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I'm not trying to solve any hardware problems in this post; rather, this is meant as advice for those whose computer or internet connection is suddenly exceedingly slow and acting funny in general. Talking to hardlyfatal has alerted me to the fact that at least some people on my flist might have this problem.

This is mostly a guide on how to avoid the problem in the first place. Because if you have it, you have probably aquired a lot of adware, trojans and virii while surfing the net and don't want it to happen again after you've cleaned up your computer.

Part 1

For one, it's always a good idea to start with a clean install.

Format your drive. Create a new partition just for your operating system and another one for your data. The system partition should be large enough to hold the system itself as well as the programs you plan to install and the pagefile.sys. Mine is 30 GB large, but that's quite a lot. 8-10 GB should definitely suffice for XP, for earlier systems you need even less.

The partitioning is really important -- that way, if your Windows dies again, or you need to reinstall for whatever reason, your data will remain untouched.

Install all the drivers you really need, then, before you connect to the internet for the first time, either activate the Windows firewall or install a different one. Personally, I use Kerio, the free personal firewall (download here). It allows control over specific ports even in the free version, something I didn't have with either the Windows firewall or ZoneAlarm.

It is very, very important to have a firewall active before you connect to the net for the first time!

Then, use WindowsUpdate to upgrade your computer with all the necessary patches, as well as the latest service pack for your Windows version. This, too, is very important. Fail to do it and you can as well stroll down the pathways of the World Wide Web with your pants down around your ankles and a big sign pointing to your ass saying "Insert blunt object here".

I'm serious. Do it. Do it before you install any programs.

Once the updates are finished, you need to install a virus protection program. AVG (get the AVG free edition here) is slow but good, and will work properly even without administrator rights; Bitdefender (get the free edition here) is very good, but will only work properly with admin rights. As far as I know, AVG also provides a virus shield, which is something Bitdefender only offers in the commercial version. A shield is a very good thing to have.

Norton Antivir is abysmally bad, and it doesn't update nearly often enough. Don't use it. If you have it (it often comes preinstalled when you buy a workstation), download and use something else.

Two very important things you need to do are

(a) let your virus protection program update itself, and
(b) scan your drive regularly.

Bitdefender for example provides nearly daily updates, and they are needed to keep your computer safe.

Oh, and if you're at it, also download S&D, aka Spybot Search and Destroy (available here). It's very, very good and gets rid of all kinds of stuff a virus protection program doesn't spot.

Additional software like Adaware (download here) is nice, as well as a software that allows you to install and uninstall programs in a more controlled manner, like Ashampoo (30-day trial version here). The full version of Ashampoo costs $50, but it's worth the money.

A registry cleaner is also a good thing to have, seeing how the registry tends to get cluttered very quickly, which contributes to slowing down the computer. RegClean (downlaod here) is free and quite good. While it is a Microsoft program, I still hold that the folks at Microsoft should know the registry structure best. RegClean is not being maintained or updated anymore, but that doesn't matter -- the Windows kernel isn't either, so that's perfectly all right.

The best registry cleaner around used to be jv16 Power tools, but it's gone commercial now... *le sigh*

Last but not least, make sure you are able to backup your data, either by burning it to CD or DVD, mirroring it to a second drive, or whatever. Particularly if you're a creative person you don't want to lose all your hard work because you were too lazy to invest a few hours into backup every now and then. Or your pr0n links. :P

Part 2

Sadly, once installed, the computer can't be locked away in a lead box, never to be seen again. Most people actually want to use it; while irresponsible of them, it's a fact of life. So, what to do?

Rule ONE: Never, ever, under any circumstances, use Internet Explorer.

Just don't. The thing is the biggest security nightmare ever, and with the help of ActiveX every pimplefaced idiot can get unlimited access to your computer through numerous freely available exploits. It's true that IE allows shinier, prettier web design than most other browsers, but that's only because Microsoft has the annoying habit of riding roughshod over both standards and security concerns. If you think using IE is worth laying the contents of your hard drive bare for all the world to see then by all means, go ahead.

Download any other browser instead (Netscape, Opera, Mozilla, or Firefox + Thunderbird), and use that. All of these provide pop-up blockers and tabbed browsing and you'll never want to use IE again once you've gotten used to any of them. Personally, I like Netscape best.

There is no Rule Two.

Actually, there are a lot, such as 'don't open suspicious e-mail attachments that end in .vob or similar', or 'backup your data regularly', or 'don't keep important files anywhere in your system partition because they will be gone when it next dies on you'.

But I'm a very lazy person, so I'll just stop here. I hope this helps someone at least a little. :)


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 3rd, 2005 11:16 am (UTC)
Loving your journal update. I've just installed Firefox by Mozilla, and am loving it. I used IE because Netscape never works through our server here. Just flat out own't.
Jan. 3rd, 2005 03:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you! ♥ Firefox is very good, and its engine is basically the same as the browser part of Netscape. The only big difference is that Firefox doesn't come with a huge bunch of plugins and such preinstalled. If you're a geek, it's actually the better browser. :)
Jan. 3rd, 2005 02:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much for posting all this info, I just have a quick ? about formatting the hard drive.
This is mine, and I was wondering if I should click start or something? or is it already set up right. And do you think Netscape has less shiny web designs than Explorer? Thanks!
Jan. 3rd, 2005 03:11 pm (UTC)
Uh... I'm not sure I understand the question about your hard drive. Why do you want to format it anyway? You obviously have Windows already installed. The formatting and partitioning I was talking about has to happen before installing Windows from scratch on a computer without an operating system. It's usually an option during the installation itself, if you have a full Windows version and not just a recovery CD.

So no, don't click start! If that's your only drive, you will end up messing up your existing installation and erasing all your data!

Well, there are certain pages Netscape can't display, or can't display as well as IE. That's because those are written in IE-specific code which offers more options than standard code that can be interpreted by any other browser. I don't approve of building webpages that are compatible with only one browser, but many people don't even realize that there are other browsers out there besides IE.

Jan. 3rd, 2005 03:40 pm (UTC)
Ah thx I wasn't sure if we could redo it in case we did it wrong at first [and if I did it wrong or not] =\ Thx for the info ^_^
Jan. 4th, 2005 03:21 am (UTC)
Yoou're welcome. :)
Jan. 3rd, 2005 08:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for all this. ♥ -glomp- I was wondering my computer has been running so slowly for the past month or so.
Jan. 4th, 2005 03:23 am (UTC)
You are very welcome! There can be all sorts of reasons why a computer might become slow, but if you have an internet connection and haven't taken the necessary precautions, chances are it's infested with all sorts of things. :/
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )