Tag Archives: corrupted system files

Hard Drive Maintenance/Free Diagnostic Applications

hard-drive-diag.jpgYour hard drive is the workhorse of your computer, but do you really know what it’s up to in there? Here’s a brief description of how your hard drive works, and what you can do to make sure it keeps working the way it should.

How it works

When you save a file to your hard drive, it is magnetically recorded onto a platter inside your hard drive. Most hard drives have several platters mounted on a spindle that allows them to spin as fast as 15,000 times per minute. Each two-sided platter is mounted on a single arm with a slider that lets the heads move across the surface of the platter to access data.The amount of data each platter can hold is usually measured in Tracks Per Inch, where a track equals one concentric ring around a disk.

Because of the amount of data that can be stored in a single track, each track is divided into sectors, and when you save data to the disk, it is referenced according to its track and sector.

Organize your hard drive

Occasionally your hard drive will make a whirring sound as it searches for a file. This is the sound of the platters spinning as the read heads zoom back and forth to access each sector where the data has been stored. You can speed up this process by periodically “defragging” your hard drive. The Windows Disk Defragmenter utility reorganizes the scattered data on your hard drive to make your files run more efficiently. It also moves the files that you use most often to the beginning of the hard disk where they’ll load faster.

To run Disk Defragmenter in Windows XP, follow these directions:

Click Start > Programs > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter.

You should analyze a drive (volume) before defragmenting it. Because defragmenting may take considerable time, this tells you whether you need to take the time to perform this task. Click the Analyze button.

A drive must have at least 15 percent free space for Disk Defragmenter to completely and adequately defragment it. Disk Defragmenter uses this space as a sorting area for file fragments. If a volume has less than 15 percent free space, Disk Defragmenter will only partially defragment it. To increase the free space on a volume, delete unneeded files or move them to another disk.

Click the Defragment button.

To interrupt or temporarily stop defragmenting a volume, click Stop or Pause, respectively. The bottom frame displays a graphical representation of the utilities progress.

Disk Cleanup

Another powerful utility that comes with Windows is Disk Cleanup. This application allows you to easily sort through and delete unused and temporary files, freeing space on your hard drive and speeding up its operation.

To run Disk Cleanup, Go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools and select Disk Cleanup.

Choose the drive you want to scan from the drop-down menu, and wait while the program calculates how much disk space is available for cleanup.

On the Disk Cleanup tab, check the boxes next to the types of files you want to remove.

Temporary Internet Files are Web pages stored on your hard drive for quick access. Deleting these files will leave intact your Internet browser preferences and bookmarks.

Downloaded Program Files are Java and ActiveX applications downloaded from the Internet to view certain pages.

The Recycle Bin contains files you have deleted from your system. They are not permanently removed until you empty the bin.

Temporary Files are created by some applications to temporarily store data. Typically, the data is deleted when the program closes, and it is safe to delete these files if they have not been modified in over a week. Clicking the View Files button will display the files to be deleted in a separate window.

To remove Windows components or unused programs, click the More Options tab. Clicking the appropriate Cleanup button will open the Add/Remove Programs utility, where you can then select what you would like to delete.

ScanDisk

If you’ve ever turned off your computer without properly shutting down the system (or had to restart after a crash), then you’ve probably seen your computer run a utility called ScanDisk. ScanDisk checks the hard drive for errors and, if it finds any, marks the cluster of sectors containing the error as unusable, so that no data can be written to or read from that portion of the disk.You can also run ScanDisk from within Windows. This allows you to do a more thorough scan of your hard drive and detect errors that might make it difficult or impossible to read or write to the disk.

To run ScanDisk in Windows 98, and Windows Millennium:

Click Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > ScanDisk.

Select Thorough under Type of Test.

Click Start to begin the scan.

Windows XP refers to ScanDisk as an “error-checking” tool; to perform error-checking, follow these directions:

Open My Computer, then select the local disk you want to check.

On the File menu, click Properties.

On the Tools tab, under Error-checking, click Check Now.

Under Check Disk options, select the “Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors” box. ScanDisk should take only a few minutes to run, and should probably be done every two or three months. It will give you a report of the number and types of errors it has found, and can even automatically repair some of these errors.

More serious errors can be repaired by reformatting the drive, if the errors are “soft” errors (which means that the magnetic signal on the disk is weak or the formatting is bad).”Hard” errors, however, refer to actual physical damage to the disk, such as a scratch or a bump, and cannot be repaired.

If you have a large number of hard errors on your disk, you will probably need to replace your hard drive.The average life span for today’s hard drive is between three and five years. Simple maintenance can keep your hard drive running smoothly well past the time it has become obsolete.

Luckily, today’s hard drives rarely fail without a warning given well in advance. All modern disks are equipped with a feature called S.M.A.R.T. that allows real-time analysis and the reporting of any developing problems and potential issues. The big question is: can you read the warnings?

The following free applications take the guesswork out of the equation, and they make it easier for you to diagnose what’s really happening with your Hard Drives.

