About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

December 6, 2016

Malware Bites

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 4:53 am

I had an interesting email from Jim a couple of weeks ago regarding a column I wrote about my personal computer getting hit by malware.  He said that I mentioned Malwarbytes ( but he would like to know more about it.  Well as sometimes happens with emails like this I chuckle to myself and think, "Didn’t they read that when I talked about it a couple of months ago?"  Then I find the article on and send the emailer a link.  That way the can read all about Malwarebytes or whatever else I have talked about.  To be honest I thought that about Jim too. 

Well, guess what?  After a search of my site and all of the columns I have written over the past 15 years I found something.  I found that I have never devoted an entire article to that great utility.  I have mentioned it seven times in passing but never gave it some of the attention it deserved.  So, that is my task today.

First, what is malware?  Malware is another one of those made-up techie words which is a mix of, "MALicious softWARE."  Malware is usually software that is downloaded to your computer that has been created to gain access for information or wreak havoc your computer without you being aware it has happened.  Until it is too late.  Malwarebytes does a great job of removing all of those problems. 

malwarebytesTo setup Malwarebytes you first go to the site and click the "Free Download" button.  Do not fear the cartoonish looking robot is the correct site.  Once it downloads you can go to that file named, "Mbam setup" and double click it as usual.  Then follow the setup instructions basically clicking, "Next" at each step.  You will be done shortly. A desktop icon will be created.  You can click the icon and from the Dashboard click, "Update now" if it does not have a green check mark next to it. Then, the big green, "Scan Now" button. 

You will have some to many items found.  I had not run it on a new computer for about six month, remembered about Malwarebytes and it found over 70 issues on my PC.  Now follow the directions, you can first quarantine all of the items then delete them.  You will then be much safer.  If you have more detailed questions which you very well may after this short run-through visit the site and the Support section.

Malwarebytes.comI suggest you run it every couple of weeks depending on how often you use your computer.  You run it again manually just as you did above.  You can buy the Premium version and it will run automatically in the background after your first manual run.  This is convenient but may not be worth the $25 a year to you. 

Yes, after my past difficulties that I had and thinking things over I even paid for the Premium version of Malwarebytes.  Those of you that follow me realize I do not do that very often.  It is that good.  OK, I also wanted to see the differences between it and the free version, which I will discuss in a future feature.

November 22, 2016

Malware Strikes

Before I start today I will tell you that I run all the security software you normally would on a computer.  I also only run software that I recommend to you when you ask or when I write.  That way I know what you can do for free and how well it works. I have always been satisfied with this arrangement.

Now, back to the story.  I was on my desktop computer and up pops an alert from my antivirus application.  I will not mention the name of it since it is an app that I have been testing for several weeks.  BANG, I had malware!!!

I told it to take care of it by removing the offending malware files as I have done only a couple of times over the years.  Then predictably the warning went away.

After anywhere from 10 seconds to five minutes I get another warning and another and another, etc.  After a dozen or two of them I just let them go to watch what would happen.  I figured my computer was probably already ruined so why worry about it further.

After a hundred or so alerts I ran Malwarebytes to take care of the problem.  That application (which still does a good job in most areas) found them but it could not remove them either.  At this point, I am starting to perspire.

You should turn this on if you have no other antivirus softwareI then shutdown my “now proven worthless” antivirus app and uninstalled it.  I then install a more proven, reputable antivirus app.  After it finished its set up it also found the malware but could do nothing with it either.  I now shutdown this antivirus application and ran Windows Defender.  Always keep in mind that you should run only one antivirus app on your computer at a time.  Also, Windows Defender switches itself off automatically when you install a third party anti-virus app.

Windows Defender is the antivirus application that comes built into Windows 10 and has been available since Windows XP.  For the past years, most geeks say to run a third-party antivirus app in its place since Windows Defender (WD to save space) is not as good as the others.  I trusted the pros as I had never proven it to be good or bad for me.

Windows Defender on Windows 10

The second I started up WD it found the malware and asked if it should remove it.  I responded, “Heck yeah, kill it my new little friend!”  Well not exactly but you know what I mean.

About five minutes later all of the malware was apparently gone and my computer was running smoothly once again. I rebooted it, ran the “dependable” antivirus software again and it said that everything was safe.  I ran Malwarebytes again and it too reported everything as being safe and secure.

Now I have uninstalled all of the antivirus apps and let Windows Defender take over the heavy lifting.  As far as I am concerned that is all I need now along with Malwarebytes.

