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Detecting and repairing disk errors in Windows XP

You can use the Error-checking tool to check for errors and bad sectors on your hard disk.

  • Open My Computer, and then select the local disk you want to check.
  • On the File menu, click Properties.
  • On the Tools tab, under Error-checking, click Check Now.
  • Under Check disk options, select the Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors check box.

Notes

  • To open My Computer, double-click the My Computer icon on the desktop.
  • All files must be closed for this process to run. If the volume is currently in use, a message box will appear prompting you to indicate whether or not you want to reschedule the disk checking for the next time you restart your system. Then, the next time you restart your system, disk checking will run. Your volume will not be available to perform other tasks while this process is running.
  • If your volume is formatted as NTFS, Windows automatically logs all file transactions, replaces bad clusters, and stores copies of key information for all files on the NTFS volume.

Dual Monitors

With newer computers having the ability to run multiple displays, here is a ‘Geek Tip’ for those of you thinking about using two monitors on one computer. There are various scenarios, I am going to describe just a few. I currently have two systems here with dual monitor setups.

Of course there is the side-by-side scenario, either horizontally or vertically, with the desktop expanded across the monitors. The first thing to consider is having two monitors exactly alike. It’s not necessary, but is recommended.  With this setup, you can work with a different program on each monitor. Makes copy and pasting a breeze. And you can also stretch a program across both monitors (left monitor has work area; right monitor has the tool palette).

This scenario also works well for those with visual impairments that require a magnification utility. You can use a larger monitor as the ‘main’ display and a smaller monitor as the ‘secondary’ display. Using the main display for all normal functions, the secondary display shows a magnified view of the main display. And without the need for matching monitors, you could pick up a cheap used one to run as secondary. Try your local Goodwill, Savers, thrift shop, etc.

Then there is what I like to call the back-to-back scenario, with the monitors on opposing faces of a wall or walls. The keyboard and mouse can be used wirelessly or though a USB cable. Yes, you can run more than one keyboard and mouse on a system, if this helps. In this case, cloning the display across both monitors is required, as the user can only view one monitor at a time.

With this scenario, you can have a presentation monitor (LCD or plasma TV works well) on one wall and a standard monitor at the workstation. The variations on these scenarios are vast and I hope I’ve inspired you to looking into using dual monitors.

Till then,

Scott

Natural keyboard shortcuts

When working with other people, I am quite often asked “How did you do that?” (when I bring up Windows Explorer or the ‘Run’ dialog box with just a one combined keystroke). A few little known keyboard shortcuts are the secret.

You can use the following keyboard shortcuts with a Microsoft Natural Keyboard or any other compatible keyboard that includes the Windows logo key () and the Application key ().

Press To
Display or hide the Start menu.
+BREAK Display the System Properties dialog box.
+D Show the desktop.
+M Minimize all windows.
+Shift+M Restores minimized windows.
+E Open My Computer.
+F Search for a file or folder.
+CTRL+F Search for computers.
+F1 Display Windows Help.
+ L Lock your computer if you are connected to a network domain, or switch users if you are not connected to a network domain.
+R Open the Run dialog box.
Display the shortcut menu for the selected item.
+U Open Utility Manager.

Virus removal guidelines for Windows

(*** Disclaimer: If you don’t feel comfortable working on your own computer, please ask someone who is familiar with computers to assist you. Sometimes it is best to seek professional assistance with this type of procedure. You will need a second computer connected to the internet for the following. Proceed at your own risk! ***)

Signs you may be infected:

  • You get ‘Pop Ups’ alerting you that your computer may be infected from software you do not remember installing.
  • You may have new software icons you did not have before on your desktop.
  • You may find your anti-virus software alerts you of a threat, but is no longer working.
  • You may not be able to get to a particular web site or not even be able to get on the internet at all.

The following is a general guideline to detecting and removing a virus from your computer. As always, have a good working backup before attempting any of these procedures.

  1. Isolate the suspected computer by disconnecting the network cable or turning off the wifi adapter. This will stop anything from getting on your network to infect other systems and getting to the internet to make connection with its author and/or server.
  2. Turn off ‘System Restore’ on all hard drives. Find a ‘My Computer’ icon and right click on it. Choose ‘Properties. Then select the tab named ’System Restore’. Select the check box ‘Turn off System Restore on all drives’ and click ‘Apply’

You now have stopped the ability to get outside of the computer and the ability to be restored from a ‘restore point’. It’s now time to get to work.

