Where To Turn When Malware Strikes Your PC

By | May 7, 2006

Edition #46 – 5/07/2006

Earlier this week my computer caught some nasty viruses. It was actually my fault, but it was a mistake anyone could make.

I went to download some software from what *looked* like a clean site. When I clicked to download, it asked me to install an ActiveX control. Since this is a pretty normal occurance, I said “yes”. My Norton antivirus popped up saying it was unable to block a trojan, and about 5 seconds later the trojans were working like crazy to infect my entire computer as fast as they could.

I immediately unplugged my internet connection and disconnected my external hard drive to make sure the virus couldn’t get to my backup.

Admittedly, I had turned off the Windows System Restore function (it was slowing down my PC), so my two options were to restore the backup from the external drive, or to fight the infections.

Having been in the web hosting business, I learned that backups are not 100% reliable, and should be restored only as a last resort. I also didn’t like the thought of losing everything I had worked on since the last backup.

So I decided to fight it head on. Unfortunately, the trojans had installed all sorts of adware, spyware, malware…the works! This was no small infection.

I had to keep rebooting just to do anything, and when I accessed the internet I had to close pop-ups every 2 seconds. So I did what most people probably do in this situation… In a frenzy I bought the first thing that promised it could help me. Then when it didn’t help me, I bought something else…

This is why I’m writing to you today. I want you to avoid the mistakes I made, and go directly to what’s going to help you.

Now before you read another word, I want to make something clear. I am not selling or advertising ANYTHING today. I know for a fact that if I told my readers to buy something that would protect and/or fix their computers, hundreds would buy it.

That’s not what this is about. It’s about pointing you in the right direction so you know where to go if this kind of thing ever happens to you.

First of all, let’s talk about what NOT to do.

Don’t go buying all sorts of stuff like I did. It probably won’t help, so you don’t need to buy it. I bought an anti-malware program, which deleted a bunch of spyware, but it wasn’t able to fix the bad stuff, and I learned later I could have used something better for free.

I also bought a task manager program called WinTasks Pro, because it promised to help me regain control of my computer. While it’s not designed to remove any infections, it really did help me block a few of their processes which in turn allowed me to more easily work on fighting them.

Again, I’m not here to scare you into buying anything today, so if you want to check it out they have a free trial download.

In case you’re interested, I used the “block list” to block certain processes by name, and I set it so that I had to confirm or deny all new processes as they started.

Next I went in search of some real help. I came across a bunch more sites trying to exploit my vulnerable emotions with software scams. If you want to see a ridiculously long list of spyware removal scams, check out this page:


And then…FINALLY…

I found a heaven-sent site amidst the chaos.

Please take a moment to write down or print out this next section, so you’ve got it when you need it…

It’s called Geeks to Go, and they provide 100% free computer help! I have absolutely no affiliation with them, and they have no idea I’m giving them a pitch, but I’ve got to tell you they’re the real deal because they helped me.

It’s volunteer-driven, so I’m sure some helpers are better than others, but I’ll tell you the guy who helped me was a genius.

You can reach the site at:


If you need help with an infection, then the first place you need to go on their forum is here.

It’s a list of steps you need to take BEFORE getting help from them. What you’ll find is a goldmine of 100% free tools and step-by-step directions to fixing your PC.

I would give links to all of those tools here in my newsletter, but there’s a method to their madness and it’s important that you do the steps IN ORDER.

As their site says,

“Please remember, people are helping you for FREE. Be patient, somebody will help you as soon as they become available. We all have REAL jobs, families, have other interests, and may live half way around the world. Plus, there may be people in front of you waiting for help. Following these steps will lighten our work load, and allow us to help more members.”

Make sure you are very polite, and thank them each time they respond. Most of the volunteers have a Paypal donation button available. If you want to get quicker service, you could try what I did… send a PM (personal message via the forum) to the volunteer who is helping you and let him/her know you’ll give him a tip if you get your problem fixed.

I gave a $25 tip because it sure beats calling in a clueless $100/hour local repair guy, but I’m sure most of those volunteers would be thrilled with $5 or anything for that matter.

To make a long story short, they helped me kill the infections systematically, using totally free tools. There’s absolutely no way I would have figured it out on my own.

