View Full Version : Anit-Virus Software

Steve B
12-17-2008, 04:14 PM
Any recomendations. My computer seems to have a mind of its own these days. It will open up some little calculator for no reason - sometimes it opens up my Media Monkey (music management) software while I'm gone and starts playing music. I'm guessing this may be a virus.

I currently run AdAware & Spybot occasionally and I have a free version of Avira Anti-Vir running all the time.

What else should I do? What anti-virus software do you suggest.

12-17-2008, 04:33 PM
Steve, I have one that I found several years ago, and have been using it ever since. It is completely different from the pack. AV software relies on ever growing libraries of known viruses. The weakness here is that it has to be discovered to be added to the library, the library must be constantly updated, and it keeps getting bigger and more resource hungry.

The program I use has a totally different approach, but it makes sense. Viruses have certain behavior patterns, and things they try to do. This one looks for those patterns, runs really, really lean, and stops anything that behaves like a virus (if it looks like a virus, smells like a virus, and behaves like a virus, it must be a virus). When I first installed it several years ago on the computer I was using at the time, it found a few things that had slipped right past both Norton and McAfee that I didn't know I had.

That's a long answer to a short question, but this one is so different, I thought a brief explanation of why I favor it would be helpful.

Check out Invircible (http://www.invircible.com). You've probably never heard of it, but I think it is better than all the ones you have heard of.

12-17-2008, 06:28 PM
I used to use Trend Micro's PCcillian and it worked fine for me. Kapersky (http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/product/29895/review/kaspersky_antivirus_60.html) is supposed to be very good. The link is to a review at PC World. If you search the site for anti-virus you'll get back results with reviews for a variety of different anti-virus programs and suites.

You might also want to add a firewall to your mix. The one from Comodo (http://www.personalfirewall.comodo.com/overview.html) has been geting the best reviews (It's also free). I had always used Zone Alarm, but recently it seems to have conflicts with a number of other programs. Still good, but Comodo might be the better option now.

12-17-2008, 06:53 PM
For anti virus I use Avast. Free for consumer use, gotta pay for commercial use. I have two parallel pc's Avast on one Norton on the other. Avast catches more virus's than Norton.

A friend uses ccleaner (or something like that) to clean everything from registry to... Problem is it deletes all cookies and passwords in IE FireFox and I don't know what else. He says computers run much faster after running ccleaner though. It's free an what his local computer shop uses.

Steve B
12-17-2008, 06:58 PM
I just noticed that I have Norton - but I haven't updated the definitions in three years. I also have the Norton firewall disabled (I remember it causing a problem a while ago and I must have never enabled it again). I really hate this part of computing!

Thanks for the tips. If I get one or more of those that have been suggested, will it conflict with what I already have. What I mean is, do I have to pick ONE antivirus program or can I have multiple?

12-17-2008, 07:19 PM
Typically, more than one AV can easily cause conflicts. Always disable (or unistall) anything not in use and use only one program.

Your problems with Norton are not surprising. I've had more than a little trouble with Norton. Add to that the fact that is a resource hog to the extreme, and it's one reason I neither use nor recommend their products.

Steve B
12-17-2008, 07:31 PM
Just for clarification, does the fact that my computer seems to have a mind of its own sound like the kind of thing caused by a virus?

I like the sound of the cccleaner - and then maybe I'll uninstall Norton and the Avira and start over with Invircible and a Firewall (comodo). Or, maybe I can find an all in one package that is suited for someone like me that gets nervous mixing and matching in a field that he doesn't really understand.

12-17-2008, 09:02 PM
I second what steve said above about Norton being a resource hog.

If you haven't updated you antivirus or spyware software recently you almost certainly have one or both on your computer. If you pay bills online or ever enter personal information on your keyboard, you may have sent it out to the world.

A computer shouldn't have a mind of its own. Further implies that your computer has a fungus of some sort. I don't like Norton for the reasons mentioned, but if you want a single solution, it may be a good product for you.

