Solutions: Find out if you've infected your PC

I just read your Aug. 18 response to popups and WinFixer and how you should never, never run a program from a popup window warning about a registry problem. That's exactly what I did a couple of weeks ago. I got a popup stating that it would fix the first 20 problems it found for free. I ran the program, fixed the first 20 problems and declined to purchase the program to fix other "problems." Has my computer been compromised?

Probably not. But how do you know? If you can find the program in Control Panel/Add Remove Programs, uninstall it. Then run a full scan of an up-to-date antivirus program. You wouldn't believe the number of PCs I see that have expired antivirus — and from people who should know better. And to repeat something I can't seem to stress enough: Don't ever run anything that pops up in a browser window telling you that your PC has a problem. Not ever. Trust only your installed antivirus, antispyware and firewall applications. They are all you need (along with basic common sense, unfortunately not sold in stores).

What other steps can you take? It helps to be familiar with processes that run on your PC, making it easier to spot something new and perhaps unwelcome. Using tools such as Task Manager, MSCONFIG, Windows Defender Software Explorer and Web sites that list process information, you can determine what's running and whether it's friend or foe. Two such Web sites are www.process id.com and www.processlibrary.com. You can use either MSCONFIG or Windows Defender Software Explorer to disable programs at start up if need be. And here is something new that you may find useful: At www.sysin ternals.com you can download a program called AUTORUNS. It will be listed under Process Utilities. SysInternals is part of Microsoft and the utility programs are safe, well-written and compact. They are the only applications of this type I would trust on my system. AUTORUNS goes into quite a bit more detail than some of the other tools, but they can all help you gain control.

I am a Windows One Care user and never had a problem until I started having popups saying I had a Trojan or a virus. When I clicked on a notice to remove, One Care would go through the motions, but it kept popping up. I filed a message with One Care online. A technician called and after two hours and the technician taking over my computer, it has finally been removed. I am very pleased. My question is: Do you use software other than Windows One Care as an add-on, not in place of?

Glad you had a positive experience with tech support, something that's increasingly rare regardless of the company. No, I do not use anything besides Windows One Care and its built-in version of Windows Defender for antivirus/antispyware. I also use the built-in Windows Firewall. That's it. Nothing else. Never had any problems. This along with using common sense when browsing or downloading files. I've had people write in accusing me of shilling Microsoft products. I pay for every piece of software I use. I just believe homogeneous or built-in solutions result in easier maintenance and simpler systems.

Send questions to personaltech@sptimes.com or Personal Tech, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Questions are answered only in this column.

Solutions: Find out if you've infected your PC 08/29/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 1, 2008 9:26pm]

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