Archive for the 'Troubleshooting' Category

How to Test Memory – Test Bad Memory in a PC

Testing Memory:

This is an article about how to test memory that you have recently purchased or may be giving you problems. It is a good idea to test your new memory to make sure it will not give you problems down the road. This guide will also help you diagnose whether existing memory you have is faulty or is producing errors on your system.

“The Blue Screen of Death”, which you may see referred to as “BSOD” can be a common sign that the memory you have might be faulty. This is what happens when you are working on your PC and the screen goes completely blue and displays an error message that looks like a bunch of zeros and letters. The specific message does not give you much insight as to what may be going on unless you are an advanced user. But the act of the system displaying a blue screen is a good sign that you either need to reinstall your operating system or need to test your memory for problems.

Three other common signs of a memory problem or conflict can be if the system errors out during installations of software. Another sign can be if your system randomly reboots while you are working on it. The final symptom can be corrupted files that you have recently created or downloaded. The system will usually give you an error saying a file is corrupted in this case, although this is the least common of the three problems mentioned.

If you are running into these issues you may want to consider doing a diagnostic of your memory since a reinstall can fail if the memory is in fact faulty.

What Software do I Need to do a Diagnostic ?

There are two main programs people recommend for testing your memory. They are “MS Memory Diagnostic” which is provided by Microsoft, and “Memtest86” which can be found by searching through google.com or going to their homepage at:

http://www.memtest86.com/

I usually recommend that people use both programs since one program can sometimes pick things up that the other program missed.

Now let’s talk about how to get these programs and how to set them up. In some cases if you are having lots of memory problems you may not be able to work on your PC long enough to get each one setup and burned to CD. If this is the case there are two things you can do.

The first thing you can try is an old fashioned way of ruling out bad memory. It relies on you having at least two sticks of memory or more in your system. If you do have several sticks of memory, in most cases only one will go bad and the others can still be working fine. You can check for this by removing all your memory from the system, and then replacing it one stick at a time.

When you add one stick back into the system, run the computer and see if you are still getting memory errors. If only one stick is bad and it is currently out of the system you should be able to get your diagnostic discs setup since you will now be running more stable. This procedure in itself can rule out which stick is at fault although it helps to have diagnostic information when you apply for return authorization from the company you purchased your memory from.

If the above method does not help and you are still unable to get you PC to a point where it is stable enough for you to make your diagnostic disc, I would recommend checking with a friend and seeing if you can use their PC to make your disc. Or if you have access to a computer at work you can usually make the disc there too. Just check with your supervisor and make sure that it is not a problem if you do.

Continued in the following sections:

SETTING UP MS MEMORY DIAGNOSTIC

SETTING UP MEMTEST86



How to Use MS Memory Diagnostic – Guide & Tutorial

How Do I Setup MS Memory Diagnostic ?

First we will cover setting up the “MS Memory Diagnostic Disc”. The first thing you need to do is download a copy of the program from Microsoft.  In Internet Explorer for go to the “TOOLS” menu and select “Windows Update”. If you are not using Internet Explorer you can also search http://www.google.com for “Windows Update” and it should be the first link returned in your search.

[You may have problems with the Windows Update site if you are not using Internet Explorer. Microsoft has made changes that can sometimes conflict with other browsers, so if you don't normally run IE you may need to in order to access this part of the site.]

Once you are on the Windows Update site you should see a search field in the top right hand corner of your screen. Type in “Memory Diagnostic” and click search. The first link in your search results should be “Microsoft Online Crash Analysis“. Click on this link and it will take you to the page you can download the software from. At the top of the page you will see three blue links and the middle one should be “Download Windows Memory Diagnostic”. Click on this link and save the “mtinst.exe” file to your desktop.

Once the file has finished downloading double click on the new “mtinst.exe” file that should have appeared on your desktop. It will bring up the license agreement which you will need to “accept” in order to use the software. Once you have done this it will open a small program window that will give you two options.

CREATE STARTUP DISC [How to Create a Bootable Floppy Disc]

SAVE CD IMAGE TO DISC [How to Create a Bootable CD-ROM Disc]

Once you have completed one of the previous sections and created a bootable floppy disc, or bootable CD-Rom disc you should be ready to start the diagnostic. Follow the above guides which pertain to the specific disc you made for how to boot from that type of media.

