How to clean viruses off other people’s systems safely

What should you do when someone hands you a computer, tells you they think it has a virus, and asks you to clean it?

Proceed carefully, that’s what. You don’t want to infect your other computers with whatever it has.

To get it gone safely and effectively, you really need two things: an antivirus live CD, and a spare router.
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Speeding up a sluggish HP Mini 110

My mom’s HP Mini 110 Atom-based netbook (with the factory 16GB SSD) was hesitating, a lot. Frankly it was really frustrating to use–it would freeze up for minutes on end, for no good reason. It was so slow, calling it “sluggish” was being kind. But it’s fixed now. I did six five things to it. Here’s how to speed up an HP Mini 110.

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Fix host hijacks or host file hijacks for free

Sometimes your antivirus will tell you that you have host hijacks or host file hijacks, but not elaborate on how to fix them. Some people charge way too much to fix them. Here’s how to fix host hijacks or host file hijacks for free.

A former classmate’s computer suddenly stopped letting him get to search engines. Aside from that, his computer appeared to be normal.

Fortunately he had some antivirus and antispyware software installed, so he was able to run it and get a relatively clean bill of health, but he still couldn’t use Google or Bing or Yahoo.

One of the pieces of software he ran mentioned a host hijack or hosts file hijack, but didn’t offer to clean it up without ponying up some serious bucks.

That was enough to tell me how to clean it up though. You don’t have to buy anything. Read more

Blocking malware at the operating system level

In recent months I’ve been recommending that everyone run Adblock Plus with the malware domains subscription, to get extra protection beyond what your antivirus/antispyware suite can give. Given a choice between detecting and blocking bad stuff, or not downloading it at all, it’s much better to not download it at all.

There are some downsides to this. Adblock Plus uses a fair bit of memory. It’s tolerable on my desktop PC with 2 GB of RAM, but less so on my netbook with 1 GB of RAM. And if you have to use a browser that doesn’t have a compatible version of Adblock Plus available, you’re unprotected.

The solution is to block at the operating system level, using the hosts file.

Here’s a script that does it, with instructions.
http://www.ericphelps.com/scripting/samples/Hosts/index.htm

But I know of one malware site list that his script doesn’t use: http://www.malwaredomainlist.com/hostslist/hosts.txt. Luckily, it’s not hard at all to add that. Open the file in Notepad or another text editor, go to line 21 and add the following on a new line:
& ” http://www.malwaredomainlist.com/hostslist/hosts.txt” _

Follow the author’s instructions for turning off the DNS client service if you run Windows 2000 or newer, then run the script to generate a mega-hosts file that will keep your PC from acknowledging the existence of the known bad guys. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Detecting and blocking malware is fine, but it’s much better–faster and safer is better, right?–to not even download the stuff in the first place.

The script explicitly works with Windows 98, NT, 2000, XP, and Vista. There’s no reason why it won’t work with Windows 7, and it might even work with Windows 95 (no guarantees though).