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Friday, April 1, 2011

Tips for poking around a Win XP machine

Thankfully I encounter Win XP PCs rarely enough that I forget how to find my way around them.

Here are few of the tricks that I am using as I try and recover a heavily infected PC for my in-laws.

1. Reboot the PC while holding down the F8 key will let you select Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Network and other non-standard boot modes.

2. Windows hides a lot of files from regular users. To reveal everything go to a Folder and then Tools, Folder Options and View.
In the list of options that are shown, you want to Check 'Hidden files and filders' -> 'Show hidden files and folders' and 'Display the contents of system folders' and you want to UnCheck 'Hide protected operating system files'

3. Start up a Command Shell either by the Start Menu -> Accessories -> Command Prompt, or Start Menu -> Run and enter cmd.exe.

The cmd shell is a basic DOS (yes, really) shell. Type 'help' for options. 'dir' lists the contents of a directory, 'cd' moves you around. 'del' deletes a file.

'cd' has a pseudo-auto-complete function. Enter 'cd "' (cd space double quote) and then tab will cycle through the options.

4. From the command shell:
'ipconfig' shows your IP address etc.
'netstat -am' shows the network services in use.

5. Ctrl-Alt-Del brings up a window with the running applications and processes, which is useful for spotting rogue processes.

I really hope that you, and more importantly I, never have to use this knowledge again...


Getting rid of McAfee antivirus products on a Win XP PC

McAfee antivirus products are widely installed on PCs. I'm sure they work fine but they have a reputation of being intrusive when you let your subscription lapse. The company is not alone in this. With a number of products you will get intrusive popups and warnings if you let your subscription lapse.

What you should be able to do is go to 'Add/Remove Programs' in your Control Panel and uninstall the software - just like most other professional software allows you to do.

For some reason, at least in their older products, McAfee has chosen to make this difficult. In order to remove most (not all) traces of McAfee from your system you should get the MPCR.exe program from McAfee and run it.


Download this onto your PC and run it - it will take a while and it will popup black 'command prompt' windows while it runs, each with cryptic text indicating the individual scripts that are being executed. Just let it do it's thing.

Restart you machine when it is done.

When you are trying to fix an infected PC, these remnants of old antivirus software clutter up your PC's registry and other directories.

Hope this helps


Most efficient way to remove the XP Home Security Malware from a PC

My in-laws Win XP PC became infected with malware about a week ago. It was the XP Home Security malware that pops up windows warning you about being infected and appears to scan real files on your PC that it says are infected. In addition the browsers on the machine were hijacked such that you could get to Google OK but when you clicked on any other link you would be redirected to another seemingly random sites. It was a mess...

Over the past week I've put in at least 11 hours work on the problem and run up 50 miles of driving back and forth to their house. I still don't have a complete fix... I'm going to post a few insights here over the next few days but I wanted to start out with my advice if you have the same problem.

1: Unplug the PC's network cable
2: Reboot the machine and hold down the F8 key in oder to see the boot options menu
3: Select Safe Mode, or Safe Mode with Networking
4: Pull off your user files onto a USB flash drive or disk drive
5: Turn the machine off
6: Go out and buy a Mac

I'm not trying to be funny (even though it is April 1st) - this is really the most effective way of dealing with this problem.

The time and frustration involved in sorting out a mess like this is simply not worth it.

Cut your losses, go buy a nice new Mac - you'll love it and you won't that these problems


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