Computer and PC repair

Computer & PC Issues

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Make Vista A Little Less..... Vista.

First and foremost, it needs to be stated: "Vista is hungry."

Basically, what this means, is Vista wants your system resources. All of them. Every little piece, it'll make use of. While running Windows XP on 512MB of RAM was perfectly okay, Vista isn't even worth bothering with unless you have a minimum of 1G of RAM, and to be perfectly honest, If you're running Vista, and plan on using ANY program, I'd recommend 2G of RAM.

Well, beyond all that, I just wanted to compile a list of things that you users out there could do to make your Vista system a little more manageable:

1. Additional RAM: Like I said, Vista loves RAM, and will make good use of it. If you're running anything less than 1G of RAM, go buy some. It's not very expensive.
2. Use ReadyBoost: Vista has a great feature called ReadyBoost, which will effectively use your thumb/flash drive as additional RAM for your system.
3. Get a better video card: Most computers are still using their on-board graphics card, which forces the operating system to use more RAM for visuals processing. If you get a decent video card, it can take some of the strain of your system.
4. Turn off Indexing service: This service makes finding files on your PC alot easier, however, while the service is running, the PC can take a dive quickly. Turn it off.
5. Turn off Windows Sidebar: Also a very cool feature of Vista, however, not alot of users make use of it, even when it starts up silently. Turn it off if you're not using it.

It goes without saying that Windows Vista is a good operating system. Like anything good, though, if you're not willing to spend the time to maintain it, it will, of course, fall apart quicker if you don't.

If you'd like some help getting your Vista machine running better, don't hesitate to contact PCWatchdogs.com @ 1-903.689.3210. One of our USA-based technicians will be more than happy to help optimize your system, and get it running the way it should.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

TDSS Rootkit

I'm going to be very straight forward with this post, because I think that most of you who end up reading it will have probably searched for the title. If you're doing that, it means you probably have some reason to believe that you're infected with it.

Over the last few days, I've encountered a rootkit which has some very pesky attributes, and is immensely difficult to remove. Due to the sensitive nature of the infection, I don't believe it would be in the security world's best interests to lay out how I've been able to clean out this infection. Also, because each infection should be treated as its own case, and not thrown into a "cure-all" category.

I'll outline a few symptoms of this particular infection, and if you notice you're experiencing some of these things, I would HIGHLY recommend that you call PCWatchdogs.com @ 1-903.689.3210 so that one of our USA-based technicians can assist you in the removal of this highly dangerous infection.

Symptoms:
1. Antivirus/Antispyware software stops working altogether (it wont run when you click on it)
2. Your Google results are being hijacked (your search results come up fine, but when you click on a page to continue on, you never end up at the page you thought you would)
3. You can no longer access any security-related websites (i.e. - www.avg.com, www.malwarebytes.org, www.symantec.com, etc.)

To reiterate, this infections is VERY difficult to remove, and has the potential to compromise the security on your entire system. Please, if you find yourself experiencing the symptoms above, call PCWatchdogs.com @ 1-903.689.3210. The technicians there are highly knowledgeable about this particular infection, and can help you clean it out as soon as possible, and educate you to prevent this from occuring again.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Importance of Data Backup

If you've ever been in a situation in which you've almost completed an important project, only to have your computer spontaneously crash seconds before hitting the "save" button, you understand how frustrating losing your data can be.
Now, imagine losing all your important files - everything from business files, to family photos, to your tax returns - permanently. Although many of us prefer to adhere to the mantra of "it'll never happen to me", the truth is, it could. And as computers continue to become the principle way in which many people conduct important transactions, this type of thinking is becoming increasingly risky.
What's worse, the modern computer is ever more vulnerable to the imminent threats multiplying on the Internet - everything from adware, to spyware, to viruses. In fact, in 2003 alone, the number of computer viruses increased by 11%.
Do I Need to Backup All of my Computer Data?The short answer to this question is no, you do not need to back up all of the files on your computer. However, there are certain files you should definitely backup, so that in the event your computer decides it's time is up, you won't be at a total loss.

