Wednesday, March 13, 2013

FBI Virus–How to Remove

Its been a while since I have posted a virus removal guide (lack of viruses lately), but this time I have got a humdinger!  It is known as the FBI Virus and comes in several variations, but all with the same intentions – in order to remove the virus you need to use MoneyPak to pay the required amount – in this case $300!  Now I have my doubts if paying the money would actually remove the problem – I tried doing research to see if this was the case but could not find anything.  Below is a screenshot of the offending virus, basically the virus will close everything down on the computer and show the following screen.  You will not be able to do anything (emphasis on anything – not even Ctrl + Alt + Del will work)!  If your computer has a webcam it will even show that in the little screen to the right.

fbi-virus

Removal

From what I can gather this virus only affects the user account it was installed on, so if your computer has more than one user account, the other users will not be affected.  If you have a second user account, you can use this account to remove the virus and do not have to bother with the safe mode instructions below and you can just skip to the following instruction 3.  This by the way is how I was able to remove the virus, by logging on to the other user account I was able to remove the virus.

1.  Shut the computer down, you will have to use the power button or alternatively the reset button.  If your computer is configured to shutdown when your press the power down, then you can just press the button and wait for the computer to shutdown properly, if not then you will have to press and hold the power button until it kills your computer.

2.  Follow the directions in this previous post to boot to Safe Mode: http://www.computer-skills.info/2012/01/how-to-boot-windows-into-safe-mode.html.  Make sure you use the option of Safe Mode with Networking!  You will need internet to update virus definitions and possible to download MBAM if you do not have it already.

3.  For the actual removal I recommend using Malwarebytes Anti-Malware: http://www.malwarebytes.org/.  The free version works just fine and when you are down you can uninstall MBAM.  You can download and install this from Safe Mode if necessary.

4.  Update MBAM!  This very important so that if finds all of the FBI Virus.

5.  Run a Full System Scan!  In my experience a quick scan does not seem to work with the FBI Virus.  This may take some time!

6.  Once MBAM is done running, let it remove all the infections found and reboot the computer normally and ensure that the FBI Virus is gone.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Looking for a New Computer?

Looking to buy a new (or used) computer?  What should you get?  And as for computer specs what does that mumbo jumbo of numbers mean?  Please note that most opinions in this post are my biased opinions…!

First things First

When the looking for a new computer the first thing you want to decide is what type of computer do you want to get?  A desktop, a laptop, or now a tablet?  One major question I always ask at this point is if the computer needs to be mobile; if not, then you should get a desktop, no ands buts or ifs – get a desktop!  If on the other hand you need to be mobile then the question is whether you want to get a laptop or tablet.  In my opinion at least at this point unless you want extreme mobility, or just need email and internet access, a laptop is always the better choice!  The main reason I do not recommend tablets is for the software, while there may be thousands of apps for a tablet most of these apps are not worth a [beep], about the only “good” use for tablets at this point are email and browsing the web (yes, the web does include Facebook and Twitter!).  Although (allow me to bash Apple for a moment!) for web browsing on a Apple device they either need to allow Adobe flash content or web designers need to stop making websites that use adobe flash, really annoying when I run into this!  I haven’t used an Android based tablet, but I believe they are the same way?.  On a side note, Microsoft’s new Surface Pro tablet does support flash player and runs the full Windows operating system.

Second - Price Range

Ok back to looking for a new computer (enough bashing Apple – at least for now).  The second step I recommend is to determine the price you are willing to pay.  Now if you are planning on getting a tablet you are not going to have much of choice, especially if you want an Apple iPad.  Generally speaking Android based tables are cheaper along with a larger variety although quality might be in question.  You also have the Windows surface tablets, again not much in the way of customization.  A couple more things to keep in mind as well is a desktop will always give you the most bang for your buck, which is the reason I always recommend getting a desktop if you do not need to be mobile.

What do I recommend?  I always recommend spending as much as you can, you can probably guess what I am going to say next, the more you spend the better computer you will get.  While that may seem like a doh statement, there is a reason for spending more other than bragging rights or just for wasting money!  Spending the money to get a better computer will pay off in the long run with a computer that will last longer (years).  Buying the cheapest computer means the computer is mostly likely already outdated and you may have trouble running certain programs – such as video editing software, games, ect.

Third – Components

First off, I just want to note that there is a difference between desktop components and mobile components.  Mobile components tend to be more expensive and slower.  Mobile components also need to be smaller and produce less heat.  For the most part you are limited with laptops and tablets as to what you can get.  Also replacement can be a problem since you probably have to replace the whole device instead of just the offending component like you can in a desktop.