What to do once you’re clean

First of all, it’s good to have a backup. You can find external backup drives online or in your local store. If you’re interested in what I’ve got, I did a blog entry about it back in January.

Then of course you need a good antivirus program. I used to use Norton, but my viruses fried it to the point it could no longer validate, so now I’m trying something called AVG. I’ve found it’s a bit less resource intensive than Norton anyway. They actually have a free version for home users, but I upgraded to Pro since I admittedly use my computer for business purposes (plus it was only like $38 for 2 years).

You can also find a ton of other tips on Geeks to Go’s forum for securing your PC. Stuff like securing your browser, using a firewall, and free adware/spyware blockers.

I’d list it all here, but I’m really not the expert…they are. The important thing for you to take away from this is that you should be prepared, and have a plan of action if disaster strikes your PC so you don’t go wasting a bunch of money on useless programs.

If you’ve got any good resource links, stories, comments, or warnings feel free to post them here in the blog.

Have a great day!

80 thoughts on “Where To Turn When Malware Strikes Your PC

  1. Hans

    I am very thankful for your astute report to us suckers out here. I have now the policy of backing up before I download anything. and have the switch to my backup drive on off. i turn it on when needed and keep it off when not.


  2. Daniel Tetreault


    Awesome! That’s all I can say about this tip. Thanks so much for all your work on this troubling issues. I really appreciate your honesty.



  3. Patricia Hagaman

    Avast 4.7 might be slow to open email but boy does it catch things quickly and then, click… there gone. I caught a trojan in a well know persons website it came in the download link. They did not even catch it. Thank you Eric for your honesty, and integrity.

  4. Joselito Mendoza

    Thanks a lot Eric for reminding us. I am also fond of downloading things from Internet. Yes, I also suffer the same consequences getting free software with virus attached in it. Surely, Internet is a big business. Bill Gates once told in his Bibliography, that he’s dream of having computer for each home is fast becoming a reality here in the Philippines. Here everything is expensive from Electricity to Computer Hardware to Internet Connection. I did not use my computer for my own sake, I used it to learn and earn an honest income. Of course, it will take me along time to have this dream of mine but if I will stop, then I will not neither have it tomorrow isn’t it? Eric, you’re a nice guy and I hope you continue sharing those stuff to newbie like me. I don’t have money to pay all your information and ideas you share with us, what I have is a prayer asking God to give you more wisdom and health so that you can continue your work in the future. A big thanks.

  5. Tim

    OR…you could simply get a Mac and be done with all of those headaches, antivirus downloads, troubleshooting, and general silliness. Choose to be more productive and creative. Next time, choose a Mac. No better time like today, when the world’s best operating system (OSX Leopard) will be released tonight!

  6. Sharon

    Hi Eric–
    Thanks for your recommendation for Geeks to Go–I have bookmarked this site as a favorite now. It is always good to have insurance!
    I am very new to the internet world, and have lately been exploring the world of online marketing. True to newbie form, I have downloaded a lot of stuff, (but have yet to open most of it) and a lot of it is in zip files. I am trying to learn how to scan single files for viruses, etc. before I open them because I don’t want to kill an already cranky computer. Plus I am trying to distinguish between legitimate opportunities for online w.e.a.l.t.h and ones that are something else entirely. Lots to learn!
    I do have a technical question, if anyone can help. My browser is often freezing up on my home page. I have run Spyware, etc. and everything comes up clean, but the problem is persisting. I was told upgrading the (malfunctionong) graphics card will help the problem and was wondering if there were other solutions as well, as my budget is stretched rather thin at the moment. Thanks!

  7. Charles

    I to have had trouble with Viruses, Trojans and such. I have tried the free versions and they are good. But I prefer the entire Internet Security Suite that includes Firewall, AntiVirus, AntiSpyware and Malware. They are all integrated and are made to work together. Zone Alarm is good but kept hanging up my Computer, even the Security Suite. I have always come back to Trend Micro PC-cilin. It is good and easy to set up. Another good one is Kaspersky AV. For Spyware, eTrust PestPatrol is quite good. Ad Aware 2007 is free and is very good. The best advice is what you said. Have a good Firewall, Anitvirus, AnitSpyware and do periodic scans and Restore Point Checks.
    As to the one with the Browser problem, you could try Firefox and Thunderbird (eMail Client) there are free and come in an External Application-you can put it on a USB drive and run it from there. I do it so that I do not loose any saved websites or email.
    Again thanks for your help and keep of the good work.