So just what files should you be backing up? Although the choice is ultimately a personal one, here are some suggestions:
Information and files relating to banking or other financial transactions
Digital photos
Purchased/downloaded music from the Internet
Purchased/downloaded software from the Internet
Important work/school projects
Email contact list
Internet browser bookmarks

Where is the Safest Place to Store My Important Computer Data?Depending on what backup software you use, some will limit the locations from which your data will be stored. For example, they may only backup data found in the following locations on your PC.
\My Documents and subdirectories on any drive, except for My Videos, My Pictures, and My Music
C:\Documents and settings and subdirectories
C:\Windows\favorites
Outlook Personal Folders (pst files)

For this reason, it is generally recommended that you store your most important files in your "My Documents" folder.Although our work, family, and social obligations often fill our days, the excuse of not having sufficient time to backup your computer is simply not a worthy one. With the backup software currently available (some for free) or even using a CD-RW, it has never been easier or faster to ensure your files are safe and secure.

If you need help with backing up your data, please call PCWatchdogs.com right away @ 1-903.689.3210, and one of our US-based technicians will be able to help you, and answer any questions or concerns you might have!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

DNSChanger and it's variants

I commonly deal with infected machines on a daily basis. There's really not much out there, at this point, that leaves me stumped, or takes me very long to remove. AntiVirus XP, AntiSpyware XP, and all those other little buggers are a piece of cake with the right tools, and the know-how. But nevermind all of that, this post deals specifically with an infection I've seen lately known as the DNSChanger. It has a few varients, like .h, and so forth, but most of that is pretty irrelevant.

I was dealing with a client very recently who had a variant of this infection, and this was the peskiest thing I had ever encountered. Well, that was until I figured out exactly what was going down, and why those registry keys just wouldn't seem to go away (I even copied over a new explorer.exe for goodness sakes!).

In this particular infection, the client had a WRT54G router, which is a very common router, as they tend to perform rather well, and they're not very expensive. He also had not changed his default username and password, which unfortunately is something that too many of us home network users do. We set WEP/WPA keys, sure, but what about securing the router itself?

In any case, the particular variant of his infection had actually parsed data thru to the router (mind you, it was probably only possible to do this because his logins were still factory default) and changed the DNS settings in the DHCP server (a feature built-in to the router, and commonly used) to some bad DNS addresses in the range of 82.255.xxx.xxx -- numbers blocked to avoid misuse -- 

I had never seen this before, and it made me realize that as become more efficient at removing these viruses and spyware as they come out, the coders and creators are just as efficient at creating new, and potentially more dangerous infections.

A few symptoms of this DNSChanger infection are as follows:
1) Searches redirect to other pages.
2) Antivirus/Antispyware software stops being able to update.

These 2 prominant features of DNSChanger make for a very frustrating user experience,  and can leave you open for more infections, which ultimately can end up comprimising your security, and your privacy.

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, please call PCWatchdogs.com right away @ 1-903.689.3210, and one of our US-based technicians will be able to clear this infection up for you, and answer any questions or concerns you might have!

Friday, October 24, 2008

AntiVirus Products

No, this is not a review. Let me just point that out, first and foremost. This is not a comparative list, either. This post will not tell you which antivirus is better than any other, nor will it tell you which antivirus to choose. This post is merely designed to educate. Ideally, this post will help you to identify legitimate antivirus products, and more importantly, help you to identify spyware/malware that masquerades as antivirus products.

Let me explain, a little deeper, perhaps? Flooding the market lately has been a plethora of antivirus products. That's what it seems like at the surface, at least. Last time I checked, which was within the last few days, "antivirus xp 2008" had somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.3 million searches for it on Google. That immediately tells me that LOTS of you out there have probably done this search yourselves. (I know I have!)

