Spyware was grinding this PC to a screeching halt. I’d click on an icon, and the program never appeared. Or maybe it would finally appear 15 minutes later. And once I finally got a browser window open, it was so slow, I could pretty much forget about downloading any tools to fix it.

What to do?I hit CTRL-ALT-DEL. There was all sorts of stuff in the task list. (This was a Windows 98 computer.) I followed the same rule that I once heard in a movie. Desperado, I think it was. The crime boss said something like this: “How tough can it be? Go around town. Don’t recognize someone? Shoot him.”

So if I didn’t recognize a task, I closed it. In the end, nothing but Explorer.exe and Systray.exe were left running.

The result? When I clicked on icons, programs ran!

I then ran the usual battery of tools: Bazooka, Spybot Search & Destroy, Ad-Aware, then Bazooka again (I have Bazooka scan to give me a quick overview of how bad it is, since it finishes in seconds, then run the others, then run Bazooka again since Bazooka only assists you in removing stuff, but doesn’t actually do it).

Then for good measure, I ran AVERT Stinger, which removes common trojan horses.

No trojan horses, but he had just over 200 different spyware infections. He asked how he could prevent them in the future. I showed him how to use the tools.

Then I installed Mozilla Firefox. I explained to him that it doesn’t have the hooks into the OS that Internet Explorer has, so if a website tries to maliciously install spyware when he visits, the chances are much lower. And since it blocks the popups, his chances of accidentally visiting those kinds of slimeball places drop. Then I showed him the tabbed browsing feature, and the built-in Google search bar. He dug it. I think Mozilla may have gained a convert.

This job took me a while. I cut him a break on my hourly rate, since he’s referred people to me in the past. And besides, he let me see his old S gauge American Flyer train, still in its original box. Letting me spend five minutes with something cool like that is always good for a discount.