Re: GET ME OUTTA THIS!!!!!
From: Shenan Stanley (news_helper_at_hushmail.com)
Date: Wed, 22 Sep 2004 13:40:17 -0500
> I have had this problem for weeks now and am about ready
> to pull out my hair! I am able to log on to the net and
> do general surfing but whenever I log on to My Yahoo or
> even MSN to check email, I get redirected to
> http://www.windowws.cc/hp.htm?id=80 which looks to me
> like a worthless search engine. It also changes my
> homepage to this site and will not let me change it back.
> I have run AdAware, SpybotS&D, and but whatever this
> thing is, it's still there.
You ran two of the best Anti-Malware apps out there (IMHO) - but there are
several more you should use. Although AdAware and Spybot S&D are great -
they do not cover all the bases needed to not only clean yourself of the
malware you have, but prevent re-infestation.
*WARNING* This is a LONG spill, all in plain text and simplified so that
even non-techs should be able to understand it. Hopefully this will
assist some people in not only repairing their systems, but in making
them faster and more stable tools for them to use. It contains advice
on many things, many considered "common knowledge" to 'IT' people
everywhere. It is split into major sections, hopefully this will make
it easier to navigate. *WARNING*
If you don't wish to follow all of the advice immediately, just want to
get rid of your current dilemma, then you are welcome to scroll down to
the section titled
"SPYWARE/ADWARE/POPUPS/HIJACKS", where your problem as
stated should be resolved by the applications and suggestions found in
that section. If this helps solve your problem then I again HIGHLY
suggest you follow the rest of the advice below (matter of fact, I
suggest it either way.)
Suggestions on what you can do to secure/clean your PC. Every attempt
has been made to be general and an assumption of a "Windows" operating
system is made here as well - although in some ways, this could be
adapted to any OS.
GENERAL UPKEEP AND CLEANUP
You should periodically defragment your hard drives as well as check them
How to Defragment your hard drives
How to scan your disks for errors
How to use Disk Cleanup
You should also empty your Internet Explorer Temporary Internet
Files and make sure the maximum size for this is small enough not to cause
trouble in the future. Empty your Temporary Internet Files and shrink the
size it stores to a size between 120MB and 480MB..
- Open ONE copy of Internet Explorer.
- Select TOOLS -> Internet Options.
- Under the General tab in the "Temporary Internet Files" section, do the
- Click on "Delete Cookies" (click OK)
- Click on "Settings" and change the "Amount of disk space to use:" to
something between 120MB and 480MB. (Betting it is MUCH larger right
- Click OK.
- Click on "Delete Files" and select to "Delete all offline contents"
(the checkbox) and click OK. (If you had a LOT, this could take 2-10
minutes or more.)
- Once it is done, click OK, close Internet Explorer, re-open Internet
Uninstall any software you no longer use or cannot remember installing
(ask if it is a multi-user PC) - but only if you are sure you do not
need it and/or you have the installation media around to reinstall if
you need to. http://snipurl.com/8v6b may help you accomplish this.
If things are running a bit slow or you have an older system
(1.5GHz or less and 256MB RAM or less) then you may want to look into
tweaking the performance a bit by turning off some of the memory
using Windows XP "prettifications". The fastest method is:
Control Panel --> System --> Advanced tab --> Performance section,
Settings button. Then choose "adjust for best performance" and you
now have a Windows 2000/98 look which turned off many of the annoying
"prettifications" in one swift action. You can play with the last
three checkboxes to get more of an XP look without many of the
other annoyances. You could also grab and install/mess with one
(or more) of the Microsoft Powertoys - TweakUI in particular:
You should also verify that your System Restore feature is enabled and
working properly. Unfortunately, if seems to have issues on occasion,
ones that can easily be avoided by turning off/on the system restore and
make a manual restoration point as one of your periodic maintenance tasks.
This is particularly important right before installing something major
(or even minor if you are unsure what it might do to your system.)
(This, of course, will erase any previous restore point you have.)
Turn off System Restore.
Turn on System Restore.
Make a Manual Restoration Point.
Also, you should look into backing up your valuable files and folders.