October 11, 2016

Ron’s Favorite Add-on Apps, Part 2

Last week we looked at several programs I recommend to be good additions to a Windows system.  They are either better than what comes on a PC or those applications may not usually be found on a new computer.  Of course, the apps are free…you know me. From the responses I have received you want more.  So here are some additional applications for you.

You need a good cleaner and CCleaner ( is great.  I have previously written about it in length so go check those older articles.   CCleaner can speed up a slow computer and get it to start faster while cleaning up unneeded files. Well worth the $0.00’s. 


Oh boy, now a biggie…antivirus software.  There are several good ones to pick from. Avast ( and AVG ( always come to my mind first.  They are closely followed by Avira (, Bitdefender ( and Panda (  Take your pick.  They are good and all have a free and paid version.  You may even choose to stick with "Windows Defender" which comes pre-installed on your computer.  It is really pretty good.  Just make sure you run one of them, but only one at a time or they can interfere with each other.  

Avast! site          AVG logo          Avira logo     

Bitdefender logo          Panda logo

Another good protection app you need is Malwarebytes ( which takes care of threats.  The free version needs to be run manually by you; whereas, the paid version runs automatically.

Malwarebytes logo

How about the best video/audio player?  There is only one and it will run on most anything you own, PC, iPhone, Android, etc. and that is VLC (  The great thing about this app other than dependability and quality is that it can play every video or audio format you can put on it.  That includes DVDs as well as Blu-Ray discs. 

VideoLAN (VLC) logo
Now to online storage or cloud storage.  There is really only one name in this area that I prefer, Dropbox (  It is solid, works flawlessly and also allows for quite a bit of storage space.  There are others but for free, Dropbox does it for me.  You have files that are important to you and Dropbox is dependable, enough said.

Dropbox logo

Now email apps.  I personally like online email, mainly Gmail; however, you as well as a large percentage of people like an app to take care of email.  Thunderbird ( from Mozilla, the Firefox browser people is excellent.  It is reliable, high quality and easy to set up if you pay attention to the instructions.  I would also say the built in email program in Windows 10 is a good basic email app but there are not many advanced features.  Also, with the Windows app you will be on your own setting up your email. 

Thunderbird logo

Next week a few more. 

June 14, 2016

Avast, me Hearties!

Although I have been and still am a fan of the Avast! antivirus application ( I recently stumbled onto something interesting. 

I have always used the free version of Avast and it has worked quite well.  Since it is free you do get popups occasionally suggesting you try to better clean up your computer.  If you click the link it takes you to the upgrade page.  This is fine with me too since the paid version is good and they deserve pay for their application.  I appreciate the great freeware version but if someone wishes to pay I say, go for it.


The paid versions of Avast run from approximately $35 to $50 annually.  They also have other products available but those are the ones you should look at to replace the free version. 

Now back to my story.  Avast regularly offers popups which encourage you to try the Premium version.  One day they had one that offered the Premium version for free for a specific period of time.  I clicked it since they are a very reputable company. I thought it would be good to try the best product…especially for free. 

When the time limit expired I thought it would go back to the free version; however, it did not.  It basically said if I wanted to keep using it I had to pay my annual fee.  Then it told me I was no longer protected and should re-up for the premium version.  I went online to see what others thought and many had the same issue. 

So I thought OK, this will be a pain but I will uninstall it and then reinstall the free version again.  And make sure that the next time I get it running I WILL NOT try out the temporary premium version.

After I did that and the free new shiny version was running it still told me I had to upgrade.  It kept the old information and, yes, wanted my money.  I hated to have to go to another antivirus application so I kept looking for a fix.

I found a solution online and it was actually on the Avast site.  I know that some of you have tried or will try the free premium version so here is the fix.  It is called, "avastclear."  This is a short link to get to the page,  If you follow the instructions on the page all will be well.  The final step is to restart your computer.  I suggest after that you download the free version and happily reinstall it and live happily ever after.

There is really only one thing to do that you may be unused to per step 2 from Avast’s instructions; you must start in "Safe Mode."  You may try to restart your computer and press F8 at the correct moment; however, I have an easier way.  Hold down the Shift key and click Restart at the login screen or while in Windows while clicking the star button, Power and Restart. You will get a new screen when it starts.  Choose the following menus on each screen as follows:  Troubleshoot, Advanced options, Startup Settings, Continue and finally choose "4." 

Then find the downloaded "avastclear" and continue following the instructions from Avast.

