Malware doesn’t usually sit idly on a computer; it will run as a background process behind windows where you cant see it. From there, it can monitor your activity and start throwing pop-ups. The first place to check to see if you have malware is through the Task Manager.

If you aren’t familiar with the Task Manager, it is one of the most powerful utilities Windows has to offer. You can access it by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc or by right clicking on the task bar and selecting “Task Manager”.

Once there, you will have all of your system’s applications, services and processes (they are different) at your fingertips. The Applications tab shows you currently running programs that you can see ie. Microsoft Word, Google Chrome etc. The Processes tab shows you all of the software that your computer is using in the background of your Applications. This is where you want to look.

From here, you can see the Process ID, Memory Usage, CPU Usage and a description of the process itself. You can sort by these  values to either list the processes alphabetically or by the amount of resources used. I find it most useful to sort by Memory Usage if your computer is running slowly.

Most processes developed by reputable manufacturers will have a full, and ‘well written’ description that succinctly describes the process’ function. Your first cause for concern is a process without a description or one that is extremely limited. Note, sometimes a valid and reputable process wont have a description. Now its time to Google it! Simply search for the name of the process in question and you will no doubt find dozens of websites that carefully evaluate the process’ reputation.

Lets say that you see a process running called “Hijack.exe”. It has no publisher information and its description is also empty. Upon searching for Hijack.exe you find that thousands of people have identified this as malware. What do you do from here?

First off, end the process. Simply select it and click End Process/End Task. From there, you should run an antivirus scan. If, somehow, your antivirus doesn’t detect it you should open up a Run Dialog with Win+R and type in MSCONFIG.EXE and press enter. Once there, navigate to startup items and make sure that Hijack.exe is not listed in your startup items. (On Windows 8, Startup Items is also in your Task Manager).

Next, restart your computer and get yourself some new antivirus!

Task Manager is an extremely powerful tool that should be used with caution. Some processes are critical to windows functionality and stopping them can lead to the dreaded BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH. Google is your friend, and so is the task manager. Become familiar with your normal process IDs so that you can immediately identify a suspicious/malicious one.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment or give us a call at the office! =)

 

The most common complaint of any computer user is that their system is “too slow!” We, at netEffx, would like to provide some suggestions to speed up your older computers.

First of all, any utility on the web that purports to “Speed up your PC” is lying and will likely give you a virus. Almost all the tools you need to speed up your computer are already on it.

  • Startup Items
    • Problem: When you start up your computer, Windows will look at the list of “startup items” and attempt to launch them all before letting you do anything. This could cause extremely long boot up times and can bog down a system for as few as 30 seconds to as long as 30 minutes.
    • Solution: Simultaneously press the Windows Key + R to bring up the “Run Window” Then type in msconfig and click ‘run’. Next, go to the Startup tab. Go through the list of items and place a check in the box next to the items you do not wish to start up with your computer. This comes with a great deal of discretion on your part. By disabling on startup, you are not removing the software, you can start it whenvever you want. It will simply not be automatically started for you. NOTE: some of these items are very important for proper functionality of Windows. Do not disable any items that are published by Intel, Microsoft, Synaptic, Realtek, or your Antivirus provider. 
  • Disk Space
    • Problem: Windows uses your free disk space as a ‘speed booster’ when that space is used up, Windows will have less to work with and as such, your computer’s responsiveness will suffer.
    • Solution: Open My Computer (Windows 7) / Explorer (Windows 7&8) and right click on your primary drive–usually the C: Drive. Then click “Properties”. You will see a lot of technical information and a pie chart. Next to that Pie Chart will be a button that says Disk Cleanup. Click on that. You can safely check all the boxes and then click Ok. This will delete the temporary information that Windows has held on to and empty the Recycle Bin.
    • Additionally, its a good idea to go through your computer and clear it out from time to time. Empty out your Downloads Folder; delete unnecessary files and folders; uninstall programs that you no longer need or use.
  • Registry
    • Problem: Windows keeps track of all of its programs, functions, settings and features in its Registry. Imagine it to be a big instruction book. When you get your computer for the first time, that instruction book may only be 10 pages long. After 4-5 years, that instruction book will be the size of an ancient tome. Forcing Windows to look through such a big ‘book’ is going to slow it down.
    • Solution: Go online and download the utility CCleaner. *I know I already told you not to use the internet but CCleaner is one of the most useful utilities available and is worth having on your computer.* Once it downloads, run the installer and start up the program. The free version has slightly less features but will serve the required purpose. On the left side you will see options for Cleaner and Registry. Cleaner will do essentially what Disk Cleanup did. Click on Registry then click “Scan for Issues” and let it Scan. Once finished, click “Fix selected issues…” It will prompt you to Backup Changes to the registry, click YES and save to desktop. Once it finishes clearing, scan again and fix again. You don’t have to back up your registry again. Repeat until no issues are found.
  • Malware
    • Problem: Malware can do terrible things to your machine if left unchecked.
    • Solution: Go online (again) and download the free version of MalwareBytes. When you install, uncheck “Free Trial of Malwarebytes Premium”. (If you leave it checked, it will relentlessly remind you to purchase the upgrade.) Once it installs, run a Custom Scan on your hard drive. Be sure to check “Scan for Rootkits” on the left side. This is a lengthy process and can be left alone while it runs. You can continue work as usual. Once it finishes, click “Apply Actions” and reboot once it finishes cleaning. It never hurts to run a second scan after rebooting!
  • Antivirus
    • Problem: Antivirus can (ironically enough) be extremely invasive and slow down your computer more than malware!
    • Solution:  If you have, Norton Antivirus, AVG Antivirus, Kaspersky Antivirus or McAfee Antivirus, uninstall them and replace with a light weight alternative. These include Webroot, Malwarebytes or Avast*. Make sure that you cancel whatever subscription you may be paying for so that you don’t get billed. *Note Avast can be light weight and was the best in the recent past but has lately gotten more cumbersome.

Be advised that there is an inherit risk in modifying/deleting system files. Please use caution when performing any of these maintenance procedures. The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only. We make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the content on this website.