  8. Donnette Davis, South Africa

    Hi Eric, thank you for the brilliant update on pc viruses and the site Geeks to Go. I have kept that mail as a reference guide. I too get all sorts of Active X’s trying to access my info and since I keep a back up of my entire website on my hard-drive which is the hub of my entire network here, it sends me reeling when something goes wrong. I use AVG and set a system scan daily. AVG also offers an anti-spyware software that you can download and use as a trial for a month… This is an excellent programme and really does give results. I also tried hundreds of others and AVG gives me the best results. For the price you’ll pay for the full version it’s really negligible when one takes into account spending R750 a shot getting a technician to look at the pc and shake his head not having a clue…

    Thanks again for the excellent information

  9. matt

    Hi Eric,
    AVG is the best free antivirus out there. there are also several good firewalls, with the recomended free products above, you can be well protected, however, NO program is 100% effective all the time and some nasties require special tools to remove. Back up is important.
    I am currently using Defender pro suits. I got a 5 in 1 for about 29 dollars comes with a great antivirus, firewall,(say you update your firefox, when you go to use it it pops up a warning telling you the .exe was changed, and recommending you run the antivirus, or if it is because you update, you click a button telling it you know it was changed) the firewall asks you if you want to let something access the net and control how it does so. there antispy is not that great really, spybot is better. they also include a nice utility program. and a couple other things(including an antivirus for cell phones)
    the 15 in 1 has alot more and I paid 39 dollars for it. these are kapersky labs programs, and work great.
    one program i got that i recomend you buy is webroot window washer. it has the ability to allow you to wipe your entire hard drive, making the data unrecoverable(as well as shredding files) so if you do need to reinstall your OS you can wipe the drive first making it clean again.
    some nasties stay resident in memory, and even if you put in a new hard drive can reinfect your computer.
    Norton is worthless and MCafee is only slightly better.

    I want to point out, that some of those free programs contain adware. I know that spybot, adaware se, and avg are clean, but some of those others are not, and never use the “free scans” some sites offer, they will give you false positives to get you to buy the product.

  10. bashair

    thank u Eric
    i always enjoy ur newsletters

    thank u all

    god bless u all !

  11. Alfred

    I have been using AVG for several years now and I am very happy with it.
    I know that it has saved my pc from the dumpster on several occasions lol…
    right now I cannot afford the pro version so I have been using the free version I highly recommend it to anyone that needs it

  12. Will Buckley


    I could have used this last week. I got the nasties too. I finally just wipped my computer clean and started over. What a pain. I had no idea how much stuff I would have to reload. I had to go scrounge in the attic for my office disc etc.

    I too had norton and it got destroyed. I am now using AVG too. I will definitely write down your steps just in case I ever get put in this nasty place again.

    I thought my computer was protected. I had 3 or 4 different things going on anti-virus, antimalware, firewall…well you get the point.

    Only lucky thing is I back up all of my data on an external drive and only plug it in when I am saving to it.

    I think a good point is it doesn’t matter what your experience level is they can get you.