Safe Mode startup screenSafe Mode startup screen

February 2, 2016

I Took One for the Team

It finally happened to me, the tech "professional."  After years of reading, writing, researching, testing and reporting on technology and applications I got in trouble.

When I suggest software to you I have always tested the applications or sites that I recommended before telling you about them.  In testing software applications I test them in a "sandbox."  No, not that kind of sandbox.  

A sandbox for a geek is a place created on a computer which has no or very limited access to other parts of your computer.  The sandbox is like a computer running within your regular computer system but it cannot touch anything on the main system unless you allow it to do so.  Once you are finished with the sandbox you can easily delete the entire thing and be done.  That way you can run untested applications and if they work without any issues you can feel safe about installing it on your main system.  If they negatively affect your sandbox after testing you can delete the entire sandbox and it is all gone.  Safe and sound.  After testing I tell you about the app.

You may then ask, "Why don’t you tell us the bad ones, Ron?"  The reason I do not tell you about the bad apps goes something like this:  I mentioned a popular app one time that tracked when you go on the internet for advertising purposes.  I mentioned the name of the product.  A week later I was contacted by the company’s lawyers "requesting" me to retract my statement. 

I am one little techie who writes part time and I have no legal reps.  So I presented my facts to the attorney with lines of code and proof.  I asked if he wanted me to post the entire findings online and in the next column.  I received an email back stating that was only in the free version; the paid version was clean.  They sent me the paid version to test.  I never heard back from them.  I do not want to play that game again.  

Back to the present.  I installed a new application on my PC…no sandbox, oops.  

After the installation finished I ran the program testing whether it did what it was supposed to do.  It worked pretty well but not well enough for me to recommend.  So I uninstalled it from my PC, not the sandbox. 

I immediately noticed that all of my browsers now opened my homepage tab and a fake Yahoo page.  The page was not related to the real Yahoo but it sure looked good.  I tried all of the known fixes for a browser highjack and it would not go away.  I then searched online and yes, it was a known malware from installation of the program I had tested.  It gave some suggestions on how to possibly resolve it.  I tried them, rebooted and now that computer will no longer start.  Shoot me an email if you wish to know the application that I believe caused the issue. 

I will be working on it this week and give you any results I have next time.  Stay tuned as the adventure continues.  

December 29, 2015

New Computer Suggestions

Now that Christmas is over and you have a new Windows 10 computer, what should you do?

I suggest the first thing you do out of the box is run a windows update.  It may be running a second after you boot up the computer; however, check to make sure.

Windows KeyIt is quite easy to run an update.  You can click the start menu button (or press the Windows key) and type, "windows update." Next, click the "Check for updates" link.  It has a gear icon to identify the correct link.  Yes, there are other ways to get to that point; however, this is the easiest way.


Now, if it is there, click the "Check for Updates" box.  If it is not showing, it means that the system is already running an update.  Then you can relax and go back to what you were doing.

Check for Updates screenshot

I do have one word of advice.  I just experienced the update titled, "Windows 10 Version 1511."  This was a very large update and you may get it with a new computer or your existing Windows 10 computer if you have not already.  This one will take possibly an hour or more to complete.  Once it completed on my system it told me that several applications had been removed by Microsoft as they are not needed. 

Now wait just a minute, MS!  This is my computer and you need to calm down a bit.  I hope they stop this foolishness…soon.  The main one it removed is one of the ones I use regularly, the CCleaner utility.  After researching a bit I found that many people have been bothered by this.  To correct it you must reinstall the applications removed.  Then it will be fine until possibly the next update.

Next, as I have advised you in the past, be cautious of the "free" antivirus that came with your computer.  No, nothing is bad about the software at all but you need to be aware that "free" may not really be free.

Your antivirus software is probably excellent; however, you only get somewhere from a month to 90 days or so before it expires.  At that time you will get notices to renew your license. This means you have to pay to keep it active.  You would be surprised at the number of emails I get where people ignore those warnings and let their antivirus expire.  Then they email me with all sorts of problems, i.e., viruses running loose on their systems. 

I personally uninstall the "free" antivirus and get a free one that does not expire and leave me exposed.  However, you may want to keep your freebie until the point it notifies you of its expiration.  At that point either pay their fees or uninstall it and get a real free antivirus application.

Personally, I don’t advise paying because I hate giving money for things I can get free.  Currently I am using the Avast! Software but there are others out there that are also good.