In a perfect world you should just be able to put either your CD or floppy disc in the system, and it should automatically boot into the diagnostic program.

Running a Diagnostic:

Once the diagnostic program has started you will notice 3 main sections to the program. The first section is a top window with progress bars. There is a number displayed in this section which says pass 1/6 and changes according to what cycle of the diagnostic the program is on. Once it has passed 6/6 the program has completed one full cycle of testing and this is considered a completed tested. You can let it run longer for a more thorough test but 1 cycle is usually enough to find serious faults in your memory.

The next section is in the middle which has a PASS field on the left hand side. This will show you what diagnostic it is currently performing on the memory. This is color coded which helps. You basically want only GREEN and BLUE text. This means your memory is testing fine, and the program has not found any problems. If you see any section in here turn up in RED it means the program has found a problem with your memory. If this occurs write down a note of what test it was performing when this happened. This can help you give tech departments more information when applying for a return authorization on your memory.

The last section is a results field at the bottom of the program. If the program completes one full cycle [or several if you are being very thorough] you should see a message that says “No errors have been found“. If you noticed any RED text come up in the program during the diagnostic, as mentioned above, you will see what looks like a memory dump at the bottom of the screen. This is similar to the error message that is displayed during a Blue Screen of Death in windows.

After the diagnostic is complete, either eject your disc and boot back into Windows. Or if you are testing multiple sticks of memory leave the disc in the system, and power down. Once you have powered down disconnect your AC cable and remove the first stick of memory you tested and add the next stick into the system that you want to test.

[You can test numerous sticks of memory at once if you like, but this is only helpful when determining that all your memory is working fine. If you are testing numerous sticks and the diagnostic does detect problems, you will need to remove all your memory and test the sticks one by one to determine which one/s is being affected by the problem.]

You now have most everything you need to know about setting up and testing your memory with diagnostic programs. This guide should help you get to the source of any intermittent problems related to your memory.



How to Use Memtest86 – Memtest 86 Tutorial & Guide

Setting Up Memtest86:

When you go to the Memtest86 homepage you will see a “download” link at the very top of their page. If you follow this link it will take you to a page with 4 main links at the top. 90% of our users are going to want to download the third link down the page [This is the link for the Windows version of the program] labeled:

Download – Memtest86 v3.2 ISO image (zip)

I recommend saving the file to your desktop so it is easy to find. Once you have the file you will need to extract if from the ZIP file. If you are running Windows XP you should just be able to double click on the ZIP file and the drag it to your desktop. Otherwise if you are running an older version of Windows you will need to download Winzip which can be found at the follow link:

http://www.winzip.com

You do not need to buy this program as the evaluation version they offer will do all the basic things you need it to, to extract this file. Once you have Winzip installed follow the above instructions and double click on the file, and then drag the file you see in the window to your desktop.

The file you should have extracted from the above examples is labeled:

memtest86-3.2.iso

[NOTE: Memtest86 only allows for creating a bootable diagnostic CD. If you do not have a CD Burner and are unable to create the diagnostic disc, you may want to refer to the guide on "Setting Up MS Memory Diagnostic" which will give you two options for creating a disc.]

Burning The Program to CD:

As you can see from looking at the file extension this is an ISO file indicated by the .ISO at the end of the filename. An ISO file, also known as an “Image” file is used to burn an exact copy of a file or program within certain CD burning software. One program that works great for burning these types of files is “Nero Burning Rom”. If you have this program you are good to go. If not you can download the program from the following location:

http://www.nero.com/

If you do not want to purchase this software, you can look for the “Free Trial” version on their site which will let you use the basic functions of the software needed to burn the ISO file. Once you have Nero downloaded and installed you open up your “memtest86-3.2.iso” file into Nero so that you can burn the diagnostic program to CD.

