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This week’s blog will build on last weeks; I’ll review some of the software I discussed then.
Last week, I mentioned auditing your PC, and I referred you to BelArc Advisor by BelArc. BelArc Advisor is a free executable that runs on your machine. It begins by downloading updates, though this is not absolutely necessary, and then reviews your machine in several categories:
- A Computer Profile Summary, which is a display of your OS, processor, circuit board, memory, drives and volumes, displays, user accounts, printers, virus protection, and so on.
- A Network Map from the entry point into your home to your machine, and what other devices are on your network.
- Missing Security Updates, with links for downloads.
- Software Licenses
- Software Versions
- Installed Microsoft Hotfixes
This is just the free version. This information is crucial for a restore following a worst case system crash. There are other ways to get this info, but I’ve yet to see anything to match the convenience of Belarc Advisor.
NOTE: I do keep the audit file report on my hard drive, but I also keep a copy on a flash drive – it’s not very useful when the only copy is on the machine that won’t boot.
So, go to http://www.belarc.com/free_download.html and run it on your PC. From this point, you’ll learn more by reviewing your audit report than by anything else I could say here. Remember, when you get to a part that’s not as clear as it could be, Google is your friend. If you’re really stuck, email me.
Next, Ccleaner from Piriform. Perhaps the most popular cleaning tool of all time, I have been using it for years, and I have never found anything better. It, too, is available in a free version, and that’s all I’ve ever had a need for. Both of these applications, by the way, are very easy to use. The most aggravating thing about Ccleaner is that is updates so often, you’re downloading and updating almost every third or fourth time you use it. But, as you’ll see, that is a good thing.
The extra “C” in Ccleaner stands for C**p. Because it cleans the crud out of your system. Once it’s installed, it opens to a window with a menu down the left side, the options being Cleaner, Registry, Tools, Options and Upgrade.
Under Cleaner, you can check boxes for what you want Ccleaner to clean out – clear a box and Ccleaner will leave it alone. FYI, Nearly every one of my boxes is checked – I want all the crud out. Then, Analyze and Run Cleaner. The first shows you the junk it found – it’s always fascinating how much storage space this junk takes up – and the latter deletes it. NOTE: the first time you run Analyze, go get coffee. The first run can be quite time consuming.
Under Registry, same thing – check or clear boxes for what you want cleaned or left alone, and again, all mine are checked. Then Scan for Issues and Fix Selected Issues. I always “Select all Issues”. Before it Fixes (deletes) it offers to back up the registry. I always say yes, though I’ve never had cause to use this backup. I firmly believe that the first time I’ll need it will be immediately following the first time I say “no”.
Note: Registry, because one issue tends to hide others behind it, you have to run multiple times, and keep running it until it comes back with no issues. Again, the first time you do this; don’t be surprised if it takes a while. The point is, always run Registry cleaner repeatedly until there are no issues to fix. NOTE: In one version, there will about 5 or 7 issues that will never go away – if it starts repeating the same set, quit.
As always, always accept the offer to back up the registry.
Under Tools, the options are Uninstall, Startup, Browser Plugins, Disk Analyzer, Duplicate Finder, System Restore, and Drive Wiper.
I’ll begin with the most troublesome first:
- Drive Wiper – don’t run anything except Free Space Only until you are throwing away a hard drive. This can take some time.
- System Restore – check frequently, even if you have no reason to suspect foul play. Make sure it is turned on and keeping a library of restore points.
The rest are fairly safe and self-explanatory. Startup, as I discussed previously, reports most of what starts when you boot your machine. Most of the culprits for long startup times are here. If you don’t want them running automatically when you start your machine, take them out here. This is not deleting them; you can always start them from the Start Menu later.
Browser Plugins is basically the same thing, but limited to your browser(s). For the record, I run Pale Moon, a lightweight version of FireFox. And I keep several browsers on my machine for when I have to see that one web site that will not play nice.
Duplicate Finder is awesome, and easy to use. To be Safe, I don’t delete the duplicates, I move them to a Dupe folder and dump them later, so if I do want it back, it’s there for a while.
Options let you control globally – I’ve only ever used the defaults.
That’s pretty much it from me on this – there’s more, but from this point, you’ll get more out of using them than anything I could say. Go forth, and have fun!
These are the notes from a lecture to my IT intro college classes. It’s somewhat outdated, but the history that includes is worthwhile in itself. If you don’t recognize a term, google is your friend. And Educational!
- What goes wrong?
- How is it fixed?
- Where do I get free stuff?
- How can I tell the good from the bad?
What goes wrong?
Computers are vulnerable to all sorts of “malware” (bad software), including viruses, trojans, rootkits, third party software, freeloaders, cookies, zombies, keyloggers, etc., etc., etc. They’re all bad and you loaded every one of them – you just didn’t know it. What else?
