Recovering from a PC Virus – Some Lessons Learned
Yesterday I allowed our 9 year old Prince to play on my computer. That turns out to have been a mistake. About an hour into his foray of watching some lego video, he receives a message over the browser window. Instead of reading it and asking his dad or me about it, he clicked a button and went on with his video. Something he has been told NOT to do. And he discovered the reason…he infected my computer with a pretty nasty virus!
Thankfully both SirEvil and I are IT geeks. But my IT skills are more related to mainframes and corporate servers, than desktop computers. Thankfully SirEvil is the desktop King. It took the entire day from about 10am to midnight to fully correct the infection and ensure everything was ok, running right and safe again. With a few extra checks and tweaks this morning, my laptop is virus free and more tightly secured. Which includes not allowing our little Prince to touch my laptop again!
Yes I already had virus software..sadly that doesn’t help when someone doesn’t ‘read’ and volunteers to install the virus. Virus software alone may not be all you need to find worms and protect your machine from invaders. So here is a list of helpful, reliable and FREE tools and advice to help keep your pc and your information safe.
- Always make back ups of your data files. Programs you can replace, your data (documents, images, personal files) you can’t. Don’t use an online storage facility. There’s no reason to pay someone each month for something you can easily do yourself.
- Go to your local Target or OfficeDepot and pick up a USB storage stick. If you don’t have a lot of pictures, 10gig should do you for a while. If you have a lot of pictures go for 20gig.
- Better yet, think about investing in an external harddrive. You can plug it into your USB port and have 250gig or more for back up storage.
- Use your calendar to set up a reminder for every Friday evening, or Saturday morning to run a back up. Once a month you should run a full data backup. After that, each week run a partial back up. A partial back up means, only copy the files that have been updated during that week.
- Your data files for the typical inexperienced user are all the files in your My Documents directory. When you insert the USB stick, or external harddrive, your PC should automatically recognize it and provide a message that it’s ready to be used. If it doesn’t do this, you might have to install a driver. Read the documentation that came with your storage device for instructions to do that.
- When the storage device is ready, Click on your Computer or My Computer icon and a file manager will open called Explorer. Find your MyDocuments folder. Then look through the folder list and locate the new drive assigned to your new storage device. It should be something like E:/Clip or F:/ShadowStorage or some such thing. There are a lot of these devises and few are named the same thing.
- When you have located both the MyDocument folder and the storage device, click on the MyDocument folder and drag it to the new storage device drive. To do this, click the folder and hold down your left mouse button. Then drag the folder to the E:/ or F:/ or whatever letter was assigned to your new storage device. A pop up message may appear that says “Copy MyDocuments to E:/”. Make sure the end of that message is right for your situation and when you’re sure, let go of the mouse button and Windows will copy the directory and everything within it. You will now have a backup.
- If you have a blog; make sure you back up your blog files before you do this, so you are backing up that back up too.
- Some useful software tools to have:
- One of the best online resources to get information about the latest tools and utilities for your PC is at Slashdot.org. The problem with Slashdot is that it’s “News for Geeks” and can be sometimes hard for non-geeks to find information there. But it’s a good place to start if you need some honest reviews and advice. And I mean honest, these folks don’t pull punches in the slightest. They’re not paid to give reviews or rate software for the blog. And if someone is a ringer trying to push sales for a tool, if the general community knows that’s B.S. they have no problem commenting on it and giving an honest account of what’s what and what it does.
- Right now one of the tools the Slashdotters recommend for virus protection is Microsoft Security Essentials. The general consensus is that it’s about time Microsoft, the people who know more about Windows and it’s vulnerabilities created a well crafted virus protection software. And they like Security Essentials for doing that. Which is interesting, because the Slashdotters usually hate everything Microsoft. But the best part…it’s FREE. If there’s only one package you’re looking to get, it should be this one.
- Next, install the Hijack This utility to use when you think you have an issue. This tool really isn’t for the novice. But you can learn how to use it and what it tells you if you take a little time to do some reading. You can read more about it from Wikipedea who has a pretty good write up of this utility. And down load it from Hijack This from Sourceforge. Again, it’s FREE.
- In that same genre is Process Explorer. You can find information about it from Microsoft’s TechNet.
- When you download a piece of software, install software, music or a movie from a CD, or run a game online or from a CD you risk that software installing something called a RootKit on your PC. Most of these are harmless, but they do take up processing memory and space on your PC. They often send information back to the originating company telling them how you use their product and that allows them to target your for popup ads, spam email and more. Sometimes worse things! Technet also has a recommended software package called RootKit Revealer that can help manage this unwanted intrusion.
- If you’re a desktop pc novice, a piece of software that is user friendly and can help you locate problems is called WinPatrol. There is a free version and a Plus paid version. The FREE version is really all you need unless you’re a real IT Geek.
For the real techies out there, sometimes you run across a virus that has to be disabled before you can even attempt to find it and kill it. You can try to force the computer into SafeMode, but even that may not help you out. Instead you might have to boot the computer from another type of operating system in a temporary capacity.
Two of the best for doing this is:
- Damn Small Linux which totally ignores the windows based virus programs that run automatically on start up.
- BitDefender which has a number of FREE tools that can be helpful. You can also build a Rescue CD to help recover from a virus by following their How To Create A Rescue CD instructions.
Hope this helps those looking for information, quick references or simply want to learn more about taking care of their own computer.
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