You need to open the file in Nero a certain way to make to make sure that it burns the ISO file correctly. To do this, right click on the file and it will bring up a menu of options. You want to select the “Open With” option from the menu. Once you have selected this it will open an “Open With” dialog that will display all the software that are currently installed on your system

If you have installed Nero correctly you should be able to scroll down the list and select Nero and then click “OK”. If you like you an leave the “Always use this program to open these files” option checked [or add a check if it is not] and in the future your computer will know to always open ISO image files in Nero so you can burn them.

Once you have selected OK Nero will open automatically and take you to the “Image Recording – Write a premastered image” window. You can leave the options that are set at their defaults and then click the “next” button in the lower right hand corner.

At this point Nero should begin the “Burning Process” which will show you a percentage bar of how much time is left on the program for burning your CD. Since this is such a small file, the burn process should only take about 1 minute and then it will pop up with a window that says

Burn process completed successfully at 40x (6,000 KB/s)

Or something similar to that, you are mainly checking to make sure it says it completed successfully. Click ok on the success window and then click the “next” button in the lower right corner one more time to finish your diagnostic disc.

At this point the program should automatically eject your disc from the system at which point you can close down Nero since we are done using it. I would recommend putting the disc back into the system and then checking through Windows Explorer to make sure you see data on the disc as another method to verify the disc was burned successfully.

Through Windows Explorer click on your CD-Rom drive. If the data has been burned correctly you should see a “BOOT” folder on your CD. If this is there the diagnostic program has been burned correctly.

Once you have verified that your disc is good to go, you can leave it in the drive and reboot the system to start the memory diagnostic. I will only be giving a brief rundown of the program and interface since Memtest86 offers a comprehensive guide to their program on the page you downloaded the file from. If you want more information than what is included here please refer back to that page.

Running the Diagnostic Program:

The basic diagnostic screen has five main sections of relevant information. Three at the top which are labeled, PASS %, TEST %, and TEST #. This will basically show you the total progress of the current test, the overall progress of the diagnostic test, and the test number is currently performing.

On the middle left hand side of the of the program interface there is a “Wall Time” section that will keep track of how long the diagnostic test has been running for. This just gives you an idea if you are not attending the testing process.

The main section to look for is the lower half of the screen which is usually blank. As long as the memory testing is going ok with no errors this section of the screen should remain blank. If the diagnostic program finds any serious faults in the memory you will see it display a memory dump of address’s in this section. This is similar to what is displayed on your screen when you encounter a blue screen of death.

You now have most everything you need to know about setting up and testing your memory with diagnostic programs. This guide should help you get to the source of any intermittent problems related to your memory.



Installing Windows XP On a SATA Hard Drive

Windows 2000 / XP Installation Basics

This guide will walk you through installing your operating system onto a new SATA [Serial ATA] hard drive in your computer. Please be sure to follow each step of the guide if you are running into issues getting your computer to identify or install onto your new SATA hard drive.

[NOTE: To install your operating system on a new SATA hard drive you are going to need to provide a SATA drivers disc during the Windows Setup process. This disc is NOT provided by the company you purchased your motherboard from. This is a disc you need to create using the makedisk.exe utility which can usually be found on your motherboard drivers disc or the manufacturers website. If you need more information on how to create this disc, please refer to the detailed instructions below. We will cover how to create an nVidia SATA or VIA SATA drivers disk depending on your chipset. This procedure can be different depending on the brand of motherboard you purchased.]

This guide is broken into the following sections which can be found below:

  1. HOW TOMAKE A SATA DRIVERS DISK          [FLOPPY DISK]
  2. nVidia Chipset SATA Drivers Disk
  3. VIA Chipset SATA Drivers Disk
  4. USING THE SATA DRIVERS DISK DURING THE WINDOWS INSTALLATION

How to Make a SATA Drivers Disk. [Floppy Disk] :

You will need to determine what chipset your motherboard is running before you proceed with this guide. This information should be listed on your motherboard box or in the manual that came with your motherboard. If you are unsure or do not have that information available you can check the model on the board itself [usually located near the PCI slots]. If it has an “N” in the model it is nVidia and if it has a “V” in the model it is a VIA chipset.

Now that you have determined what chipset you are running follow the instructions below for how to setup your SATA drivers disk for each chipset.

You will also need access to another system with Windows already installed so you can run your motherboard CD and create your drivers disk. If you do not have one at home you can ask to use a friend’s computer, or possibly use one from work.

[NOTE: Some motherboard disks now contain a button in the autorun menu for the makedisk utility. If this is included it will eliminate the need to manually find the correct program on your disk. In those cases I would recommend using that option and then referring to the instructions below if you have any further questions or need information about how to use the program itself.

NVIDIA CHIPSET INSTRUCTIONS: [VIA INSTRUCTIONS BELOW]

The first thing you will need to do to create your SATA drivers disc on a bootable floppy is setup a floppy disc to copy the drivers onto. This information can be found at the following link:

How to Format a Floppy Disc

Once your disc is ready and you want to create your SATA drivers disc you will need to take the Master CD that came with your motherboard and put it into your system.

Once you have the CD in your system go into Windows Explorer and navigate to where the Makedisk.exe utility is located on your disc. This can be done in one of two ways.

How to Find the MakeDisk Program. [Method #1]

The easiest way is to manually locate it on the disc since it will show you what folders you are in and will give you a better idea of what version of makedisk.exe you actually need to use.

For my example I will be using a motherboard disc from the ASUS A8N-SLI motherboard.

When the disk is in the CD-ROM it is titled “nForce4_Series“. Once I explore the disk it gives me several folders:

  1. BIN

  2. DRIVERS

  3. LINUXDRIVERS

  4. MANUAL

  5. SOFTWARE

In this case I am going to check in the “DRIVERS” folder as this is the most common place to start. Under the DRIVERS folder you have several options also:

  1. AMD

  2. AUDIO

  3. CHIPSET

  4. LAN

  5. SII3114

  6. USB

Now we will want to check in the “SII3114″ folder. [SII stands for Silicon Image, commonly associated with Serial ATA drives.] Once I click on this folder I see 4 folders and a “MakeDisk.exe” program.

  1. 64BIT

  2. DISK

  3. NOVELL

  4. RAID_DRIVER

  5. MakeDisk.exe

In this case we have found the program in this directory and do not need to dig any further unless we were installing under some type of special circumstances. Since I am guessing most users reading this guide are mainly looking for how to create their SATA floppy disk we won’t get sidetracked with the other options available in this folder.

Using the MakeDisk.exe Program:

Now that we have found our “MakeDisk.exe” utility you want to double click the file and run the program. When you start the program a Window will open up that says “ASUS File Image Extractor”. “Specify the floppy drive and insert a blank 3.5″, 1.44MB floppy disk”

There is really only one option to specify here and that is the letter of your floppy drive. In most cases it should be defaulted to A: and you should not need to change the selection. If it is set to anything else then you can specify the correct drive letter from the drop down menu. The other section is “Volume” which will most likely be grayed out since the program should be able to auto detect what type of disk you are trying to use.

Once you have confirmed that the correct drive is selected go ahead and click the “Extract” button at the bottom of the program window.

Once you click Extract you will see a progress bar come up that says “Track xx / 160 (50%)“. This will show you once the program has completed creating your driver disk. Once it is complete it will just go back to the main window at which point you should check your A: drive to make sure the disk has been created successfully.

Go ahead and close down the program and then select your A: drive through Windows Explorer. Once you have it selected you should see several files on the disk. Example:

  1. si3114r5.cat

  2. Si3114r5.inf

  3. Si3114r5.sys

  4. SilSupp.cpl

  5. SIPPD.inf

  6. SIWinAcc.sys

  7. TxtSetup.oem

The files may vary a little for your disk but it should pretty much look the same. Just seeing files on the disk should be an indication that the extraction process worked correctly.

At this point you should have a working SATA drivers disk. From this point you can move to the second portion of our guide that will walk you through how to use your SATA drivers disk during the Windows installation process.

How to Find the MakeDisk Program. [Method #2]

If you are unable to manually locate the MakeDisk.exe utility you have one other option available to you. You can do a “Search” through Windows Explorer on your CD to try and find the location of the program.

In Windows Explorer you will want to “right” click on your CD-ROM drive and it should bring up a menu. Select the search option from the menu and it will open a new window that says “Search Results” in the top left hand corner. In the “Search for files or folders named” section type in the following file name:

MakeDisk.exe

Once you click the “Search Now” button the Window should return at least 1 result. In most cases it will return multiple files since there is usually more than one version of the program located on the motherboard disk.

To find the correct version of the program make sure to check the description under the “In Folder” column of the search window. For my example board [A8N-SLI] when I do a search for the program it returns numerous results. Some of the files are located in folders named “SATARAID” or something similar with the term “RAID” in the title. We do not need to worry about those versions of the program unless we are installing our SATA drives in a RAID setup.

As mentioned before you see a folder similar to “SII3114“. Hopefully your search returned a path similar to that to the right hand column of the MakeDisk.exe file your search found. If so that is the one you will want to go with.

Now that you have found the utility you can use it to create your SATA drivers disk. If you have any questions about how to use the program please refer to the section above for detailed instructions.

This concludes how to create your SATA drivers disk for motherboards using an nVidia chipset. From this point on you can refer to the second part of the guide that will walk you through how to perform the Windows installation with your SATA drivers disk.

[NOTE: In the above example we used an A8N-SLI motherboard. I believe this board does not actually require SATA drivers as the board auto detects SATA drives once they are hooked up to it. The above board was for example purposes only so users understand how the SATA driver disk creation works.]

VIA CHIPSET INSTRUCTIONS

Setting up a SATA driver disk for a board that has a VIA chipset can be very different from the method mentioned above.

The first thing you will need to do is put the motherboard CD that came with your mainboard into your system. Once that is done open up Windows Explorer.

Once you have Windows Explorer up, open your CD-ROM drive to explore the contents of the disk. For my example I will be using a BIOSTAR K8VGAM.

When I open the disk I see a series of folders. They are as follows:

  1. AMD_CPU_K8

  2. AUDIO

  3. CHIPSET

  4. ICCARD

  5. LAN

  6. MODEM

  7. SERATA

In this case we will want to go into the “SERATA” folder. Once I have opened this folder I see another folder named “VT6420“.

Since it is the only folder located inside the first folder we will open up this folder next.

Inside this folder you will see quite a few files and folders. The folders listed are as follows:

  1. DRIVERDISK

  2. MASSTOOL

  3. PIDE

  4. RAIDTOOL

  5. VIARAID

In this case go into the “DRIVERDISK” folder to get the files we need to create our SATA drivers disk. As mentioned before setting up the SATA driver disk for a VIA chipset is a very different process then setting up for the nVidia chipset. Here is where the biggest difference comes into effect.

In the DRIVERDISK folder you will most likely see 2 folders and a file. They are named:

  1. PIDE [folder]
  2. RAID [folder]
  3. TXTSETUP.OEM [file]

To create your disk you will want to copy the above files to your floppy disk. Highlight everything in the DRIVERDISK folder [both folders and the file mentioned above] then “right” click and select the “COPY” option from the popup menu. Once you have copied the files, go to your floppy disk in your A: drive and select “EDIT>PASTE“. The files should now be copied over to your floppy disk.

Congratulations. You have now created your SATA Drivers Disk for motherboards with VIA Chipsets. You can now refer to the second portion of our guide for how to use the Drivers Disk during the Windows installation process.

How To Use Your SATA Drivers Disk During the Windows Installation:

01. Confirm the computer is powered off.

Since we are going to be adding new hardware to the system make sure your computer is powered off, with the AC power cable disconnected from the system to prevent and possible hardware damage or injury while working inside the case.

02. Mount the Serial ATA hard drive.

Select an open drive bay within the system and mount you new hard drive into the case. Make sure you have it in an ideal spot so that both the power cables and data cables can reach the drive without a problem.

03. Connect the cables.

Connect the data cable to the drive first. Make sure it feels like it is a snug fit to avoid the chance of the cable falling out if the system is bumped or moved. Then connect the power cable. Depending on the drive and connection it may either be a flat black connection about 1.5 inches wide, or the standard 4 pin Molex connection used with normal hard drives.

04. Insert the Windows XP/2000 installation CD.

Since you are going to be installing your operating system on to the new SATA drive make sure your setup disc is in your CD-Rom when you power up the system. You also need to make sure you have a floppy drive installed in the system since you are going to need to load your SATA drivers off a floppy disc before the system will recognize your new hard drive during the install process.

05. Power up the computer.

Once your new hardware is installed and setup in your system. Check any final options you need to have configured. The main one being that “Floppy Seek” is enabled in your BIOS so the system knows to look for a floppy drive. Otherwise it will give you an error like “No Floppy Drive Detected”. When you first boot the computer you will want to make sure your floppy drivers disc is not in your floppy drive since this will interfere with the system booting off the Windows Setup disc. Insert the floppy disc when you see the screen go black right before the installation process. It will display a message that says:

“Setup is Inspecting your Computers Hardware Configuration”

06. Press the F6 key to install drivers as the Windows setup screen launches.

As soon as the system goes to the next part of the installation it will display a blue screen with a message at the bottom that says:

“Press F6 if you need to install a third party SCSI or RAID driver.”

Since the system will take a few minutes loading drivers for the installation I would recommend tapping the F6 key several times when this screen first comes up. This way you can make sure it does not miss the SATA driver prompt screen when it has finished loading all the drivers.

07. Insert the floppy diskette containing the drivers for the Serial ATA controller.

As mentioned above you should already have loaded your floppy disk into the system. If you have not already done this, do so at this time. Once the system has finished loading the drivers needed for the installation it will prompt you to select you drivers off of the floppy disk. Select which ever drivers pertain to the version of Windows you are using.

[Follow the prompt within this window and it will direct you to your floppy disc and the driver selection screen.]

08. Once the drivers are loaded, proceed with the normal Windows XP/2000 installation.

Once the drivers are loaded the installation will proceed as it would if you were using a normal hard drive. From this point on just act you are installing Windows normally and you should not run into any issues.

You can now easily finish up your install on your system.

Install a New SATA Drive in an Existing Windows System:

This method of installation is easier than the one presented above as it does not require the use of a SATA drivers disc. Since SATA drivers are inherent within the full installation of windows you can use a utility that is provided by the system to setup and configure your new SATA drive. This method assumes your main boot drive is already installed and configured with Windows and you are installing the SATA drive as a secondary storage drive in the system.

  1. Confirm the computer is powered off.
  2. Mount the Serial ATA hard drive.
  3. Connect the cables.
  4. Power up to Windows XP/2000.

Follow the above steps as outlined in part one of this guide. Once you power up the system let it boot into Windows you so can make use of the Disk Management utility.

  1. Insert the CD that contains the drivers for the SATA controller/motherboard.

This step may not be necessary because Windows can usually identify a SATA hard drive after it has been fully installed as mentioned above.

  1. Launch the drivers by double-clicking on them.
  2. The drivers should install themselves.

These two steps may also not be needed since the system should be able to automatically detect your SATA drive through Windows.

  1. Right-click on My Computer.
  2. Select Manage.
  3. Select Disk Management.

The above steps will bring you into the Disk Management utility which you can use to setup and configure your new SATA drive.

  1. Find the SATA hard drive, which should be denoted as “Disk 1″ or similar.
  2. Right-click on the box containing “Disk 1″ or similar.
  3. Choose Initialize or Write Drive Signature (if available).
  4. Right-click on the Unallocated Space to the right of this “Disk 1″ box.
  5. Select New Partition.
  6. Follow the prompts to create and format the partition.

The last few steps will walk you through setting up your new SATA drive for use. Once you have followed through on the prompts you will see a progress screen which will give you an idea of how much time it will take to finish setting up your drive. If you have more questions than what is covered in the above guide please refer to the link below for more information.


See more information on this final process here: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;309000

More Information on the Installation of Windows


You may never have noticed the “F6″ option before, since it happens at the bottom of the screen and is visible for only a few seconds during a standard install. What you most likely encountered during the setup process was a screen which came up informing you Setup could not find any drives installed on your computer, and it could not continue.

To be able to hit the F6 button, you must restart the Setup process, and watch the bottom of the screen after pressing Enter on the “Welcome to Setup” screen. There will be some moments of files being loaded, and then you should see a message appear which says “Press F6 if you need to install a 3rd party SCSI or RAID driver”. This message will only stay on the screen for a couple of seconds, so press F6 as soon as you see it appear.