Steve B
12-17-2008, 09:32 PM
I just removed Norton and that increased the speed of the computer all by itself. I also downloaded cclean and gave that a try. Since getting rid of Norton already sped everything up - it's hard to tell if cclean did anything or not. I have stayed current on the spybot and adaware and run them about monthly.

It will take a while to see if I got all the demons out. I'll stick with this Avira antivirus for a while, but I'll need to add a fire wall.

I think doing this periodic PC maintenance would be a business idea that someone could pursue. I wonder how many people buy new PC's, when they really might have only needed to clean it up.

12-17-2008, 11:25 PM
I'll echo what was said about Norton. It takes up way too much resources. Try the Comodo firewall, but be warned when you first start using a firewall it can be a little confusing. It may be set to block everything until you tell it what to let through. That could mean you suddenly don't have an internet connection until you tell the firewall it's ok to open the connection again.

There's definitely a market for PC maintenance. I've had a few people suggest I offer that as a service, but I prefer working from home instead of having to go into other people's homes.

How often do you notice programs opening on their own? That's unusual for a virus to do. You may not like hearing this, but that has the sound of someone else having taken over your machine remotely. I'm not sure that's what it is and I don't want to unnecessarily alarm you, but it doesn't sound like usual behavior for a virus.

12-18-2008, 12:19 AM
Steve, do you have one or two hard drives in your PC? The reason I ask is I have found imaging programs such as Norton Ghost to be a lifesaver and have used a couple of different ones for years. Don't confuse Norton Ghost with the antivirus or other Norton programs.

What I do is stick all data on disk 2 and the operating system on Disc 1. If you install a program, say windows office, it gets installed on disc 1. If you save an excel file to my documents, it is saved on disc 2.

When you first install the operating system and all your programs, do an image backup of disc 1. It's not a copy of files, but rather a photocopy of disc 1. So, say you get a virus, it allows you to take the computer back to the date of the backup. Think of it as a restore program, but you don't loose any software you installed prior to the backup and you don't loose any data you have saved such as excel files.

Most (but not all) virus's and spyware are in the operating system (disc 1).

It might sound like more trouble than its worth, but when you can restore a PC with a click after getting a virus, it's worth the trouble.

Steve B
12-18-2008, 03:13 AM
"do you have one or two hard drives in your PC?" One

The opening of other programs happens a few times a day. The little calculater opens up and Media Monkey opens up. I've installed the Firewall you've suggested and it is in the process of doing an initial scan.

I know I haven't fixed things yet because Media Monkey was opened during this process for no reason. I don't think anyone has taken over the computer - otherwise they would be opening more interesting things than this.

12-18-2008, 10:32 AM
The thing is, a lot of these virus and spyware programs run covertly. They use your pc to send out spam emails, harvest passwords etc.Other than your computer running slower, you don't know they are there.

One thing you can usually do is go to cnt alt del -> task manager -> processes. It should give you a list of every program running on your pc. There are usually all kinds of task bar etc sort of things in there. They are usually ok. You can do a google search for anything that looks questionable. If something bad is running, you can usually select the process and close it there. I'm using win 2k. it may be slightly different in xp or vista. Probably the same in xp.

On a quick search for media monkey, it looks like its a music management program. I don't know that its spyware, although it might have been installed via spyware without your permission. You can always go to my computer -> add remove programs -> and remove it if its listed. That will just shut it down until the next reboot though.

There is also the startup manager which starts programs on your pc when you restart the computer. There may be stuff you don't always want running that are. You can go in there and disable them. Some, however, have code somewhere else and will automatically re enable the startup manager. I have a utility that manages the startup manager, so I don't know how to do that manually. I'm sure someone here does though, or a G search should get you something. Its not difficult.

12-18-2008, 03:05 PM
To check startup programs, open the Run command in your Start menu, type msconfig and click OK. When you see the System Configuration Utility, the last tab is for programs that launch on startup. Be careful what you disable, but for everything you can recognize that you know you don't need, deselect it and click OK.