July 28, 2015

Emailed Questions, Part 2

Last week I mentioned Chromebooks and Antivirus software.  Today in continuing with sharing emails and answers we look at the following questions.

"How often do you run Windows Update, defrag, cleaning, and other computer maintenance?" Wow, huge question with a multitude of answers.  First I suggest for most users you should set windows updates to run automatically.  With Windows 10 your only choice may be to have it automatically update, there are varying reports.  If you now run the update manually they come out on "Patch Tuesday."  Or, the second Tuesday of each month.  So you are good to run your update any time after that.  I would recommend you do it each month for security reasons if no other.

Defragging and cleaning really depend on how often you use your computer.  I have also recommended here before that you use CCleaner ( for cleaning/removing old files and refreshing your registry. It is an excellent program.  For defragging I recommend another Piriform product called "Defraggler," found on the same site under "Downloads." 

Piriform logo

The timing for these is really up to you since it depends on how much you use your computer.  For a heavy user like me who can spend eight hours a day at work and then an hour or two several times a week at home, I run them every week or so.  If you only go online once a day to check email and Facebook for an hour, once a month or so is fine.  Longer will not hurt you and the more often you run them the quicker they work.  Defragging takes the longest so if you have never defragged before it could take overnight or more depending on the size of your hard drive.

One word of warning about defragging.  If you have a SSD drive and not a regular "platter" drive you should not run defrag.  It will not kill it; however, I have read reports that they will not last as long if you do. 

Maintenance other than those mentioned above is as follows:  Make sure you run your antivirus software regularly.  If you have a free one, as I told you about last week, you may have to do it manually.  To do so you usually right click on the software’s icon in your notification area and click update.  Applications can vary so check yours and proceed. 

Malwarebytes logoThe other two applications I have talked about before but are quite important are, "Malwarebytes" ( Filehippo logoand "FileHippo App Manager" (  I have talked about them in detail before but I do not feel like mentioning them again is too much.  The new improved version of FileHippo is even better and easier to use.

See you next week.

July 21, 2015

Emailed Questions, Part 1

Today I will look at a few questions I have recently received starting with one regarding last week’s Chromebook article.

I have always thought it funny when you write one thing and get totally different responses.  From the Chromebook discussion last week I received the following two statements.

First is, “[on] your assertion of Chromebooks from $129, implying they are inexpensive – I went to eBay and the 2015 model sells there … and found them at $1,500.00 … a far cry from $129 to $199.”

I went to eBay and the most expensive Chromebook I found there was $1,820, even better.  The same model, the “Google Chromebook Pixel 64GB” was on Amazon for $1,610.  It has a street price of a little less.

Ron's Samsung Chromebook

Ron’s Samsung Notebook,
paid $169 over 18 months ago.

The latest version now sells for $179.
Great notebook and well worth the price.

I did not say that the range of $129 to $199 was the upper or lower limit but in that range you could find a decent computer.  I also found a Windows Notebook far exceeding $1,500.  I found one for over one million but that one comes with a handmade wooden case, encrusted with diamonds and other bling.  (Before anyone gets upset I also found a Chromebook at the same price similarly decorated.) You can find them for whatever you are willing to pay, but I still stand by my original range.

The other was someone who bought a student/relative of theirs a “Chromebook and printer for right around $250.00.”  Congratulations to them on finding a great deal on a computer and printer for that young person.  (Also, proving my point.)

Sometimes I get many questions on how to perform a particular process on my computer.  I get questions asking me what is your favorite program or website you use to do _________.    I will give you a few over the next week or so if your emails show interest in the topic.  If you have questions do not forget to email me.

I may not always have the best plan; however, they work successfully for me.  Remember also that I really like the word, “free” so you may be able to do these things other ways for a cost.

Avast! splat logoOne of the more popular emails I receive is, “What antivirus software do you recommend?”  I currently use Avast! Antivirus ( on all of my computers, with the exception of work.  Work is controlled by others.  To be honest they are all similar but every year or two I review evaluations of all of the free antivirus software.  I then choose the one that scores the best and appears to have a good “ease of use” factor to me.  You can pay for others as well as Avast! if you wish.  In my opinion some of the “big boys” out there are bloated and slow a machine down too much for me.

Next week we will look at a few more questions and answers

May 19, 2015

PC Spring Cleaning, Part 3

The last two weeks we looked at some of the ways you need to physically clean your computer for spring or any other time of the year.

Today we will clean your computer’s software.