And keep your original installation media (CDs, disks) safe with their
CD keys and such. Make backups of these installation media sets as
well and always use strong passwords. Good passwords are those that
meet these general rules (mileage may vary):
Passwords should contain at least six characters, and the character
string should contain at least three of these four character types:
- uppercase letters
- lowercase letters
- nonalphanumeric characters (e.g., *, %, &, !)
Passwords should not contain your name/logon name.
UPDATES and PATCHES
** Side Note: *IF* you are about to install Service Pack 2 (SP2) for
Windows XP, I suggest you clean up your system first. Uninstall any
applications you do not use. Update any that you do. Download the
latest drivers for your hardware devices. Defragment and run a full
CHKDSK on your hard drives. Scan your system and clean it of any
Spyware/Adware/Malware and for Viruses and Trojans. Below you will
find advice and links to applications that will help you do all of
this. If this advice helps you, please - pass it on. Print it,
email it, forward it to anyone you think it might help. A little
knowledge might help prevent lots of trouble.
This one is the most obvious. There is no perfect product and any company
worth their salt will try to meet/exceed the needs of their customers and
fix any problems they find along the way. I am not going to say Microsoft
is the best company in the world about this but they do have an option
available for you to use to keep your machine updated and patched from
the problems and vulnerabilities (as well as product improvements in some
cases) - and it's free to you.
Go there and scan your machine for updates. Always get the critical ones as
you see them. Write down the KB###### or Q###### you see when
selecting the updates and if you have trouble over the next few days,
go into your control panel (Add/Remove Programs), match up the latest
numbers you downloaded recently (since you started noticing an issue) and
uninstall them. If there was more than one (usually is), install them back
one by one - with a few hours of use in between, to see if the problem
returns. Yes - the process is not perfect (updating) and can cause trouble
like I mentioned - but as you can see, the solution isn't that bad - and is
MUCH better than the alternatives.
Windows is not the only product you likely have on your PC. The
manufacturers of the other products usually have updates as well. New
versions of almost everything come out all the time - some are free, some
are pay - some you can only download if you are registered - but it is best
to check. Just go to their web pages and look under their support and
download sections. For example, for Microsoft Office update, you should
Microsoft Office Updates
(and select "downloads")
You also have hardware on your machine that requires drivers to interface
with the operating system. You have a video card that allows you to see on
your screen, a sound card that allows you to hear your PCs sound output and
so on. Visit those manufacturer web sites for the latest downloadable
drivers for your hardware/operating system. Always (IMO) get the
manufacturers hardware driver over any Microsoft offers. On the Windows
Update site I mentioned earlier, I suggest NOT getting their hardware
drivers - no matter how tempting. First - how do you know what hardware
you have in your computer? Invoice or if it is up and working now - take
Once you know what you have, what next? Go get the latest driver for your
hardware/OS from the manufacturer's web page. For example, let's say you
have an NVidia chipset video card or ATI video card, perhaps a Creative
Labs sound card or C-Media chipset sound card...
NVidia Video Card Drivers
ATI Video Card Drivers
Creative Labs Sound Device
C-Media Sound Device
As for Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Windows XP, Microsoft has made this
particular patch available in a number of ways. First, there is the
Windows Update web page above. Then there is a direct download site
and finally, you can order the FREE CD from Microsoft.
Direct Download of Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Windows XP
Order the Free Windows XP SP2 CD
Microsoft also have a bunch of suggestions, some similar to these,
on how to better protect your Windows system:
Protect your PC
Let's say you are up-to-date on the OS (operating system) and you have
Windows XP.. You should at least turn on the built in firewall. That will
do a lot to "hide" you from the random bad things flying around the
Internet. Things like Sasser/Blaster enjoy just sitting out there in
Cyberspace looking for an unprotected Windows Operating System and jumping
on it, doing great damage in the process and then using that Unprotected OS
to continue its dirty work of infecting others. If you have the Windows XP
FW turned on - default configuration - then they cannot see you! Think of
it as Internet Stealth Mode at this point. It has other advantages, like
actually locking the doors you didn't even (likely) know you had. Doing
this is simple, some helpful tips for the SP2 enabled firewall can be found
If you read through that and look through the pages that are linked from it
throughout - I think you should have a firm grasp on the basics of the
Windows XP Firewall as it is today. One thing to note RIGHT NOW - if you
have AOL, you cannot use this nice firewall that came with your system.
