothing will be found, if there is, your virus software should give you some options on what to do. My recommendation, is to delete the file off. However, you can't do that in every case, since the infected file(s) may be parts of your work or part of the Operating System. In this case, there may be a clean option to remove the virus from the file.

    However, this doesn't always work. In the worst case, you may need to re-install your Windows Operating system in order to recover from the problem. If you aren't comfortable with doing that, find someone technical who can help you out and who might be able to offer you more options for recovering your computer.

  3. Now that you have a virus free computer, the next thing to look for is Spyware. Spyware is a new set of software that is growing to be a bigger problem. While I think most people are now familiar with computer viruses, spyware is more of a hidden problem.

    Spyware is software that is usually hidden in another software package that you have downloaded and installed on your computer. As you install the other software, say a free screensaver, file sharing utility or event notification utility, another piece of software is installed that you aren't told about.

    In fairly benign cases, this software is tracking where you go on the Internet and sending the information to a server to use for evaluting marketing information.

    In worst cases, the software could be copying all of the keys you've typed, including your bank account number, credit card number, passwords and other information you want kept private. This information is stored up and sent to a server where someone uses it for some kind of identity theft.

    Since I figure that most people don't really want someone else knowing where they visit on the Internet, it's a good idea to download and install a Spyware detection package. Here's a list of the current top ones.

    • Spybot Search and Destroy
    • AdAware
    • Microsoft's New Spyware offering

    I recommend that you install the first 2, based on my experiences with the programs. Both are currently the recommended software and do a pretty good job of searching and cleaning off Spyware items. As with Antivirus software, make sure you have the latest updates and have the software do a full scan of your computer. In most cases, all they will find are tracking cookies used by your web browser. In the worst case, they'll find some kind of spyware and will attempt to clean it off for you.

    Again, if you are uncomfortable with the cleaning process, you can probably find someone familiar with this kind of software who can help you through the process.

With these steps, you should have cleaned off the items that have given you signs that your computer might have items installed that you don't want. The next steps are to prevent your computer from getting infected again and the next article will cover some steps you can take to protect your PC. And while you're waiting for the next article, feel free to back up your important data, since that is always the best recovery for the worst case set of infections for any computer.

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