During the past few weeks we, at Computer Repair Vancouver, have been discussing malware. Be began our discussion by looking at what malware is; in summary, it is any piece of computer code which does something without the owner’s consent. Although viruses are the most commonly acknowledged form of malware, many other forms exist including: adware, spyware, Trojans, worms, and root kits.

After having looked at what malware was, our next logical step was to look at the best programs to get rid of malware. It was important to note that we did not recommend a single silver bullet cure simply because no such cure exists. Rather, we advised a 2 step process: start by utilizing the program Malwarebytes, then follow up with the program SUPERAntiSpyware. These two programs, in combination, have been known to do an admirable job of removing a whole host of computer infections. In fact, since we learned this information, members of Computer Repair Vancouver have been using this method on their own computers when malware and virus related problems arise.

Our last discussion focused on a few contentious anti-malware programs: Spyware Terminator and Ad-Aware. We noted that Spyware Terminator was very good at providing real-time preventative protection against attacks. Yet, it was very poor once a machine had been infected. Ad-Aware, on the other hand, has fallen on hard times. A program which was once king of the hill is now known for being rather large and unwieldy.

Today, we are going to begin looking at one of the better ways to deal with a severely infected machine. We will not be looking at the use of a particular program, as was done in our past several posts. Rather, we will outline a method which can be combined with a wide variety of anti-malware programs when dealing with a severely infected machine.

Before we begin, what do we mean when we say severely infected? Computer Repair Vancouver considers a machine to be severely infected if:

  1. Upon loading a Windows user account, it freezes and doesn’t allow for any user activity.
  2. Upon loading a Windows user account, the screen is inundated with pop-up advertisements or error messages.
  3. Upon loading a Windows user account, you are unable to access normal Microsoft Windows user interface components (anything from the control panel, to your C drive, to the start menu located in the bottom left corner of the screen).

Computer Repair Vancouver discussion: Windows Safe Mode

One of the best ways to deal with a severely infected computer is to begin by booting it up into safe mode. Many computer users have heard of safe mode, but have never used it. So, what is Windows safe mode exactly?

Windows Safe Mode is a special version of your operating system (XP, Vista, or Windows 7) that has fewer features than the version you typically use. Now normally, fewer features is associated with being worse. However in this case, fewer features is better. This is because, when you are having problems with your computer (for example, if it is locking up), malicious software is often using certain functionality of your computer against you. When you load up in safe mode, though, oftentimes this same functionality has been disabled and, consequently can’t be used by a virus or other harmful program.

Here is a simple, fictionalized account of the benefits of safe mode. Say, one of the members here at Computer Repair Vancouver heads onto the Internet and downloads a program, unknowingly, that contains some concoction of viruses and malware. Now once he attempts to install this program, his machine has become infected. Now, assume that this particular strain of compute virus decides it wants to wreak havoc on his machine. What it does is go to the location where Windows determines what processes (basically programs) to load upon startup, and puts itself there (these areas are often called auto run locations). As a result, no matter what you do, this nasty guy will continue to start himself up whenever your machine is on. Assume now, for a moment, that you start up your computer in safe mode. Since safe mode doesn’t run any of these auto run programs (except for a few basic default Windows ones) the virus or malware doesn’t even start (at which point you are free to remove him with anti-virus or anti-malware software).

So there you have it, a fairly reasonable explanation of what safe mode is, and why you would want to use it when dealing with a particularly difficult to remove piece of malicious code. Come back in a few weeks or so when we will finish off our discussion by describing how to enter into safe mode and clean your computer.