This will force a restart of your computer. After restarting, you will get a dialog. Make sure to click the don't show again option. Other than really obnoxious programs, this will disable a lot of things that you don't need sucking resources from your computer. It will also shave several seconds off your startup time (maybe even a minute+).

Once you are done, I highly recommend clearing everything so msconfig will not show in the Run command. It's not something you want someone playing with because it can foul up a computer really bad. To clear it, right click on the Start button, and choose Properties. Under the Start Menu tab, click the Customize button, then choose the Clear button once the new dialog opens. Click OK to close everything.

Steve B
12-18-2008, 06:37 PM
Thanks for all the help. I spent several hours last night and a few this morning getting cleaned up. Somewhere in the process I lost my connection to the internet. I've got everything back the way it was, but, unfortunately the computer still does things on its own.

To Review - the symptoms (and some I didn't mention yet).
Computer wants to shut down for no reason.
computer starts Media Monkey all by itself (and sometimes starts playing music also).
My volume sometimes gets muted by itself
Some calculator pops up for no reason

What I've done,
Uninstalled Noron Antivirus
Downloaded and ran Ccleaner
forced a scan from Avira Antivir program
Installed COMODO Firewall
And, tonight I'll defrag.


12-18-2008, 07:02 PM
Do you know if the calculator and Music Monkey are programs running at start up? Are they in the list when you run msconfig. I'm wondering if maybe there's a couple of keystrokes that they respond to and tell them to take focus. It's a reach, but maybe.

The spyware software I used to use was always running as it should. At certain times when it felt the need it would take focus with a popup. Unfortunately it usually was asking me if I wanted to restart my computer and it would respond to my typing before I realized and my computer would shut down in the middle of work.

Steve B
12-18-2008, 07:17 PM
No, neither of them run at start up. I use Media Monkey regularly, but never even saw the calculator before this problem showed up.

12-18-2008, 07:26 PM
Strange. That doesn't sound like usual virus behavior. I suppose you could try uninstalling them and then reinstalling them to see if that helps. Something has to be telling those programs it's time to open. If it were a real person controlling your computer they wouldn't keep opening the same two programs. I can't imagine why a virus would want to keep opening those two programs either.

12-19-2008, 12:33 PM
I've been using AVG free for the longest time. Runs fine, never had a problem. A friend has tried McAfee and Norton, complains about both of them, while I smirk.:D

I used to run Trend Micro's House Call occasionally, but haven't done that in a while.

Steve B
12-22-2008, 05:37 PM
In case anyone was curious. I did a lot of stuff to my computer over the last several days - ran cclean, ran antivirus software, cleaned up some registry stuff, installed a new firewall, defragged, cclean again, deleted several programs I hadn't used in a long time, deleted several files that were related to "calculator". And after all is said and done, I still have the same exact problems I had before. Computer shuts down while I'm actively working on stuff, calculator still pops up for no reason, volume control goes to mute for no reason, and Outlook seems to want to open itself after being closed. None of these things happen every time - very frustrating.

I'm able to continue the way I am - so I guess the problem will be with me until I need a new computer.

12-22-2008, 07:28 PM
Do you update Windows through the automatic updates? If not try doing that. Maybe one of the security fixes or the malware update will fix things.

12-22-2008, 07:36 PM
Have you tried using Restore to take the computer back to a state of "last known good" (before the problems started)?

Steve B
12-23-2008, 04:18 AM
Yes- I'm pretty sure the automatic updates are happening. I'm not really sure how to check - but, every once in a while I get a message that the computer had to shut down and reboot because of recently installed updates.

Re: Restore. I've had some of these problems for a very long time. It would be a tough guess how far back it goes, but well over a year I'm sure.

Thanks for not giving up on it. Any other suggestions?

12-23-2008, 10:58 AM
Steve, do you have all your data backed up in some way. Also, do you have a disc of all the programs you have installed on you computer?

If you don't have a backup, buy an external hard drive and back them up. I recently bought an external 500G hard drive at geeks.com for $80. Other sites I buy from are compusa.com and tigerdirect.com. A lot of good deals.

