Friday, August 21, 2009

TECH TIP: "HELP. My computer has a virus!!!"

Wish I had a quarter (times are tough) for every phone call I get requesting help because someone's computer is infected with spyware, viruses, or some malicious software causing havoc. Calls are frequent and frantic. In this post I will give away my trade secrets to help you all with these issues. The following solutions will work for most problems that will arise. However, there will be those times when the problem is a deeper infection than what these solutions can handle. In those cases I will give you the steps techs take to solve problems like this. Believe it or not, we don't have all the answers and have to scour the Internet for solutions.

For the most part, the following solutions will cure most infections we may incur from the Internet and email. The steps involve no more than downloading free software, installing it, and then running the applications. Sometimes the running of the applications can take awhile. For example, as I write this, I am working on a computer that has a virus. The software has been running for 3 hrs now and is only about 55% done. Keep in mind this is only one of the software packages. On average I will run 3-4 to clean a computer taking 10s of hours if not days sometimes. The good thing about the time issue though, the computer is doing all the work. My time on task is usually 5-10 percent of that time.

To start off, you are going to need to download some software from the Internet. If your computer is infected badly enough to halt Internet connectivity, you will need to go to a friend's or work computer to do the downloads, saving them to a jump/flash drive. Click on each of the following to download them. I will explain what to do with them in a moment.

Each of the links take you to a download site saving you the time of navigating each to find the downloads. If you wish to read more on each just follow these links to their home sites.

These four programs can all be installed on your computer at once and not cause any conflicts. If however you have an antivirus program on your computer like norton, mcafee, trend or some other av, do not install the Avira. Anti-virus programs can conflict on your computer and cause problems.

Install each of the programs on your computer. Follow the basic setup by agreeing with all the default settings unless you are comfortable enough to custom install the programs. After each install run the program and update it. Then run a scan of your computer (choose full system scans if available). Let each program run its course and remember they can take hours. If they find something when they finish, the programs will give you a list of each infected file and ask what you want to do with them. I recommend following their suggestions if, however, the program gives you a choices instead of suggestions, choose to quarantine the file. When finished, restart and try out the computer and see if it still has any issues. If so, run the programs again. Some viruses are designed to keep coming back especially after restarts. Eventually, the virus will get caught.

A few points to keep in mind.
  1. Software programs will perform differently with newer versions. As of this posting, the programs listed above are highly rated by several sources. But those ratings may change and as newer versions of different programs are released, I will change my suggestions accordingly. For example, one article I just finished reading recommends Norton Internet Security 2009, a program I have avoided over the last few years because it really slows down a computer. This article states that Norton has addressed that issue. I may be looking into Norton again.
  2. Each of the programs listed are free-ware meaning they are free to use on your home computers. The paid versions of these and other programs will offer more features and may be worth looking into which is why I included links to their home sites.
  3. This posting is intending for helping those who already have a problem with viruses and such. Preventative measures such as installing an AV program are highly recommended.
  4. I keep using the term virus. That is because we are all familiar with it. A virus is not necessarily the problem with the computer. Other terms we need to consider in order to correctly identify the problem would be: malware, spy-ware, Trojan, phishing, worm and the list goes on. I plan on addressing these in a later posting but for now will continue to use the term virus to cover all issues.

If you are unsuccessful at getting the virus, then it is time to go into research mode. You will need access to the Internet and your infected computer may not be up to the task. Believe it or not, I have come across some viruses that prevent the computer from doing specific searches on the Internet for the issues I am having. I suggest using Google for now (also will explain differences in search engines in another posting) to find a solution. In the search box type in key words that express the problem you are having. If one issue is a pop-up box. Search for terms that are in the box. If your computer is consistently performing some operation that is the problem, type in keywords that describe what is happening. More than likely you will find links to sites that will address the issues. Bear in mind, check more than one site to verify the solution. Sometimes a "solution" might cause more problems. Finding multiple resources that state the same info will lessen the chances of causing more damage. I am not trying to use scare tactics. Although the risk is real, it is low.

There is no way to cover all the issues that can arise with virus like problems. This is a beginning step . If you have other issues you would like help with, please let me know. I will try to address all questions. Again, I am here to help my staff feel more comfortable using technology so that it is not another stress factor in the classroom.

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