The problem here, of course, is that AntiVirus XP 2008, or 2009, IS NOT ACTUALLY ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE! It's malware. Spyware. Adware. Uck. There's too many of these varying terms, and it all pretty much boils down to one thing. It's not good for your computer, or your privacy.

So, without further delay, on to the list of legitimate antivirus software available on the market, as of today(in no particular order, and probably not complete):
1. Norton AntiVirus (also included in their other suites, such as Internet Security and 360)
2. McAfee AntiVirus (also included in their various suites)
3. NOD32
4. AVG
5. Kaspersky
6. Panda AntiVirus
7. BitDefender+

My initial intention was to also give you a list of antivirus softwares that were not legitimate, however... I've come to find that the list of various products that masquerade as legitimate cleaning software (antivirus, antispyware, etc) is too extensive, in fact, to even attempt to write.

Instead, I'll provide you with a few keys ways to determine if it's not legitimate.

1. No Contact Info on the website of the product.
2. Did you install it? (If it comes out of nowhere, or a 'new' icon in your system tray, near the clock, and tells you "YOURE INFECTED!" ... you are... by it.)
3. It makes popups and windows that look eerily similar to actual Windows ... windows.

For a better explanation of #3 in the list above, may I turn your attention to these images.
Image #1 (click here) is a screenshot of Antivirus XP 2008. 
Image #2 (click here) is a screenshot of the actual Windows Security Center.

Eerily similar.

If you're not sure, and you'd like some assistance, feel free to call PCWatchdogs.com at 1-903.689.3210. One of their USA-based technicians would be glad to lend a hand, and some expertise!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Automatic Updates

I've recently noticed an increase in a particular symptom that alot of users are experiencing. This particular symptom consists of Windows Security Center (the little red shield with the white X in the middle, down in your system tray) popping up and telling you that Automatic Updates is off.

Upon attempting to enable Automatic Updates, Security Center either does nothing, or tells you that it cannot make the change. Also, if you go to Automatic Updates through the Control Panel, it will tell you that it is on.

Now, I've noticed that sometimes this is just a conflict between Norton (also McAfee) Security Centers, and their ability to override Windows Security Center.

More often than not, however, this is a symptom of an infection, particularly of the Vundo-variant.

What this means to you is that you have a spyware/virus infection, and should have your system cleaned as soon as possible to prevent further infection. While there are many solid antivirus products on the market, it is impossible to put any particular one above any other. Also, it should be known that this particular infection can be quite difficult to remove, and you may want to consider some assistance from a professional.

If you are experiencing this symptom, and would like to have your computer scanned/cleaned, please don't hesitate to contact PCWatchdogs.com @ 1-903.689.3210, and a US-based technician will gladly assist you with cleaning out this pesky infection!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Basics

It's not uncommon to see various blog posts about, literally, ANY topic you could probably think of. Even in the computer-world blogs, sometimes the topics are so at random, you would probably never know if the post even applied to you, even a little bit.

Well, as we float around here on the internet, we all use a computer (excluding you SmartPhone users out there) to get to the internet. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people that simply neglect "The Basics", if you will, of computing in the Internet Age. I've compiled a list of things that I would consider to be "The Basics". If I happen to miss something obvious, please comment, and I will append the list ASAP.

1. Always have some kind of firewall running (even just Windows Firewall)
2. Never open e-mails or attachments from email addresses you don't recognize.
3. If you do open them, or download the attachments, SCAN them with your antivirus before opening them.
4. ALWAYS have some anti-virus software on your PC.
5. ALWAYS have some anti-spyware software on your PC.
6. Keep your software and operating system up-to-date by applying the latest patches and upgrades.

These 6 things can save you immense amounts of time, and possibly money, down the road if applied correctly, every time. They're all simple in nature, and easy to perform. It is more a matter of changing behaviors. If you make these 6 things a part of your everyday computing habits, your machine, and ultimately, your information, will be better off.

If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or if you need some assistance configuring your computer, do not hesitate to contact PCWatchdogs.com @ 1-903.689.3210, and one of our USA-based technicians will give you all the help you need!