Depending on the severity of the infection, I will use either USB drives or finalized cd-r’s to install software. With the newer infections that can write across networks and to any writable media (floppy, memory card, USB drives, etc.), it's best just to grab a bunch of cd-r’’s and write all of the different software you’ll need to cd.

First thing, go over to Malwarebytes’ http://www.malwarebytes.org/ and download a copy of their Anti-Malware program. Put it on your choice of media and install on the suspected computer. Then select ‘Perform quick scan’ and click ‘Scan’.

Allow the program to take what ever actions required (which may include a reboot). Once the program has finished, let’s proceed to scan for viruses.

(***Disclaimer: Never install more than one anti-virus program on a system.***)

If you have anti-virus software, check it to find out if it is still working. A lot of infections will disable your anti-virus. If this is the case, reinstalling it may get it to work again. If this doesn’t work, you will need to uninstall it completely, so you can reinstall a new copy of the antivirus software. Once this is done do a complete scan of the system.

If you do not have any anti-virus, go over to AVG Free http://www.avgantivirus.com and download a copy. Also download the latest definition files. Put all of the files on media and install the anti-virus. Once installed, you can upgrade the definitions by selecting ‘Update from file’ when you have the program open. Then do a complete scan of the system.

(***Disclaimer: Before installing a firewall in Windows XP / Vista, disable the Windows Firewall in the Control Panel first. Also, never install more than one software firewall on a system.***)

Once you have run both Malware and an anti-virus scan on the system, you should have a good hand on the situation.

(*** If you are still having issues that you’re anti-virus and/or spyware software cannot remove, please seek professional assistance. ***)

Before attempting to reconnect the suspect system to the internet, make sure that you have a software and/or hardware firewall in place. I use both a hardware firewall behind my internet connection and software firewalls on the servers / workstations.

For more information on Free Internet Security Software, check out this blog entry:
//www.geeksinphoenix.com/blog/post/2009/02/06/Free-Internet-Security-Software.aspx

And for a detail description of one of the worst cases of infection I have seen yet, check out this blog entry:
//www.geeksinphoenix.com/blog/post/2009/02/05/Virus-Removal.aspx

Till later,
Scott

Free Internet Security Software

Here is a list of four free Internet Security programs I recommend for those who are on a budget. Keep in mind that free software often comes with limitations, but are fully functional. Some of them require manual updating, but that is a small price to pay for great software that is free. Let us start with an Anti-Virus program:

(***Disclaimer: Never install and/or run two anti-virus programs on the same system.***)

AVG Free Click here for latest version

Upside: Here is a fully functional Anti-Virus program that has Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware, E-mail and link scanners. The program is fully automatic in updating itself. It can be updated from a file too (USB drive), when you have to quarantine a system by disconnecting it from the internet/intranet.
Downside: There is no free technical support. Support for this product is sold at blocks of 15 minutes.

Next is a Firewall program:

(***Disclaimer: Before installing a firewall in Windows XP / Vista, disable the Windows Firewall in the Control Panel first. Moreover, never install and/or run two software firewalls on the same system.***)

ZoneAlarm http://www.zonealarm.com/

Upside: The program is fully automatic in updating itself.
Downside: It only provides inbound and outbound protection, but does it in full stealth mode. It also requires internet access to install.

Let us now look at two free spyware / malware programs. My first choice is Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware. Note: I ranked Malwarebytes first only because it can be installed and run without the need for internet access (I use USB drives for installing software on quarantined systems).

Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware http://www.malwarebytes.org/

Upside: It is a great malware program. It can be installed and run without the need for internet access (always download the latest version first).
Downside: You have to open the program and manually update it.

Spybot https://www.safer-networking.org/

Upside: It is a great spyware scanner with a ton of features including an ‘Immunization’ feature for your internet browser. Also has ability to update itself when the program is started.
Downside: It requires internet access to install. Not a good thing if you have to quarantine a system by disconnecting it from the internet/intranet.

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