Disk Heal

  • Disk Heal fixes these problems with just one click.
  • Fixes Task Manager Inaccessibility
  • Fixes Folder Options inaccessibility
  • Fixes Registry Editor Inaccessibility
  • Fixes File/Folder inaccessibility:
  • Has a virus hidden your files/folders and you cannot unhide it, use disk heal to fix this problem.
For more info go to: Lugsoft

Emsa Disk Check – CD/DVD/HDD Disk Diagnostic Utility
Emsa Disk Check is a dual-purpose utility, for disk checking (prescan and full disk reading) and also benchmarking. It scans/reads the entire contents of a disk (CD, DVD or hard drive; or even floppy), and it shows any read errors that may appear. In addition, it shows drive speed information, progress statistics and so on. It was designed with simplicity in mind, but ease of use for you.

Emsa DiskCheck main features:

  • Useful to quickly and fully scan removable disks like CD, DVD for surface defects like disk scratch problems, bad CD-R/RW DVD-R/RW writes, etc.
  • Can check CD-ROM, DVD, hard disks, even floppy disks.
  • Useful for benchmarking a drive, be it CD, DVD or HDD.
  • Shows ‘locked’ files on disks.
  • Useful speed comparison (shows the ‘X’ multiplier speed comparison with CDs and DVDs) with possibility of switching in CD/DVD ‘X’ mode.
  • It scans/reads a disk fully until completion or user stop, at the maximal speed available.
  • Reports progress, statistics (files, folders, time elapsed, estimated time remaining).
  • Reports any errors encountered (error count and log entry for each).
  • Prescan accesses the disk table of contents and computes file information, showing the total number of files and folders and total space on disk before running the full scan.

Download at: e-systemsHDDlife

Knowing about the possible failure of your hard drive means having time to prevent all your data from being lost HDDlife is a program that will allow you to control the health of your hard drive using an intuitive interface. Just run the program and it will show you the list of your disks with the percentage of their health left, as well as their temperature.

Main features:

  • Controlling the health of your hard drives using the S. M. A. R. T. technology.
  • Constantly monitoring the state of your hard drives in the background mode.
  • Displaying the temperature of your hard drives.
  • Disk free space info and control.

The current version supports IDE, Serial ATA and SCSI disks with standard controllers, while external, IDE RAID and SCSI RAID controllers are not supported.

Download at: hddlife.com

Don’t forget, that Hard Drive diagnostic software is offered free from all the major hard drive manufacturers. Check out their sites.

Western Digital Support:

Samsung:

Seagate:

Please note that since Seagate purchased Maxtor, the download sites are identical.

Maxtor:

3 Comments

Filed under Freeware, Hard Drive Maintenance, Software, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

My Computer Has a Virus – Now What?

 

computer_virus.jpgYou may, or you may not, have a virus so don’t panic. Following the steps below will, in most cases, remove the infection from your system, if in fact your system has a virus. But first, let’s start with the definition of a computer virus so that you know what you’re up against.

A virus is a computer program that can copy itself and infect a computer operating system without permission, or the knowledge of the user. The original virus may modify the copies, or the copies may modify themselves, making the virus more difficult to find.

Not all symptoms that mimic those of a virus infection are in fact produced by a virus. However, if your computer begins to act strangely, or if it is unable to do things it has always done in the past, it may be infected with a virus.

Symptoms including longer-than-normal program load times, unpredictable program behavior, inexplicable changes in file sizes, inability to boot, may indicate that a virus is on your system. However, it is important to distinguish between virus symptoms and those that come from corrupted system files, which can look very similar.

Rule out more standard causes before suspecting a virus. In some cases software related problems, such as program execution errors and corrupted files, can create symptoms that appear to be virus-related. If you just installed new software for example, try uninstalling it and see if the problems disappear.

However, if you regularly engage in any of the following activities, you have substantially increased the risk of your system problem being a computer virus.

  • You download files and software through file-sharing applications such as BitTorrent, eDonkey, KaZaA and other such programs.
  • You click links in instant messaging (IM) that have no context or are composed of only general text.
  • You downloading executable software from web sites without ensuring that the site is reputable.
  • Using your USB stick on public computers, or other computers that are used by more than one person.
  • Opening email attachments from people you don’t know.
  • You make a practice of opening email attachments without first scanning them for viruses.
  • You open email attachments that end in a file extension of .exe, .vbs, or .lnk.
  • You run your Windows computer as an administrator.

 

Next Steps:

Launch Task Manager by hitting Ctrl-Alt-Delete which will give you a list of all current running process. Be aware however, that some viruses are smart enough to bypass Task Manager.

A better solution here would be to use the free service, ProcessScanner, from ProcessLibrary.com, (a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner), which not only scans your Windows computer for all running processes, but in addition tells you what’s running, what each process is associated with, and most importantly, a risk analysis of each process. You may find the answer to the problem here. If not, then proceed to the next step.