First, make sure that you are regularly checking your Operating Systems upgrades, i.e. HaWindows 7, 8.1, etc.  Yes, you may have it set to automatically run updates; however, you need to make sure you have the latest every now and then.  Check your update settings by going to Start and typing, "Windows Update," then clicking the "Change Settings."  Check the appropriate choices.  They will make sense to you.  If not, Google for a description.  Mine is set to check for important updates, but let me choose to download and install, give me recommended updates and finally, give me updates for other MS updates.  I am comfortable with those choices but you may not be. Change them and nothing will hurt you, unless you never update.

Windows Update

The funny thing is there is no choice to download and install optional updates.  To get all offered updates for your devices, occasionally check Windows Update for all available updates, including optional updates. I always install those too; however, that is your choice.  This is why you should manually run Windows Updates monthly.  I also suggest you do this after the second week of the month due to, "Patch Tuesday."  Patch Tuesday occurs on the second, and sometimes fourth, Tuesday of each month in North America.  This is when Microsoft sends out all of the items for download to your system for updates.  Wait until after that time and you will get them all.

All of your other software is harder to update but you should take a stab at it on occasion.  You could check most every application you have on your computer by opening the app, going to "Help" then either "Check for Updates" or "About" which is where they are usually found.  Then run the recommended update.

There are also several applications you can get to check your other applications’ updates.  However, none of them are perfect.  I regularly compare several of the main ones and usually get varying results.

  • FileHippo App Manager ( – the one I use most often and is quick and easy. Use the "Download our free app manager" link only.Kaspersky Software Updater ( – good and can be set to run on a schedule of your choosing.
  • Secunia PSI ( – I have used this the longest, if you run the scan manually it takes a good while. It also appears to search more apps than the others.
  • SUMo ( – finds many apps; however is the hardest to use of all I have tested.
  • Update Notifier ( – a simple one but still finds many. Check settings to not get beta updates. 

I ran all of these as well as a couple of others today.  I got varying results and none of them match.  So I guess you could run all of them for better coverage.  I alternate between FileHippo (quick and thorough) and Secunia (slow but very thorough) but they both find apps the other one misses…go figure.



March 31, 2015

What Should I Install?

I regularly receive questions concerning readers buying new computers.  They will usually ask what antivirus software they should install to keep everything protected.  I usually suggest one or two good antivirus applications.  Keep in mind I am only referencing Windows machines and, due to my frugal nature, free applications. 

Microsoft Windows logoIf you have a Windows 7 system, I recommend going to and searching for "Microsoft Security Essentials."  Go to the download page, download it and install it.  It may already be on your new computer if the manufacturer made a deal with MS to preinstall it.  However, do not worry if it is, it will harm nothing to reinstall.

Windows Defender screenFor a Windows 8.1 (or 8 if you have not upgraded yet…which you should ASAP) you have "Windows Defender" already installed on your computer.  It comes automatically with all versions of W8.  It is an upgraded version of "Security Essentials" for W8.  These are both good antivirus apps and really all you need unless you go to disreputable places that may possibly be able to defeat them.  They are good in that they will be updated with Windows Update so you do not have to do anything additional to get them updated as you do with all other third party apps. 

Avast! logoSome people do not trust MS and want another antivirus software so I recommend, "Avast!"  If you choose to install Avast go to, "" only.  The reason is, if you search for it online you may be directed to a disreputable site.  It may be listed as a free download but you may be getting something that could harm your system. 

One other major application I would install on all computers today is Malwarebytes (download the free version at  I mentioned it toward the end of last year but many people have asked about it, so I feel I need to remind you. 

Malwarebytes logoI personally had not installed Malwarebytes on my computer figuring my antivirus software took care of everything.  A year or more ago I noticed my system running slower than it should be and I found a toolbar installed on Internet Explorer I had not installed.  I had not noticed it before since I do not regularly use MSIE as my browser so I had no idea how long it was on my computer.  Anytime you have a toolbar on your browser that you know nothing about is not a good sign.  It most likely means that you have some malware running and you need to remove it…now!  So I knew my computer had been had. 

Malware is software inserted when you download something, either intentionally or not, that is designed to do damage or some sort to your system.  It can totally or partially disable your computer.

The first time you run Malwarebytes you may get tens to hundreds of files recognized.  Delete them all!  I would encourage you to run it on some sort of regular schedule.  A weekly, monthly or quarterly time frame is good depending on how much you are online.

I almost guarantee if you install and run this on your old computer you will find many malware items present.  

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