    A fan forever,


  13. Richard w Griggs

    Hi Eric,
    I felt that I must respond to your email because I had just finished doing the same thing that you had to do. Three minutes after I finished with my computer, I saw your mail. Wow!, What a surprise. I mean, I thought, What a coincedence. This guy had the same problem I had.
    I had web sites loading none stop. Hey, I couldn’t even read my e-mail. The popups were comming faster than I could kill them. On top of all this, spyware company’s were popping up all over the place, offering free downloads, which almost makes you wonder about how they knew about my problem. Of course, I did not take any of their free downloads because I knew that they would not fix anything unless I paid for their product first. Boy! was I ever pissed off. Even got a little mad at the Spyware company’s that offered to give me free downloads because I felt that they had caused this.
    To cut it short,I did find a spyware that fixed it all. I mean, all of the problems. PC runs like new. Same old speed came back. I’m like you in that I don’t have anything to do with selling this product. Felt like that it might save your readers a whole bunch of problems if I told them about how I came to the solution to this problem.
    I do have Norton 360 and it’s up to date. I still became infected with everything. Also had Windows Defender. No help. These programs can’t spot a virus when it’s right in front of them. For $39.00, I bought the (Max spyware Detector and Max Registry Cleaner). Did the complete job on my 2002 Systemax, 2.4. Worked so good that I bought anothe set for my wife’s new Vista laptop. You can’t know the relief I felt especially since I’ve had to reconfigure the hard drive three times last year.Didn’t lose much because I had a W D external 250 gig hard drive backing me up.
    The place where I got my spyware is Again, I don’t give a hoot or a holler if you ever buy this software. Oh, It did work to delete all the problems durring the trial, before I had paid for it. It just did not offer me real time protection until I paid for it. Tip-If you download the program for the trial free of charge. You can then go to the control panel to the add -remove. As soon as you try to uninstall this program, the spyware people will offer the software to you $10.00 cheaper.
    Good fishing to you all,

  14. Susie

    My computer (HP Pavilion/Window XP) came with Symantec/Norton installed about 4 yrs ago, used about a year and then went with Zone Alarm Pro for 3 yrs, until it became so bloated, used a lot of system resources. I’ve been using AVG free version, Comodo Firewall Pro, also using Windows defender. CCleaner is good for getting rid of all the junk temp files. I haven’t had virus or malware yet. I also use a Hosts file to block out bad websites and ads (http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm) which I think really helps. Also check out Avant browser.

  15. Jason

    I really just wanted to thank you for this tip. I’m pretty new to internet marketing and I’m glad to see this post because just two days prior I had gotten a virus and my virus protection popped up on the screen and alerted me but it was doing nothing but telling the virus was there so I really didn’t know what to do and shut it off. Later on I turned my computer back on and thought my virus scanner would take care of it but that was a joke. Luckily I was able to find the infection and take care of it but it was just a minor problem. So when I read your post I realized how unprepared I was and if that would have been a more serious infection I don’t know what I would have done. Well as luck would have it now I do. Can’t thank you enough for the info!

  16. John Williams

    Eric, I remember having a malware storm a couple of years ago and switching off the modem etc.
    That left a search program on my desktop, among other things.

    I reviewed several security programs and suites for my book about being safe on the Internet which was released a couple of months ago.

    A little-known, but reliable, suite of free programs are available from comodo.com

    Like another poster, I used Kaspersky Internet Suite for some time after something got past my AVG (grisoft.com) paid program.

    But, another Internet marketer recommended Trend Mico Internet Suite Pro to me and I am now a very happy user of it.

    It’s resource friendly (I use two old PC’s so that’s very important) and it has some great extras which are useful, not flashy.

    They have a trial available which I used, but I signed up before the trial was finished 😉

    Your external drive information also looks very interesting. I bought one a couple of weeks ago, mainly to help me to finally get organised.

    Thanks, John Williams

  17. Jack

    Hi Eric, I glanced through the other comments and over the years l’ve had my share of virus’s.
    l didn’t notice anyone mention stop sign (e anthology.com) as l have found them to be the best for about 36.00 year. When they cannot remove a virus they make up a special program for you when necessary. Over time l have tried a lot of the ones mentioned. Just thought i would mention it in case you never heard of it.
    Thanks Jack

  18. Jackie Mackay

    Hi Eric

    Thanks for this. I do have a PC for a couple of
    things that my Mac can’t do and to check out what
    things look like through the PC eye. However I
    can’t praise Macs enough for their safety on this
    virus problem and the rock solid reliability. (that’s X
    not the old classic BTW) so guys do yourselves a
    favour and check out the future. I am NOT a football
    side tub thumper or mac evangelist – it’s just that you
    will really love the freedom, the elegance and the
    …oh stop. It’s just that I love sheer quality don’t you?