They’re all bad and you loaded every one of them – you just didn’t know it. What else?
There’s more than malware to worry about. Most operating systems (OS – the software that runs the PC, like Windows, Linux, BeOS, DOS, and various Mac OS’s) don’t do as good a job of housekeeping as we would wish. Computers slow down and run out of room and memory for no more reason than that they operate like an episode of the TV show “Hoarders”. They’ve got everything they need; they just don’t know where it is and can’t get to it if they did know.
Where does all this C**P come from? You loaded it. Somewhere, somehow, you clicked on something that wasn’t what you thought it was. “They” are really good at fooling you. If you can remember “TANSTAAFL*” you are a long way towards reducing your risk of catching something evil on your computer.
How is it fixed? Maintenance! You must maintain your computer; you must do the housekeeping the operating system (written by those programmer geeks living in their mom’s basement) doesn’t do.
In case you were wondering, here’s what programming is:
What programmers write:
The result of that code:
Here is a minimum list of the tasks required to keep the junk off your computer.
- Run Windows Update. Windows Update is an automated process that Microsoft uses to keep your software up to date. Because idiots around the world are offended by Bill Gate’s success, Microsoft products are under constant attack, resulting in one of the most well defended pieces of software in the world because MS programmers are constantly improving the product, defending against every attack as soon as it happens. Warning: this includes “improvements”. Programmers are people before they are programmers. Do not be the first to update. I set Windows Update to notify me and ask permission before installing. Then I listen to the news. There’s a reason it’s called the “bleeding edge”.
- Run System Restore. System Restore is part of the OS, it enables you to go back to previous installations in case something that was installed breaks everything. Check this often, the aforementioned offended idiots have learned to turn this off as the first step in their nefarious plots.
- Remove junk files, etc. All software is sloppy and leaves stuff lying around. This junk slows things down if nothing else. More on this below.
- Clean up the registry. SAB
- Scrub the startup list. You’d be surprised what gets onto your startup list. Check this often. See below.
- Review and remove unwanted software. Every email you open, every web site you visit, and every youtube video you download, can install software without your knowing. Again, at the very least, this will slow things down. It can also wreak havoc – a recent example sent Viagra commercials to everybody in your Contacts folder. The rule of thumb is, if you don’t recognize it, at least disable it – it it’s important, you can always restore. You are running System Restore, yes?
- Review running processes. Like the startup list, lots of things manage to get into your computer and play without your knowledge. More on this below.
- When things get hinky, shut it down and reboot. Especially if you see an unexpected activity. If nothing else, hold the power button down for a 12 second count. Don’t be afraid to pull the plug out of the wall. I would rather have to buy a new power supply than what some virus from East WhatTheHeck is about to do.
- Run AV software. If you are not running quality antivirus software, you deserve everything that happens to you. Stop reading this and install one now.
- Audit software is invaluable in a restoration.
- I won’t go into defrag here – look it up – but it should be done about once a year depending on how much disk activity your system has. It makes a difference.
- Ccleaner from Piriform
- This is most of the “See below” from the list above. It’s free, and it is awesome. Easy to use, it will clean out the leftover junk from installs, etc., especially from web browsing, and it cleans the registry, and it reviews the startup list, and it checks System Restore, and it makes your car get better gas mileage. Do not do without this!
- From Microsoft: Security Essentials, Defender, Process Explorer, Task Manager, msconfig, Sysinternals Suite, Synctoy, TweakUI, etc.
- A bunch of free tools that make PC maintenance easy and efficient. Don’t do without ‘em.
- BelArc Advisor
- This is the free audit software I referred to above.
- HiJackThis (danger!!!)
- OK, this is a great tool, but it’s like killing mosquitoes with a shotgun. Yes, mosquitoes carry malaria, but… bottom line, do some research on it before you use it to learn the best way to use it. Don’t delete anything you don’t recognize without looking it up first – HiJack This makes no distinction between the cops and the mafia – all it reports is “these guys are all involved in crime”. True, but not exactly helpful.
A list of free AV and anti-malware stuff. Constantly evolving. Free is not cheap – there’s some quality stuff out there.
- Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition
- Microsoft Security Essentials
- MS Malicious Software Removal Tool
- Trend Micro
- Windows Defender
- Spybot – Search & Destroy
- Webroot Antivirus
Where do I get free stuff?
Search for CCleaner, Belarc Advisor, etc., on sites like:
How can I tell the good from the bad?
Research. Read forums, etc. Computer geeks like to talk about what they did; and you don’t have to be a geek to understand the difference between “this sucks” and “this is awesome”!
*look it up