Thank AOL, not Microsoft. You HAVE to configure another one.. So we
continue with our session on Firewalls...
But let's say you DON'T have Windows XP - you have some other OS like
Windows 95, 98, 98SE, ME, NT, 2000. Well, you don't have the nifty built in
firewall. My suggestion - upgrade. My next suggestion - look through your
options. There are lots of free and pay firewalls out there for home users.
Yes - you will have to decide on your own which to get. Yes, you will have
to learn (oh no!) to use these firewalls and configure them so they don't
interfere with what you want to do while continuing to provide the security
you desire. It's just like anything else you want to protect - you have to
do something to protect it. Here are some suggested applications. A lot of
people tout "ZoneAlarm" as being the best alternative to just using the
Windows XP FW, but truthfully - any of these alternatives are much better
than the Windows XP FW at what they do - because that is ALL they do.
ZoneAlarm (Free and up)
Kerio Personal Firewall (KPF) (Free and up)
Outpost Firewall from Agnitum (Free and up)
Sygate Personal Firewall (Free and up)
Symantec's Norton Personal Firewall (~$25 and up)
BlackICE PC Protection ($39.95 and up)
Tiny Personal Firewall (~$49.00 and up)
That list is not complete, but they are good firewall options, every one of
them. Visit the web pages, read up, ask around if you like - make a
decision and go with some firewall, any firewall. Also, maintain it.
Sometimes new holes are discovered in even the best of these products and
patches are released from the company to remedy this problem. However, if
you don't get the patches (check the manufacturer web page on occasion),
then you may never know you have the problem and/or are being used through
this weakness. Also, don't stack these things. Running more than one
firewall will not make you safer - it would likely (in fact) negate some
protection you gleamed from one or the other firewalls you run.
That's not all. That's one facet of a secure PC, but firewalls don't do
everything. I saw one person posting on a newsgroup that "they had
never had a virus and they never run any anti-virus software." Yep - I used
to believe that way too - viruses were something everyone else seemed to
get, were they just careless? And for the average joe-user who is careful,
uses their one to three family computers carefully, never opening unknown
email attachments, always visiting the same family safe web sites, never
installing anything that did not come with their computer - maybe, just
maybe they will never witness a virus. I, however, am a Network Systems
Administrator. I see that AntiVirus software is an absolute necessity given
how most people see their computer as a toy/tool and not something
they should have to maintain and upkeep. After all, they were invented to
make life easier, right - not add another task to your day. You
can be as careful as you want - will the next person be as careful? Will
someone send you unknowingly the email that erases all the pictures of your
child/childhood? Possibly - why take the chance? ALWAYS RUN ANTIVIRUS
SOFTWARE and KEEP IT UP TO DATE! Antivirus software comes in so many
flavors, it's like walking into a Jelly Belly store - which one tastes like
what?! Well, here are a few choices for you. Some of these are free (isn't
that nice?) and some are not. Is one better than the other - MAYBE.
Symantec (Norton) AntiVirus (~$11 and up)
Kaspersky Anti-Virus (~$49.95 and up)
AVG 6.0 Anti-Virus System (Free and up)
McAfee VirusScan (~$11 and up)
AntiVir (Free and up)
avast! 4 (Free and up)
Trend Micro (~$49.95 and up)
(Free Online Scanner:
RAV AntiVirus Online Virus Scan (Free!)
Did I mention you have to not only install this software, but also keep it
updated? You do. Some of them (most) have automatic services to help you
do this - I mean, it's not your job to keep up with the half-dozen or more
new threats that come out daily, is it? Be sure to keep whichever one you
choose up to date!
So you must be thinking that the above two things got your back now - you
are covered, safe and secure in your little fox hole. Wrong! There are
more bad guys out there. There are annoyances out there you can get without
trying. Your normal web surfing, maybe a wrong click on a web page, maybe
just a momentary lack of judgment by installing some software packages
without doing the research.. And all of a sudden your screen starts filling
up with advertisements or your Internet seems much slower or your home page
won't stay what you set it and goes someplace unfamiliar to you. This is
spyware. There are a whole SLEW of software packages out there to get rid
of this crud and help prevent reinfection. Some of the products already
mentioned might even have branched out into this arena. However, there are
a few applications that seem to be the best at what they do, which is
eradicating and immunizing your system from this crap. Strangely, the best
products I have found in this category ARE generally free. That is a trend
I like. I make donations to some of them, they deserve it!
