Tuesday, May 26, 2009

PC SECURITY - Lesson to be Learned

Just last weekend, I finally fixed a friend's desktop PC (actually his daughter's).

The primary cause of problems was being online, family using 3 different IM (Internet Messaging) services, WITHOUT an antivirus installed.

This result in massive malware infection. The most dangerous was a fake antivirus ruining silently.

In addition, someone installed LimeWire music sharing. ALL sharing programs make your system MORE susceptible to malware. Uninstalled this.

Note that IF they used iTunes (also installed) to sync an iPod, it is likely that music files on their iPod are infected.

One thing that was obviously put in by a virus, was an entry in the Registry that ran the Kernel Crash module each boot. This caused a false crash & reboot of the system.

Someone using the system had removed/uninstalled McAfee. Get the picture?

I had to install SpyBot Search & Destroy (sidebar) to remove the malware. Now all the owner has to do is install an antivirus, which we will do (download & install) when she picks up the PC.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

WINXP - Two More MS System Internals

In a prior article I pointed you to Microsoft's System Internals utility Process Explorer. Well, here are 2 more I like.

Desktop System Info (BgInfo)

This utility (or toy) displays System Information on your Desktop.
(click screenshots for bigger view)

Below shows you the dialog. Note the formatting toolbar.

By the way, you may want to use File, Save As, to save your configuration to My Documents. Then you can open the saved file and edit, then save.

Also, you need to place a copy of the shortcut your Startup folder so the Desktop Info updates each boot, you should run this shortcut in the Minimized Mode. And if you have customized the display, you need to add the path\filename to the end of the shortcut's Command Line so your customized display loads.


This utility defrags Systems Files as shown in the dialog. The utility runs the next time you boot, just like when you use the CHKDSK command.

System Files cannot be defragmented when you are at the desktop because they are in use, so this is the only way to defrag them.

In the screenshot example, note the highly fragmented C:\pagefile.sys, which is bad.

For both these utilities, the downloaded ZIP file contents is the entire utility (not an installer). You copy the UNZIPed files to a folder of your choice (usually you create a new folder in C:\Program Files). Then create a shortcut to the EXE to run the utility.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

WINXP - IE8, My Evaluation

I've been running IE8 at home and work since the final (non-beta, non-RC) release appeared in Windows Update. So here is my evaluation at this point.

First, the system specs (home & work): WinXP SP3, 2gb RAM, running IE6

Installed IE8 on both systems.

At first blush, it looks like Microsoft got this upgrade 95% correct.

What I like.....

  • It does have higher security features, but there a small conflict problem (discussed later)

  • It has a Compatibility View (feature), something IE7 sorely needed, that supposedly makes IE8 compatible with older WEB sites, note that you should load Compatibility Updates found in Optional section of Win Updates

  • In includes using WEB Accelerators, many listed in defaults

  • Shrink-to-fit printing, FINALLY!


1) Many have noticed that IE8 takes a long time to load (this is after initial load and configuration, normal run). Microsoft is aware of the problem because there is a KB (Knowledge Base) article on it. It mentions that people running SpyBot Search and Destroy should disable the plug-in.

Of course, SpyBot S&D users (including me) disagree. I'll trust SpyBot S&D over Microsoft any day. The publishers of SpyBot S&D have been specializing in this for as long as Microsoft has been around.

The slowdown is cause by IE8's SmartScreen Filter function. It does the same thing as the Immunize feature in SpyBot S&D. If you want to use SpyBot S&D, then disable SmartScreen Filter in IE8.

2) After installing IE8, Internet Options settings are returned to Default, with the exceptions of your Home Page and any Safe Sites you had before.

In the Security Zones tab, the Microsoft default settings for Security level for this zone has settings that I disagree with. I suggest the following [Custom level] settings for Internet, Local Internet, and Trusted Sites:

In the Miscellaneous section, set the following to Enable

  • Access data sources across domains
    (there are many sites that have links to other domains, example separate billing site for completing orders)

  • Display mixed content
    (the ability to display both secure & unsecured data or links)

  • Navigate windows and frames across different domains
    (again, a feature many sites use now-days)

  • WEB sites in less privileged WEB content zone can navigate into this zone

A special problem/issue:

We use a Fileserver to keep documents shared by others, including pictures. With IE6 I could use a shortcut to the folder on Fileserver2 that contains JPG files, and open them in my Paint Shop Pro 8 with no problem.

After installing IE8, whenever I opened a JPG on Fileserver2, I would get the following dialog:

It took 2 days, but Microsoft Tech Support found the answer.

Internet Options, Security, Trusted sites, [Custom level], under Miscellaneous section
  1. ENABLE Launching applications and unsafe files

  2. Then I had to add Fileserver2 to the Trusted sites list

After that, I could open the JPG files without getting the dialog. Although this was annoying, this is a demonstration of IE8's increased security features.

IE8 Compatibility List

Note that updating of the Compatibility List is done via Windows Update but is Optional. You have to manually select this update from the Optional list (Sidebar).