For the first component, we will talk about the CPU.  The CPU is possibly one of the most important component of a new computer.  A better CPU will be faster and thus result in a faster computer that will last longer before being outdated.  The important numbers to look at for the CPU is the number of cores and the speed of the cores usually in GHz.  Now I have mentioned this in earlier post already, but when I figure the speed of a CPU I simply multiply the number of cores times the speed (GHz).  Now this isn’t the best way to determine what CPU is better but it is the simplest without getting into some of the more complicated specs.  For example the CPU on my desktop has 4 cores (usually referred to as quad core) at 2.9 GHz, multiply that together and you have 11.6 GHz.  Most tablets now also come with quad core CPUs.

The next component is the RAM.  More RAM is better; although, now days you can put ridiculous amounts of RAM into a computer, my new desktop for example can hold 64 GB’s (64 Gigabytes, what in tarnation would I do with all that RAM?) of RAM.  RAM is basically really fast memory that is used by the CPU to store data that it is using.  For the most part 8 GB is more than enough RAM, about the only reason you would want more RAM is if you work with Photoshop or do video production.

The next component is the storage, in this case I am talking about hard drives not RAM (yes there is a difference, although they are usually both ranked in Gigabytes).  The only real choice you have for hard drives besides the size is the regular spinning platter HDD or the newer, faster, more expensive solid state drive SSD.  I do not have much to say about storage other than to make sure you get enough, and I recommend going with 2 hard drives so you can use the second hard drive for backups.  With a laptop of course this might not be possible, although some of the larger laptops will come with dual hard drives.  For tablets you are extremely limited, the largest tablet at the moment has a 128 GB hard drive, which compared to desktops is ridiculously small.

The next to last component is Graphics, just to note at this point as well that computer specifications might not be in this order.  If you plan on playing any games on this computer or if you want to do video production you will greatly benefit from have a dedicated Graphics card!  The Graphics card will take the graphical load of the CPU, leaving the CPU open to do other tasks.  Most laptops do not come with dedicated graphics cards unless you get into the more expensive models, especially the ones that have a 17 inch or bigger screen.  Tablets – just forget about it, dedicated graphics card produce way too much heat and suck way too much power.  Just another note as well, that all computers come with graphics, the difference is dedicated (better) verses integrated either on the chipset or in the CPU (not so good).

The final components are the peripherals (the odds and ends).  Not much to say here, most new computers come with USB 3.0, Video ports (VGA, DVI, HDMI, or Display port), and Ethernet ports or wireless for all your connection needs.  Obviously if you have a tablet or laptop you are going to want some form of wireless access such as Wi-Fi.

Operating Systems

Not much to say about operating systems, just thought I would quick mention it.

If you buy an Apple device, you only have one choice, so nothing to worry about here!

Most PC’s and Laptops run Microsoft’s Windows operating systems, the latest greatest of which is Windows 8, some cheaper models may come with Windows 7 (which is a good indicator that the computer is outdated).  I should note here, that if you but a Windows 8 device, Windows 8 is drastically different than any other Windows operating system, especially if you are coming from Windows XP.

Final Thoughts?

What are my recommendations?  For desktops I recommend spending around $500 for a half way decent computer and if you want something a little better then I recommend going for the $1000 price range and definitely get something with a graphics card and 2 hard drives.  For rock bottom you can pickup a desktop for around $200.  For laptops I recommend adding $100 and $200 to the previous numbers, so $600 for a decent laptop and $1200 for a good laptop.  Again you can scrape the barrel and get a laptop for around $250-$300.  As for tablets I do not have any recommendations, you basically have 3 choices at this point – an Apple iPad, and Microsoft Surface tablet, and Android based devices of which there are quite a few!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Desktop Icons Missing?

empty-desktop-windows-7I ran across an interesting problem recently, all the icons on the desktop were missing!  The first thing I looked at was the desktop folder to make sure there where actually icons there, and they were there.  The desktop folder can be found under: My Computer >> Local Disk C (default location) >> Users (Documents and Settings under Windows XP) >> [User Name] >> Desktop.  The desktop folder contains all the files, folders, and shortcuts on your desktop.  Some of the shared shortcuts, including links to My Computer and Network shortcuts will not be in the folder.

desktop-folder

Now there are quite a number of things that can cause desktop icons to disappear, the most common that I have seen are Viruses and accidental deletion.  In this case there was no virus and the icons were in the desktop folder so they were not deleted.

The problem in this case was that the Show Desktop Icons was unchecked!  To access this option, you need to right click on an empty space on the desktop, go to View and Show Desktop Icons (not sure why you would even want an option like this? except for maybe a Halloween prank!).

show-desktop-icons

If you have a problem with your icons disappearing after a virus then I suggest trying this program: http://download.bleepingcomputer.com/grinler/unhide.exe

Friday, December 7, 2012

How to clean a Keyboard?