Two side-notes: Never think one of these can do the whole job.
Try the first 5 before coming back and saying "That did not work!"
Also, you can always visit:
For more updated information.
Spybot Search and Destroy (Free!)
Lavasoft AdAware (Free and up)
** No longer updated as of July 29, 2004 - however, still a great
product and should still be ran **
Bazooka Adware and Spyware Scanner (Free!)
Browser Security Tests
The Cleaner (49.95 and up)
That will clean up your machine of the spyware, given that you download and
install several of them, update them regularly and scan with them when you
update. Some (like SpywareBlaster and SpyBot Search and Destroy and
have/are immunization utilities that will help you prevent your PC from
infected. Use these features!
Unfortunately, although that will lessen your popups on the Internet/while
you are online, it won't eliminate them. I have looked at a lot of options,
seen a lot of them used in production with people who seem to attract popups
like a plague, and I only have one suggestion that end up serving double
duty (search engine and popup stopper in one):
The Google Toolbar (Free!)
Yeah - it adds a bar to your Internet Explorer - but its a useful one. You
can search from there anytime with one of the best search engines on the
planet (IMO.) And the fact it stops most popups - wow - BONUS! If you
don't like that suggestion, then I am just going to say you go to
www.google.com and search for other options. Please notice that Windows XP
SP2 does help stop popups as well. Another option is to use an alternative
Web browser. I suggest "Mozilla Firefox", as it has some great features
and is very easy to use:
One more suggestion, although I will suggest this in a way later, is to
disable your Windows Messenger service. This service is not used frequently
(if at all) by the normal home user and in cooperation with a good firewall,
is generally unnecessary. Microsoft has instructions on how to do this for
Windows XP here:
SPAM EMAIL/JUNK MAIL
This one can get annoying, just like the rest. You get 50 emails in one
sitting and 2 of them you wanted. NICE! (Not.) What can you do? Well,
although there are services out there to help you, some email
servers/services that actually do lower your spam with features built into
their servers - I still like the methods that let you be the end-decision
maker on what is spam and what isn't. If these things worked perfectly, we
wouldn't need people and then there would be no spam anyway - vicious
circle, eh? Anyway - I have two products to suggest to you, look at them
and see if either of them suite your needs. Again, if they don't, Google is
free and available for your perusal.
As I said, those are not your only options, but are reliable ones I have
seen function for hundreds+ people.
DISABLE (Set to Manual) UNUSED SERVICE/STARTUP APPS
I might get arguments on putting this one here, but it's my spill. There are
lots of services on your PC that are probably turned on by default you don't
use. Why have them on? Check out these web pages to see what all of the
services you might find on your computer are and set them according to your
personal needs. Be CAREFUL what you set to manual, and take heed and write
down as you change things! Also, don't expect a large performance increase
or anything - especially on today's 2+ GHz machines, however - I look at
service you set to manual as one less service you have to worry about
someone exploiting. A year ago, I would have thought the Windows Messenger
service to be pretty safe, now I recommend (with addition of a firewall)
that most home users disable it! Yeah - this is another one you have to
work for, but your computer may speed up and/or be more secure because you
took the time. And if you document what you do as you do it, next time, it
goes MUCH faster! (or if you have to go back and re-enable things..)
Task List Programs
Black Viper's Service List and Opinions (XP)
Processes in Windows NT/2000/XP
There are also applications that AREN'T services that startup when you start
up the computer/logon. One of the better description on how to handle these
I have found here:
That's it. A small booklet on how to keep your computer secure, clean of
scum and more user friendly. I am SURE I missed something, almost as I am
sure you won't read all of it (anyone for that matter.) However, I also
know that someone who followed all of the advice above would also have less
problems with their PC, less problems with viruses, less problems with spam,
fewer problems with spyware and better performance than someone who didn't.
Hope it helps.
-- <- Shenan -> -- The information is provided "as is", it is suggested you research for yourself before you take any advice - you are the one ultimately responsible for your actions/problems/solutions. Know what you are getting into before you jump in with both feet.