A month or so ago I took my wife with me to fix a computer that was riddled with spyware, malware and viruses. As I was attempting to fix it before I had to end up doing a system restore my wife asked me how do I know what file is what. I couldn’t really answer the question. It might be because I have been doing it for so long and I know what to look for and memorized about 90% of the system file names and I know what most of the typical spyware and malware programs are.
Anyway, today I will discuss on a quick way to stabilize a and fix a windows based system. Most of these tricks have been around from Windows 95/NT4 and work today with Windows 8.1.
First and foremost when a computer is badly riddled with crap it will run slower then one of those electric carts from walmart. You want to start windows into Safe Mode. Just press F8 right before it starts to load or just press it continuously until you get a menu. Select Safe Mode. After Windows loads up click on the start button and select Run. Type int msconfig and hit enter. This little gem will let you modify the startup group. Disable everything except items you know that isn’t spyware such as nVidia software, ATI, and Realtek HD. Most of the stuff I listed is for the hardware. Honestly that is all you need to load up when windows loads up. You don’t need Adobe Acrobat or Skype to load up on startup.
Exit out of msconfig and do not reboot just yet. Go into Add/Remove Programs in the control panel. Look for programs such as DriverUpdater, Unity Player, and any Anti Virus software. Yes I said Anti Virus software. I have found some spyware will add a exclude to the software. While you’re at it also remove software that isn’t used anymore and if it’s not your computer ask the owner if there isn’t any software they don’t use anymore.
If you have another computer and a jumpdrive handy then get and copy to the jump drive the following programs.
You can find the “portable” versions of CCleaner and Process Hacker. That way you don’t have to install them to the computer.
Reboot the computer and startup into Normal mode. Pop in the jump drive and run CCleaner.
Beware, this will wipe out Cookies and Temporary Internet files. Let alone the History for all of the major web browsers on the system. So if you’re doing this for someone that is a bit on the dumb side they probably saved the password info to some site in the web browser and they do not remember it. So look carefully on what CCleaner has for settings and make sure not to wipe out passwords, recent typed URLs, recent session and history.
After selecting the settings click on Run. After it cleans out years of crap building up select Registry and click on Scan for issues. Then after it scans delete everything it found. No need to backup. Under Tools double check the startup then move down to Browser Plugins. Pretty much disable all of them except Java and Adobe Acrobat. Just remember you have to do it to all the selections of the browsers.
Install Malwarebytes and scan the system. It may or may not find anything. It’s just a precaution.
Reboot the system and you’ll notice things are a lot quicker.
Run Process Hacker and look for anything out of the ordinary that is running in the background. With Process Hacker it will show you where it’s running so if it is spyware/malware you can delete it at the root by going into file manager, locating it then terminate it in process hacker then go back into file manager and deleting it. It will also help to write down the file name and after deletion you can go into regedit and search for a registry string that carries that file name and delete the registry string.
This guide is pretty much for novice to intermediate users. For end users such as myself I will go into the registry and delete infected strings manually. I will also delete unused directories and clean out the AppData directories.
One more thing, if you’re doing this for someone also clean out their Downloads directory because if they installed say DriverDetective or some crap like that then the main install executive is still on the computer and the last thing you want is for them to reinstall it. Also teach them the basics on harmful software and not to download anything that you know that isn’t spyware/malware or a virus.
Now earlier I mentioned on uninstalling the anti virus software. In my opinion they’re useless and just sucks up system resources. When a virus hits the computer chances are the anti virus will not catch it right away due to the anti virus software will only have a library of older viruses. Let alone about 90% of the time I see people sporting a anti virus that came with the computer five years ago that is no longer updated. However if you or a client really wants a anti virus then I recommend Avast. It’s free to home users and it is a very strong anti virus. It even scans downloads and web pages. Pretty much idiot proof. However it sucks up resources like Norton.
Also if this is for a client then recommend them to backup their files such as pictures and documents. Jumpdrives are cheap and hold tons of storage for those sort of things. You can easily configure Task Scheduler to do it and there is software on the market that can also do it. Just put in your client’s head “You may not be so lucky next time.”.