This something I get asked every now and then; so, I thought I would show you how I clean my keyboard.  Now, just as a warning I am not liable if you damage your keyboard if you clean it my way!  If you want a safer method then I would suggest you use a can of compressed air and a keyboard duster that fits down in between the keys.  Also you probably should not use this method on any of the fancier keyboards that built in screens or other specialty keys/mechanical keyboards.

First off a little explanation of how keyboards are built (not mechanical keyboards).  First you have the keyboard case, which is usually compromised of two pieces, the base and top which holds the actual keys.  Inside the keyboard there will be a couple layers of film plus a rubber keypad.  The top and bottom pieces of film both of electrical contact points for the all the keys while the middle piece of film has holes for the contact points.  Pushing keys presses the rubber pad which pushes the top and bottom film contacts together.

To clean the keyboard start by removing the top part of the keyboard case which holds the keys.  In my case I have a Dell keyboard with 12 screws on the bottom that I simply remove, then while holding they keyboard together, I flip the keyboard back over, and remove the top.  I then wash the top of the keyboard and the keys (not the bottom or the film!), this allows me to thoroughly clean the keyboard and makes the keyboard operate much smoother and quieter.  Just make sure the keyboard is completely dry before reassembling!  I have tried this on a number of different keyboards and this is the best way I have found of cleaning the keyboard.  While it may seem a bit strange to put your keyboard under water, by removing the top with just the keys, the electronic part of your keyboard will remain dry.  Although for anyone that is curious you can dunk the whole keyboard in the water as well – you just have to make sure it is completely dry before trying to use it!

Below is my keyboard (or at least one of them…)!

IMG_1056

The bottom of the keyboard with 12 screws, 4 along the top, 4 in the middle, and for 4 along the bottom.

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Below is the keyboard with the top removed (the part that you are going to wash).  You can see the rubber pad in the picture; this is actually what provides the resistance in the keys.

IMG_1060

Below is the rubber pad rolled over revealing the layers of film.

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Below the first layer of film with contacts is rolled over and the middle layer with holes and bottom layer with contacts is visible.  The middle layer is very hard to see because it is almost completely clear.

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Below the bottom layer of film with contacts is visible.

IMG_1063

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fixing Corrupt Data on a Hard drive–CHKDSK

Corrupt data (files) on a system can cause all kinds of problems; for example, not being able to boot the computer.  Fortunately fixing this problem is fairly simple at least as long as the hard drive with the corrupt data is not a system drive or you have a second computer you can plug the corrupt system drive into to fix the corrupt data.  Just to note, by system drive I am referring to the hard drive that has your operating system (such as Windows).  In my experience trying to fix a system drive while using it does not work that well – even though it is possible.

What can cause corrupt data?  There all kinds of reasons that you can end of with corrupt data on a hard drive; the most common one that I have seen/experienced is the result of an improper shutdown; which can be a result of powering the computer without shutting it down, pulling the plug, power outage, ect.  Probably the second most common reason I have seen is a result of viruses and other malicious software; malicious software has a way of wrecking data on a hard drive and it is not a bad idea to check your hard drive for corrupt data after a virus.  The final reason I am going to mention is the result of a failing hard drive, failing hard drives in my experience usually give a little bit of warning before they fail and constantly corrupting data can be a good sign.  If you are constantly having to fix corrupt data on your hard drive, this can be a very good sign that your hard drive is failing – assuming you are not have trouble with the other two reasons (improper shutdowns and viruses) I mentioned.

CHKDSK is a command line program that has been around since the DOS days.  There is also a GUI (graphical user interface) program, which I will cover in this post as well. However, I actually prefer the command line program CHKDSK, contrary to the fact that I usually prefer GUI’s.  CHKDSK is accessed from the Command Prompt or a command line.  Also, in my experience it works best if you do not try to perform a CHKDSK on a hard drive that is currently booted and in use.  Obviously if it is the only hard drive in your computer – which is likely the case – and you do not have a second computer or the capabilities to hook up the hard drive to the second computer then you will have to try to perform a CHKDSK on the boot drive.  This will most likely require you to restart your computer in order for CHKDSK to check the hard drive.

To open Command Prompt, go to Start > All Programs > Accessories > Command Prompt [Right Click] and Run as administrative.  You should receive a warming about the program making changes to your computer – just click Yes.

opening-command-prompt-administratively

In the Command Prompt window type in: chkdsk [Drive Letter]: /f then press Enter on the keyboard.  In my case I decided to check drive I, so I typed in chkdsk I: /f.

chkdsk-in-command-prompt

Finished results, this hard drive is in good shape so I did not receive any errors:

chkdsk-finished-results

The /f command fixes any found errors on the disk, alternatively you can also use /r or /b.  If you want more information about the CHKDSK command you can type in chkdsk /? which will bring up the help section.  You may also have to use /x command if the hard drive is in use. 

chkdsk-commands

How to Preform a CHKDSK from Windows without the command prompt (GUI).

