What to do when a PC is too bogged down in spyware to run the tools

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.

4 thoughts on “What to do when a PC is too bogged down in spyware to run the tools

  • August 7, 2004 at 2:30 pm
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    What is a good hourly rate to charge? How much does someone charge who does this for a living? How much should someone charge who does it as a hobby and wants to help people out but not be taken advantage of? Should you charge family, friends?

  • August 16, 2004 at 9:57 pm
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    Don’t forget the Hijack This! program. It detects and cleans a bunch of the CoolWebSearch variants that neither SpyBot nor Ad-Aware would detect.

  • August 17, 2004 at 2:31 am
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    This is seldom an easy question and depends on a lot of factors. Most of us know that if you work free or cheap you will be up to your eyelids in family you wouldn’t otherwise see and have friends you never knew you had. What is your time worth? Your free time? Your otherwise off days? Or what if you were working a part time job instead?

    I have a pretty good family and friends discount but they go into the queue. After working on computers all day if I don’t feel like working all night I don’t. Same on weekends. My minimum charge on these occasions is a decent dinner for me and the wife. Fifty bucks. If the problem is more involved, make it two dinners. If after chewing a majority chunk of my otherwise happy day you still want that multifunction printer, scanner, copier, fax that never did work right made fully functional and tested, we’re up to three dinners and a movie. Beyond that make an appointment and pay the day rate. There are exceptions of course but that’s my general outline.

    I used to be a field engineer for a large company. Twenty four hundred a day, half day minimum plus expenses kept my bag packed and passport at the ready. That was the charge for my services which I got a good part of. Now I’m freelance in the small to medium business world working locally and my services are worth nowhere near that. So it becomes what the market will bear for the job that you do.

    But also take the time to consider this. You could get a job making $12 and hour driving a fork truck forty hours a week for an annual income of about $24K. Considering what we are required to know in doing what we do, I’d like to think that we are worth substantially more than that but lets use that as a starting point anyway. Heck, living in a double wide eating bologna ain’t all that bad is it?

    Your self employed which means you have to take care of all tax requirements plus provide yourself with insurance, medical, dental, liability etc., plus make installments into your retirement fund plus social security and so on. Take your $12 and hour and double it. Now I consider getting four hours a day out the door billable on average to be about right. All things considered this is a pretty good number in practice for you can spend a lot of time attending to business that is not billable hours. Since your productive billable time is about half, double your rate again keeping in mind our target is that magic 24K per year. So where are we now?

    $48/hr eating bologna in our double wide with twice the headache and ten times the stress of that fork truck driver.

    Sure I just glossed over a whole lot of other important stuff but hopefully you see the trend. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go because they couldn’t sustain a minimum required income level trying to work cheap, being unrealistic about billable time and not factoring overhead. And there is a world of difference between making a few extra bucks on the side versus being in business.

    This is the general rule of thumb I use considering what I think my time is worth as skilled labor considering my client base and is set at about half of what I would expect to be making if business was doing exceedingly well. In other words I can survive on half of exceedingly well. To do better than that I have a few choices. One being to become more efficient in doing what I do and another is to upgrade my client base where my services have higher value. I strive to accomplish both. Working more hours is a young mans game, I am no longer young and besides I have other interests outside my job. Other people get to knock off at the end of the day and so do I, difference being I get to set my schedule.

    At any rate that’s how I go about settings rates. Now if only I’d stick closer to them instead of charging according to circumstance which tends to make mockery out of the whole charade. I mean if an employee screws up a computer and it takes six hours to get it back into the land of the living it is not hard to bill that one out. It’s the cost of business. But if a single mom drops over with an inebriated Gateway that her kids got drunk on Kazaa and that takes six hours worth of rehab does she get to pay more than the value of the computer? She’ll have to put in three weeks of overtime to pay the reduced bill and it’s still charity work. Fair? No. We do it anyway.

  • August 17, 2004 at 9:53 am
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    I think I agree with every single word Robert said in response. He’s definitely thought this through.

    I know someone here in St. Louis who charges $35 an hour. That’s too little. I’m willing to charge that IF the person drops the computer off and is willing to wait up to two weeks, or if it’s a friend who’s referred a lot of business to me. Most of the time, I need to charge $50-$70. $70 is better. I’m more likely to charge $70/hour if it’s a rush job on short notice. It’s a judgment call.

    The last time someone came out to fix my heater, I paid $75 an hour. I think my plumber charges that too. Professional services aren’t cheap.

    And here’s a potentially sticky situation to consider: If, say, the hard drive crashes while you’re working on it, you’re probably going to be blamed for it and you’re really better off replacing the drive than you are fighting it. You need to put enough cushion in your rates that you can afford to do that if something really bad happens. You don’t want a lawsuit and you really don’t want the damage to your reputation.

    As far as charging family, it’s a judgment call. If it’s a family member who’s done you a lot of favors, don’t. I guess a good barometer would be this: If it would be fair to charge that family member for mowing the lawn, it’s fair to charge for fixing the computer.

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