In Windows XP, open the Control Panel, Administrative Tools, Services, which will give you a detailed description of the services Windows is running. If you find something that’s unfamiliar, or causes you concern, Google that service/services on the Internet.

Proceed then to select Run from the Start Menu, and type “msconfig” in the box. With this tool you not only see the services running, but most importantly, the programs that your system is launching at startup. Again, if you find something that’s unfamiliar, or causes you concern, Google it on the Internet.

There are a number of online virus scanners that are, in my view, better at detecting malware than locally installed applications. I recommend that you next scan your machine at Trend Micro Online Scanner, and in addition scan it again at Panda Online Scanner. In this situation two is definitely better than one.

Most cases of infection and compromise should be cleaned, and your machine returned to its previous condition, by employing the above methods. But unfortunately, this is not always the case and you’re then faced with performing a full reinstall of the operating system. Since there is always the risk of an un-repairable system, this reinforces the need to ensure you have a realistic backup policy in place.

Security risks on the Internet you need to be aware of.

Trojan horse programs

Back door and remote administration programs

Denial of service

Being an intermediary for another attack

Unprotected Windows shares

Mobile code (Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX)

Cross-site scripting

Email spoofing

Email-borne viruses

Hidden file extensions

Chat clients

Packet sniffing

Security Checklist: Actions you can take to protect your computer system.

Don’t open unknown email attachments

Don’t run programs of unknown origin

Disable hidden filename extensions

Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched

Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use

Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible

Disable scripting features in email programs

Make regular backups of critical data

Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised

Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer.

Install a personal firewall on the computer.

Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet.

Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments.

Be proactive when it comes to your computer’s security; make sure you have adequate software based protection to reduce the chances that your machine will become infected.

The free software listed below, in my view, provides better than average malware protection.

avast! 4 Home Edition

www.avast.com

This anti virus app is a real fighter, scanning files on demand and on access, including email attachments. Let’s you know when it detects mal-ware through its shield function. An important feature is a boot-time scan option which removes mal-ware that can’t be removed any other way.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition

www.free.grisoft.com

Similarly, this program scans files on access, on demand, and on schedule. Scans email; incoming and outgoing. For those on Vista, your in luck, it’s Vista-ready. I have been using this application since its release and it now forms part of my front line defenses. I recommend this one highly.

SpyCatcher Express

www.tenebril.com

SpyCatcher does a good job of cleaning out spy-ware and at stopping further infestation. In my view however, it’s not as reliable as AVG Anti-Spyware.

Ad-Aware 2007

www.lavasoftusa.com

In my view, Ad-Aware 2007 Free is the best free spyware and adware remover available. It does a relatively good job of protecting against known data-mining, Trojans, dialers, malware, browser hijackers and tracking components. The only downside with the free version; real-time protection is not included.

ThreatFire 3

www.threatfire.com

ThreatFire 3 blocks mal-ware, including zero-day threats, by analyzing program behavior and it does a stellar job. Again, this is one of the security applications that forms part of my front line defenses. I have found it to have high success rate at blocking mal-ware based on analysis of behavior. Highly recommend this one!

Comodo Firewall Pro

www.comodogroup.com

The definitive free firewall, Comodo Firewall protects your system by defeating hackers and restricting unauthorized programs from accessing the Internet. I have been using this application for 6 months and I continue to feel very secure. It resists being forcibly terminated and it works as well, or better, than any firewall I’ve paid for. This is one I highly recommend. Amazing that it’s free!

ZoneAlarm

www.zonelabs.com

The free version of ZoneAlarm lacks the features of ZoneAlarm Pro’s firewall. Its program control asks you regularly whether to allow programs; for some this can get to be intrusive and annoying. But it’s been around forever it seems, and it can’t be shut down, or out, by mal-ware.

WinPatrol

www.winpatrol.com

Do you want to get a better understanding of what programs are being added to your computer? Then WinPatrol is the program for you. With WinPatrol, in your system tray, you can monitor system areas that are often changed by malicious programs. You can monitor your startup programs and services, cookies and current tasks. Should you need to, WinPatrol allows you to terminate processes and enable, or disable, startup programs. There are additional features that make WinPatrol a very powerful addition to your security applications.

Sandboxie

www.sandboxie.com

Surfing the Internet without using Sandboxie is, to me, like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. Deadly! This application creates a “Sandboxed” protected environment on your machine within which you browse the net. Data that is written to your hard drive is simply eliminated, (or not, your choice), when the sandbox is closed. Utilizing this application allows you to surf the web without the risk of infecting your system with mal-ware or other nasties. This is another security application I have been using for over 6 months and it has yet to let me down. Highly recommended.

Snoop Free Privacy Shield

www.snoopfree.com

Snoop Free Privacy Shield is a powerful application that guards your keyboard, screen and open windows from all spy software. I have been using this application for quite some time, and I have been amazed at the number of programs that have requested access to my keyboard and screen. Particularly, programs that I am in the process of installing. If you’re serious about privacy, this is a must have addition to your security toolbox.

10 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Freeware, Internet Safety, Internet Safety Tools, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools