Is this even possible?

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Lime
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Is this even possible?

Postby Lime » Sun Nov 14, 2010 6:28 am UTC

Well there's a few questions I have here, all leading up to one important question. My family has a laptop that's riddled with viruses and my dad swears it's not. In fact, he was so sure that AVG was a virus that when he made me delete it and the computer got worse, not better, he blamed it on having "too much stuff on the hard drive."

First and foremost, the most obvious question that I'm asking only because I want to prove to my dad that while moderately ineffective, AVG is NOT a virus but an actual antivirus program. Is AVG a virus?

Now, this computer has now become literally unusable; it's completely unresponsive after a minute or so of use. It did have only about 3% of hard drive space left, but I cleared up a bit and it now has about 20% free. Would having this much stuff on your hard drive (either 97% or 80%) slow it down this significantly?

Finally, he says he called Microsoft today while I was out and they're "remotely deleting" things from our hard drive that they say are nonessential. Is this even possible? And if so, how would they even achieve it?

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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Sun Nov 14, 2010 6:45 am UTC

1. AVG is a fairly reputable anti virus program that offers a free edition. I suppose some malware could try to look like AVG, but generally I'd assume it's the real deal, as malware that tries to look like something usually tries to look like an obscure system process or something like that.

2. 80% shouldn't be an issue in most cases. 97% may make it difficult to defragment the drive, and probably means you've got a bunch of fragmented files that will slow things down. It could also cause problems if you have a dynamically sized page file (I think Windows be set to adjust the page file size on the fly...) and not a lot of RAM. If you haven't, I'd suggest defragmenting the hard drive as it's probably still kind of a mess.

3. I suppose it might be possible, in a "giving support with Remote Desktop" sort of way. I don't think I've ever heard of any remote support, anywhere, from anyone, actually doing that, particularly in a case like this. The normal tech support response to a malware problem (or what the support tech perceives to be a malware problem) is to tell you to take it to some form of repair shop, because they don't want to be liable for or to support anything other than their actual software that they provided. The is no way in hell they'd delete things without your explicit permission on an item-by-item basis.
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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby Magnanimous » Sun Nov 14, 2010 6:49 am UTC

Windows has been supporting Remote Desktop for a while now, so it's definitely possible... But I'm kind of suspicious about them deleting "non-essential" files. Are they giving you a list of files to delete, or are they actually doing it themselves?

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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby Lime » Sun Nov 14, 2010 6:52 am UTC

PhoenixEnigma wrote:1. AVG is a fairly reputable anti virus program that offers a free edition. I suppose some malware could try to look like AVG, but generally I'd assume it's the real deal, as malware that tries to look like something usually tries to look like an obscure system process or something like that.

2. 80% shouldn't be an issue in most cases. 97% may make it difficult to defragment the drive, and probably means you've got a bunch of fragmented files that will slow things down. It could also cause problems if you have a dynamically sized page file (I think Windows be set to adjust the page file size on the fly...) and not a lot of RAM. If you haven't, I'd suggest defragmenting the hard drive as it's probably still kind of a mess.

3. I suppose it might be possible, in a "giving support with Remote Desktop" sort of way. I don't think I've ever heard of any remote support, anywhere, from anyone, actually doing that, particularly in a case like this. The normal tech support response to a malware problem (or what the support tech perceives to be a malware problem) is to tell you to take it to some form of repair shop, because they don't want to be liable for or to support anything other than their actual software that they provided. The is no way in hell they'd delete things without your explicit permission on an item-by-item basis.

Thanks for your input, this is exactly the kind of answer I'm looking for. If anyone else wants to add their 2 cents, I'd be very grateful. My dad isn't the most open minded person, and doesn't like to be proven wrong.

Magnanimous wrote:Windows has been supporting Remote Desktop for a while now, so it's definitely possible... But I'm kind of suspicious about them deleting "non-essential" files. Are they giving you a list of files to delete, or are they actually doing it themselves?

I don't know for sure as I was at work all day, but judging by the fact that the computer is sitting at the log in screen right now and my dad was using present tense when he said "they're removing non-essential files," I'd say the latter.

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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby archeleus » Sun Nov 14, 2010 8:38 am UTC

Pretty much what PhoenixEnigma wrote.

Lime wrote:Is AVG a virus?


Well they didn't make AVG a virus to start with but I'm sure there are some trojans that can pretend to be AVG. Many people say this thing actually works but I've no first hand experience. Anyway for being safe, install a different antivirus after uninstalling AVG.

Lime wrote:Now, this computer has now become literally unusable; it's completely unresponsive after a minute or so of use. It did have only about 3% of hard drive space left, but I cleared up a bit and it now has about 20% free. Would having this much stuff on your hard drive (either 97% or 80%) slow it down this significantly?


I'm running on 3% free on my root partition and I'm not experiencing any speed losses; but for NTFS partitions I think it does matter but 20% would be fine. Just defragment the drive, run a scan for file system errors.

Lime wrote:it's completely unresponsive after a minute or so of use


You may also want to clear up some more space and give that up as swap space and also clearing the registry and uninstalling useless programs that runs on startup.

If you don't have that much data on the hard disk, you can try moving stuff you need into another external hard disk and then having a fresh install of the operating system. You can then scan the copied files at a different computer and deleting stuff that's infected. One last suggestion: move to Linux.
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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby Steax » Sun Nov 14, 2010 10:00 am UTC

See if in that minute you can check the list of applications that run on startup (Start > Run > msconfig > startup tab I believe) and uncheck anything non-essential - if you can, take a shot of the list with a camera or something, and check what they are (some should be easily recognizable). I find bloated apps that run on startup (a HUGE amount of them are installed by "free games", "security scans" and "free printer bonus applications") contribute a lot to "magical slowness syndrome."
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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby Jplus » Sun Nov 14, 2010 11:49 am UTC

A fresh install is probably a very good idea anyway. When a computer has been fragmenting files (which will always happen if your disk is filled for 97%, especially when the disk is not so large), been unresponsive and been unprotected while also being used in some stubborn way by a non-computer person who wants to believe that they are a computer person (this is something that happens particularly often with fathers with age between 50 and 70), then there can be numerous problems with your computer at the same time. These include all kinds of things that have been mentioned so far, such as startup items, swap file fragmentation and even unrepaired modifications caused by malware infections. Cleaning up such a mess is probably possible in most cases, but a fresh install is way easier and will yield a more rewarding result in most cases.

Please don't interpret my mention of fathers with age between 50 and 70 as a rant, though. My girlfriend's father is one of those "non-computer persons who want to believe that they are a computer person", but he's a really nice guy and I like him a lot. He's just not so good with computers and he wouldn't want to admit that. By "not so good with computers" I mean that he shouldn't be the person to decide wether certain things should be installed and how, but unfortunately he considers just exactly that as his task. One of the problems is that he refuses to install updates. My girlfriend would be a much better computer administrator for their family, but he would never let her...

I've also experienced multiple times that fathers of friends didn't want to take advice from me or another friend when a computer had to be buyed. Usually these fathers end up following the advice from a computer reseller who's mostly interested in making profit rather than helping to select a good computer. Somehow, there just seems to be a dissonance between computers on the one side and fathers of teenagers and young adults on the other side...
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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby Lime » Sun Nov 14, 2010 8:40 pm UTC

archeleus wrote:One last suggestion: move to Linux.

I use Ubuntu 10.10 on my own computer, but this is the family computer, and damned if my dad isn't afraid of change.

Jplus wrote:A fresh install is probably a very good idea anyway. When a computer has been fragmenting files (which will always happen if your disk is filled for 97%, especially when the disk is not so large), been unresponsive and been unprotected while also being used in some stubborn way by a non-computer person who wants to believe that they are a computer person (this is something that happens particularly often with fathers with age between 50 and 70), then there can be numerous problems with your computer at the same time. These include all kinds of things that have been mentioned so far, such as startup items, swap file fragmentation and even unrepaired modifications caused by malware infections. Cleaning up such a mess is probably possible in most cases, but a fresh install is way easier and will yield a more rewarding result in most cases.
Haha, that dad thing sounds exactly like my dad. Normally a very nice person, but uninformed and stubborn as a mule regarding computers. And I'm 100% sure it's an infection, considering AVG was telling me that there were infections on it right before my dad wanted it removed.

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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby Jplus » Sun Nov 14, 2010 10:01 pm UTC

An infection and disk fragmentation then, at the very least.

I still recommend fresh installation. However, if you want to manually clean up the mess you could start by installing a new virus scanner. These are some URLs of the real, trusted antivirus suppliers which have free versions:
http://free.avg.com/
http://www.avast.com/
http://www.avira.com/
http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/ (for this one you need a legitimate copy of windows)
http://www.malwarebytes.org/
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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby phillipsjk » Sun Nov 14, 2010 10:41 pm UTC

I have seen arguments that anti-virus software can act like the viruses they are supposed to remove. They use computer resources all the time; they can make an overloaded system slow and unresponsive. Many computer users don't even care if they have a virus: they care about what the virus is doing to their computer. If their computer is quietly being used as a zombie in a bot-net, they don't care because it does not affect them directly.

It is also possible that AVG is flagging software your dad wants installed as a virus. In that case there are two possibilities: 1. false-positive (generally a small utility without a lot of user interaction). 2. Trojan; Your dad may want to install the software for its perceived benefit, but it may have unwanted, unadvertised side-effects. Sometimes these side-effects are detailed in the click-through EULA you "agree" to.
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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby Jplus » Mon Nov 15, 2010 1:04 am UTC

phillipsjk wrote:I have seen arguments that anti-virus software can act like the viruses they are supposed to remove. They use computer resources all the time; they can make an overloaded system slow and unresponsive.

Yes. This is particularly true of McAfee and (until recently) Norton. Of the ones that I listed above AVG is probably the most resource-intensive, though usually not perceptibly slowing down a computer like McAfee would. This property of antivirus software and several other properties are constantly monitored at http://www.av-comparatives.org/.
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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby sonickrahnic » Wed Nov 17, 2010 6:23 am UTC

Lime wrote:
archeleus wrote:One last suggestion: move to Linux.

.


I second this motion. As long as you know your way around a GNU/Linux system well enough to teach your parents how to use it, this is the best suggestion. While GNU/Linux and UNIX-like systems are not technically impervious to viruses and hackers, they give you the tools to deter hackers and if on the off-chance a virus does get past the firewall, it will only f up your home directory and not your root directory. GNU/Linux gives you, the user, the tools to make your computer and desktop environment entirely your own domain. My fiancee's laptop has Windows because she is the only one who uses it, but the family computer uses Crunchbang, an offshoot of Ubuntu and Debian, and everyone in the house knows how to use it. Even our two year old daughter knows how to right click on the empty black screen to bring up a menu. She doesn't do much else, but she knows that at least. In short, GNU/Linux is a very good choice and will really cut down on unwanted intruders and give you peace of mind. Remember, hackers and malware producers target Windows because it holds most of the market share. More people are using it so, statistically, hackers and malicious coders have a better chance of exploiting it. GNU/Linux is still very much on the fringe, though it is quickly gaining ground, so these malicious coders have less of a chance of breaking in and wreaking havoc. In longer short than my previous short, GNU/Linux is very secure and seems like the best choice to remedy your problems. Also, I do not see that Microsoft would remotely delete anything from your computer, no matter how evil I may think they are.

EDITED for myriad spelling and grammar mistakes. I really need to stop drinking while I post.
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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby Jplus » Wed Nov 17, 2010 5:08 pm UTC

Yes, any system that has less market share than Windows (i.e. every OS that is not Windows) will be less likely to be attacked by malware. In addition, unixy OSs tend to be technically superior when compared to Windows (from a design point of view) and because of that in a sense also more secure.

However, in a family where the computer is administered by a father (or other person) of the type that I described in my first post in this thread (about halfway up the page from here), there is little hope that suggestions like switching to another OS will be accepted. You may find this just unreasonable, but as I will argue below, the gain from switching from Windows to Ubuntu isn't necessarily so large that it will even out the effort and potential discomfort that may arise from trying to persuade the administrator.
Another case where switching to another OS will certainly be a bad idea, is when dealing with people for whom learning to work with a computer is a royal pain. With hindsight, choosing Windows in the first place was probably a bad idea in such a case, but forcing such people to start over learning how to deal with these machines is an even worse idea.

So why wouldn't the gain be that large? Windows is horribly designed, tasteless and ugly, but it does have some security measures in place, there is decent antivirus software available, it's maintained well and it works. GNU/Linux, on the other hand, is in theory a much better OS, but there are fewer manhours and much less money available to keep things up-to-date, and it happens all too often that things don't work unless you fix them by yourself. This distinction between "guaranteed to work in most cases" and "very likely to not work in some cases" can apply to anything in your system, including security.
For people with a strong sense of esthetics in software design and for people who dislike Microsoft's marketing strategy GNU/Linux is obviously a better choice, but otherwise it's close call.

An example. My girlfriend has a laptop which ran Windows Vista and which had become horribly slow and bloated. So it needed a fresh install and I persuaded her to adopt a dual-boot system with Windows 7 and Ubuntu 10.04. I installed everything for her, and made a third disk partition to share all her files, her desktop and even her Firefox profile between the OSs. I went to great lengths to make everything comfortable on both OSs and my girlfriend was (and still is) very happy with the transition because her laptop is fast again and she regained a lot of hard disk space as well.
Still, on Ubuntu things keep showing up that don't work while Windows is doing everything without a hitch, and even though my girlfriend has the best intentions to give Ubuntu a chance, she finds herself switching back to Windows regularly because she needs to do something that doesn't work on Ubuntu. That really changed the way I think about Windows and Ubuntu.
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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby Magnanimous » Wed Nov 17, 2010 5:18 pm UTC

Yeah... I wouldn't recommend switching to Linux in this case. Windows 7 is surprisingly good, and it's pretty secure if you know what you're doing.