  19. Bruce

    Hi Eric, I clicked on one of those so called Anti-spyware free trials and all it was, was Spyware. At the time, my programs could not remove it. I went to the forums. Found out the “Anti-Spyware” would fix the problem for 50 bucks U.S.. I finally found a great free or paid, Program that could remove it. Been using it ever since. http://www.superantispyware.com Works Great. Hope this helps. Never needed any other Antispyware program sine this and I only use the free version. Bruce

  20. Fauzi

    Hi Eric, thanks you for your great information about Spyware , Malware and all kinds of nuisance wares concerned. It’s never happened to me before, but your experienced notify me to always alert to these features. I also used one type of Spyware Software in my computer to protect from this abused alien. So far its ok. You may have a look at SuperAntiSpyware (4.0.1154). One of My friend recommnended it to me. It’s free trial. Best Regard from Fauzi. Again….thank.

  21. lynn

    Hi Eric,

    Your experienced so call info is very much usefull to me. As a new comer this kind of info will help for future undertaking. To be honest I know about ‘ Geeks to Go’ thru another affiliate but only read it half way. But thru your link i fully understand how good they are and their program!

    Thanks a lot Eric for render the information in detail.

  22. Judith

    Hi Eric,

    I haven’t had any problems since I installed Win Patrol (winpatrol.com) They warn you when a new program is being installed. If you’re not installing anything, it’s probably something nasty, and you can delete it before it starts. They have a free version, which is what I use, and a paid version with more features. It also has a bunch of other features, but this is what makes it invaluable.

    I also use Avast and the free version of Zone Alarm and am satisfied with both of them.

  23. Gregory Wight


    Thanks for the info. I have already experienced this more than once. I am always prepared now. But, what I do is I shut down my computer and restart it in the safe mode and then run a new virus scan. I do this twice with two different antivirus programs. One is for free, AVG, and the is MacAfee, which I pay for. I like it a little better than Norton but it still does not cover everything. I use Spyware Terminator which is free as well, but I have Spyware Doctor as a backup too.
    Running the scans in the safe mode pretty much takes the entire day, but it has saved me from losing thousands of dollars in software and files.
    I will check out the sites that you listed.

    Thanks again,


  24. Katarina

    Last week, same happened to me too. I used Malwarebytes-Anti-Malware (free) and nod32. Nothing else helps.I have win xp so I had to go to safe mode and clean everything well. I have backup now 🙂 You never know.

  25. David Parton

    You tell a familiar story. I recently went through a similar problem but I also had a mailer spamming with my primary email account.

    I am not sure, but I think it was also my fault that the little buggers got into my goodies.

    I use kaspersky for my anti-virus and firewall and it has worked great up until that point.

    I found something that fixed me right up for cheap and I am very impressed. It’s Panda’s antivirus online – ActiveScan.

    I didn’t have to download or install anything and I didn’t have to disable my current software. Nice.

    It found dozens of nasties and sent them to the virtual shredder.

  26. Rudy

    Hey Erick,

    I download “warez” programs a lot and I use ZONE ALARM SECURITY SUITE to SCAN and Clean them and it has ALWAYS come through without a hitch!

    In my opinion it’s BETTER than Norton which it’s just very heavily advertised and pushed commercially but, as you found out, it “crumbles” when you NEED it the most!

    I stopped using it about 3 yrs. ago and stuck with my Zone Alarm Security Suite that has kept me Protected until now.

    BTW, before settling on Zone Alarm & experimented with others like, AVG, Kapersky, Panda, Trend Micro and the winner in my book is ZA!

  27. Bigdaddy

    My son attends Xavier University. Their tech people recomended AVG 3 years ago. I bought the license and have been extremely satisfied ever since. None of the other anti virus programs compare. The updates are daily and automatic at startup.

  28. William

    AVG is good but still has a larger footprint (resource useage) than some of the others. Many of the corporations I used to work for and now I use it is the NOD32 from ESET. Extremely effective, and the smallest footprint and resource hog on the market. Does virus, trojan, spyware, etc.

  29. Elizabeth Brewer

    Hi Eric,
    I’ve been using AVG for years and it is the most reliable Pro software I have encountered. It cannot be used with Windows Vista Ultimate, however. Any suggestions? A geek friend put an enterprise edition of McAfee antivirus on my machine and said it would take care of everything. Thanks.


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