In general, its not a bad idea to rebuild your computer once a year. I try to do it every three months. I do it using the ghost method described above which is a couple of clicks. For you it probably means reformatting your hard drive. If you have a name brand computer, frequently there is a restore disk. It WILL erase all your data so do a backup first.

Also, do you use IE, FireFox, Thunderbird, Outlook? That affects how you backup.

It sounds like its time to bite the bullet and rebuild your computer (software). Not a difficult process, but depending on how much stuff you have on your pc, it could take a day.

12-23-2008, 11:51 AM
Sounds like you have the automatic updates turned on.

Bill might be right that your best bet is to reformat the drive, though it will be a pain since it pretty much wipes everything off your computer. If you have the backup drive you'll be able to save your data easily enough, but you'll likely still have to reinstall all the software you want to use.

Is there anyone local who comes to the house to diagnose and fix computers. I would thing there would be. Maybe it would be worth giving one a call and seeing if they can find the problem.

Steve B
12-23-2008, 06:07 PM
Hmm. All my data is backed up every day via Mozy (on-line backup) so I don't have to worry about flood, fire, or theft ($5 per month by the way). I might buy a back-up drive also (as a back-up to the back up).

The thought of re-installing all my software is a bit scary - but, I like the idea of being prepared to do it in the future. I have some stuff that was dowloaded off the internet, so it's not just a matter of installing the disks again.

I took down a phone # of a company that fixes computers at the house. I'll give them a call and explain my situation in detail. I would only hire them if they gave a guarantee because my guess is they would do many of the same things I've already done with the same result (or lack of it).

12-23-2008, 06:40 PM
As a note for the future: If you download software from the internet (or buy it on cd for that matter), make a directory called programs and save it there. For example I have a downloaded version of Zend Client which is a disign program. I have a directory under my documents: mydocuments -> programs -> zend. I save the downloaded zend program in that directory. I also make a notepad file in that same directory with passwords or other notes I want on the program. I have MS Office which I have on disk. I copied the disk to mydocuments ->programs -> office. Put the password etc in a notepad file there as well.

There are plenty of ways to structure things. You may have a system that works better for you. I find that saving programs to a hard drive folder keeps things organized for me and you can install or reinstall the program from that folder. It is rare that you need the actual cd. I have to have 100 cd's sitting on my shelves with programs. Most are obsolete. Some are current.

12-23-2008, 08:29 PM
I do the same thing as Bill. I always choose to download things before I install them just in case. I have a folder on an external hard drive with the creative name 'downloads' and inside that I have a series of folders to better describe what kind of software I'll find in them.

If something happens you still have to reinstall everything, but at least you don't have to spend the time downloading them again.

There's also some good that comes from having to reinstall your software on a clean OS. You get to rethink which you really need. The few times I've had to start over again I was able to better choose what to install and what not to install.

12-24-2008, 02:26 PM
That "downloads" is a really creative name, vangogh, I use the exact same name too. I guess it's not as unique as I thought.

If the others had not already suggested it, I would have also advised a reformat and clean install of the operating system. It does take time, but it will be like having a new computer again; even better than new if you have XP. Even with lots of juice, Vista still runs slow.

12-24-2008, 02:37 PM
Is it sad that a couple of designers who are supposed to lean toward the creative side of things name folders with such an uncreative name? Or are we also practical and organized where we need to be?

12-24-2008, 03:11 PM
Vangogh, I think it makes us all the more unique because it shows we are using both sides of our brains. Most "artists" are very unorganized. I suspect you are like me and somewhat meticulous about being organized. Pretty much all my folder names are equally creative. Some examples are: graphics, web files, and word files.

In one sense, this practice helps for security too. I do advocate "security by obscurity" for the most part. If a file or folder has content that's sensitive, I believe it's a good idea to give it a very boring sounding name.

12-24-2008, 04:45 PM
You're probably right. I've never been sure which side of my brain dominates so maybe I do use both sides in a well balance way. Of course there are plenty of people who will tell you I don't use either side all that much. :)