If you do not want to use the command prompt, you can also preform the check from My Computer.  First open up My Computer, either the Computer/My Computer link on the desktop or under the Start Menu.

my-computer-link-on-the-start-menu

In My Computer, right click on the hard drive you want to check, and click on Properties.

right-click-on-hard-drive-in-my-computer

In the Properties, click on the Tools tab, then click Check Now….

hard-drive-properties

Check Disk will give you option if you want to automatically fix file system errors as well as scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors.  I recommend checking both boxes, just be aware that checking the second box for scanning bad sectors will make the scan take a long time.

check-disk-from-my-computer

When done you will receive the results of the check – in my case no problems were found!

check-disk-results

Just to note here, if you try to perform this on your boot drive while in use, you will receive a warning that you can perform the check, and you will be given the option to schedule a check on the next startup.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Computer Troubleshooting–The Bootloader

windows-bootloaderFirst off, what is the Bootloader?  The bootloader is the initial program that loads the operating system.  After your computer passes all the initial boot tests from the BIOS, then the Bootloader is loaded, in most cases you will probably never even see anything of the bootloader unless something is wrong or if you have multiple operating systems.  The bootloader is installed onto the very first part of the hard drive.  Generally bootloader problems are relatively easy to fix because of automatic repair tools (at least for Windows anyway).

Problems with the bootloader can be caused by both hardware and software problems.  I’ll start with the hardware problems first, mainly because in my experience the hard drive is usually at fault.  For the hard drive double check all the wiring is firmly seated, both in the hard drive and the motherboard.  When you first start your computer should be able to hear the hard drive spin up, this should tell if you the hard drive is getting power.  For further checking to make sure the hard drive is functioning properly most hard drive manufactures make diagnostic software that can be downloaded to a CD and run on the problem computer.  These diagnostic tools can check the hard drive for problems such as corrupt files and data.  If any problems are found they should be fixed, the usually problems are corrupt files!  If there is corrupt data on a hard drive, I usually remove the hard drive and plug it into a working machine and run chkdsk from the command prompt on the hard drive to fix any problems.  Also in my experience simply switching ports on the motherboard will fix the problem as well.

Another common problem is an incorrectly configured BOIS boot device.  The easiest way to fix this is reset the BOIS back to default .  When booting the computer, on the initial screen it should tell you what button you have to press in order to enter the BOIS setup, a couple common ones include F1, F2, and DEL.  Another common option at startup as well is the option to select the boot device (on most systems I have seen this is F12); from the options you will want to select the hard drive – hint, if you do not see the hard drive listed you probably have a hardware problem such as a bad cable, bad port, or bad hard drive.

For software problems the Windows Vista, 7, and 8 operating system comes with automatic tools to fix the problem.  While there are some manual methods for fixing the bootloader, the automatic tools are your best bet.   In most cases if Windows fails to start twice the option to repair the computer should appear.  Alternatively you can also insert the operating CD and use the repair option on the CD.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Plugged In, Not Charging?

plugged in not chargingThis is an issue I have experienced myself, you plug the laptop in, but it will not charge the battery, even though the battery is present and in good condition.  I did some research on the issue and one thing I came across with was a lot of people blaming Windows Vista for the troubles, which is what I had on my Dell laptop back when I had these issues.  Now, I knew that the operating system did not have anything to do with the battery not charging, since the battery charging is controlled by the hardware and not the software.  I purchased a new a battery but this did not fix the problem.  I next purchased a new power supply for the laptop and this solved the problem, the battery would now charge.

I did some more research to see if I could determine why a new power supply would fix the problem – I had checked my old one and it was outputting the proper voltages the best I could tell.  It turns out, in addition to the two power wires (positive and negative) there was a third wire which the laptop uses to communicate with the power supply.  The laptop uses this to determine that the correct power supply is attached to the laptop, if the correct power supply is not attached then laptop will not charge the battery!  A check of this third wire on my old power supply revealed that it was broken somewhere along the cord.  And, because the wire was broken the laptop could not determine if the correct power supply was attached and therefore it would not charge the battery.  The only laptop manufactures that use this third wire, that I have seen, are Dell and HP.  Most other laptop manufactures just a two wire power supply.  You can fix your old power supply by cutting out the old wires and soldering a new 3 wire cord into power supply and jack.

The power supply is not the only thing that can go wrong with the charging system on any laptop.  In order for the laptop to charge the battery, you need to have the correct power supply, the laptops motherboard charging circuitry needs to be working, and the battery needs to be in good condition.

Just an addition note as well, if you have a Dell or HP laptop and are experiencing these problems, you need to purchase another power supply as soon as possible.  Leaving your battery in a discharged state will wreck the battery!  And contrary to what some websites say, Windows Vista (or any other operating system for that matter) have nothing to do with the problem.