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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby sonickrahnic » Thu Nov 18, 2010 1:56 am UTC

Jplus wrote:Yes, any system that has less market share than Windows (i.e. every OS that is not Windows) will be less likely to be attacked by malware. In addition, unixy OSs tend to be technically superior when compared to Windows (from a design point of view) and because of that in a sense also more secure.

However, in a family where the computer is administered by a father (or other person) of the type that I described in my first post in this thread (about halfway up the page from here), there is little hope that suggestions like switching to another OS will be accepted. You may find this just unreasonable, but as I will argue below, the gain from switching from Windows to Ubuntu isn't necessarily so large that it will even out the effort and potential discomfort that may arise from trying to persuade the administrator.
Another case where switching to another OS will certainly be a bad idea, is when dealing with people for whom learning to work with a computer is a royal pain. With hindsight, choosing Windows in the first place was probably a bad idea in such a case, but forcing such people to start over learning how to deal with these machines is an even worse idea.

So why wouldn't the gain be that large? Windows is horribly designed, tasteless and ugly, but it does have some security measures in place, there is decent antivirus software available, it's maintained well and it works. GNU/Linux, on the other hand, is in theory a much better OS, but there are fewer manhours and much less money available to keep things up-to-date, and it happens all too often that things don't work unless you fix them by yourself. This distinction between "guaranteed to work in most cases" and "very likely to not work in some cases" can apply to anything in your system, including security.
For people with a strong sense of esthetics in software design and for people who dislike Microsoft's marketing strategy GNU/Linux is obviously a better choice, but otherwise it's close call.

An example. My girlfriend has a laptop which ran Windows Vista and which had become horribly slow and bloated. So it needed a fresh install and I persuaded her to adopt a dual-boot system with Windows 7 and Ubuntu 10.04. I installed everything for her, and made a third disk partition to share all her files, her desktop and even her Firefox profile between the OSs. I went to great lengths to make everything comfortable on both OSs and my girlfriend was (and still is) very happy with the transition because her laptop is fast again and she regained a lot of hard disk space as well.
Still, on Ubuntu things keep showing up that don't work while Windows is doing everything without a hitch, and even though my girlfriend has the best intentions to give Ubuntu a chance, she finds herself switching back to Windows regularly because she needs to do something that doesn't work on Ubuntu. That really changed the way I think about Windows and Ubuntu.


For the record, I've found every Ubuntu release since 9.04 to be increasingly more buggy and unreliable. Hence, the reason I use an unofficial offshoot. It does not surprise me that your girlfriend would have to switch to Windows to do things that Ubuntu cannot because lately, Ubuntu is quite horrid and I hate using it. This is just my opinion of course.

Also, with respect to man-hours dedicated to either project, Windows has the advantage of being managed by a corporation who can employ a plethora of coders and designers and ensure a complete product (sometimes... Vista wasn't all that complete as I recall). On the other hand, countless hours are spent developing the myriad GNU/Linux distributions as well as contributions to the kernel but most of these individuals, due to the open nature of the platform, are volunteers. So in that respect, I would say there are probably more man-hours dedicated to developing the Linux kernel and the GNU/Linux distros, however Microsoft has the resources to make these hours of development a motivated effort. The biggest problem with GNU/Linux is the lack of funding for development so a lot of distros end up being abandoned.

Anyway, I believe I have successfully derailed the topic, an unplanned event that seems to happen everytime I post anywhere.
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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Thu Nov 18, 2010 2:13 am UTC

Magnanimous wrote:Windows has been supporting Remote Desktop for a while now, so it's definitely possible... But I'm kind of suspicious about them deleting "non-essential" files. Are they giving you a list of files to delete, or are they actually doing it themselves?

Somewhat on topic - how much support does Microsoft actually provide to Windows end users? My only contact with them has been their automated activation system, as every system I've had contact with has, AFAIK, had either an OEM or pirated installation of Windows and, therefore, any support or lack thereof came from someone other than Microsoft.

If you are one of the seemingly rare people who have a retail copy of Windows, how much support does that get you?
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Re: Is this even possible?

Postby Emu* » Thu Nov 18, 2010 9:36 am UTC

I'm slightly worried that "Microsoft deleting non-essential files using Remote Desktop" might actually be "scammers who rang up saying they were Microsoft harvesting any details already on the computer and replacing malware with their own better-hidden malware and keyloggers".

Nuke it from orbit.
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