After this is done, you will see other messages appear, and it will act as though nothing is happening, but eventually a screen will appear which will allow you to install the drivers for the SATA controller.

After you press “S” on the SATA driver screen, the driver install process will continue and the floppy disk will be needed. Further instructions will be displayed after the driver install process has ended.

From this point on, continue the install like you normally would with Windows since your SATA hard drive should now be recognized by the system and ready for your Windows installation.

Congratulations you have now installed you SATA hard drive into your system. From this point on your computer should treat the drive as a normal hard disk, and you will be able to enjoy all the features of a high speed transfer storage device.



How to Do a Windows Clean Install After a Format

Why do a Clean Install ?

There are many reasons to do a clean install of Windows by formatting your hard drive. It can be good method to follow if you have recently been affected by viruses or spyware. If you have had problems in the past with your current install. Or if you have noticed your system is running slower than it used to and you are trying to increase performance by doing a clean install.

There is also an option in Windows that allows you to do a repair of your operating system, but sometimes this is not offered as an option depending on what version of Windows you are running. Also sometimes the problem may not be fixed by just doing a Windows repair. For example a virus may write itself to other parts of the system, including deep in your registry to avoid this type of recovery. A clean install allows you to rest assured that anything on your system will be completely removed so you do not need to worry about a virus propagating itself.

This guide will be broken into two sections. The first section will walk you through how to do a Format through DOS using a boot disk. [The old school way] The second section of the guide will walk you through doing a Format & Clean Install from your Windows Setup disc. [The easier, preferred method.] If you are just looking for a quick easy way to Format your hard drive and you have your original Windows installation disk handy, I would recommend skipping ahead to the second part of this guide for the “preferred method” of how to Format your drive.

Section #1 – Formatting with a Boot Disk

Section #2 – Formatting with the Windows Setup Disk

How do I do an Old School Format on my Hard Drive ?

There are several methods of how to do this but we are only going to cover the most popular way to perform this procedure. This method is solely for wiping all the information on the drive. After that you would need your Windows Setup Disk to perform the installation of your operating system.

To start you will need a boot disc for Windows. Since most people do not collect system discs we are going to point you towards an online resource that will help you set this up. There is a good site, where you can download the program you need. It can be found at the following link:

http://www.bootdisk.com/

When you get to their main page you will see a link at the top that says:

DOS/Windows9X/Me/NT/2K/XP Excellent Bootdisks

Click on this link and it will take you to a page that has Windows 98′ and DOS boot disks. I would recommend the Windows 98′ OEM link which is the first link in the Windows 98 downloads.

When you click on the link it will open the save file dialog. I would recommend saving this file to your desktop so it is easy to find. Once the file has been saved go to your desktop and you should now see a new file called “boot98.exe”.

Double click the boot98.exe file and a “Batch Assistant” window will open up. The message will tell you to “Insert Floppy to Write”. Make sure you have a floppy disc that does not have important data on it, so you create you Windows 98 boot disk. I recommend formatting the disc, prior to trying to create it so that you will not run into any problems during the creation process.

You can format the floppy disc [click for more info] by clicking on “My Computer” and then right clicking on your “A:\” drive and selecting the format option from the menu. Make sure the drive you have selected is in fact your floppy drive to avoid wiping out data on any of your hard drives.

Once the format dialog is open, go with the default options and just double check to make sure the “file system” is set to “FAT” since we are working with a Windows 98′ disc making utility. Also make sure the option for “quick format” is unchecked so the system will do a more thorough job of wiping all data off the disc. Once you have checked these two options hit the “Start” option and wait for the progress bar to reach 100%. Once it is complete close out of the format dialog.

Once you have your disk clean go back to the batch assistant window and click the “OK” option to create your Windows 98′ boot disk. Once it is done writing the disc close down the program, and check you’re A:\ drive through “My Computer” to make sure you see data on your floppy disc.

You have now created a Windows 98′ boot disc that you can use to format all the data on your hard drive. At this point you would want to insert the disk into the system you want to wipe all the data off of, and then reboot that system with the disk in the drive.

Using Your Boot Disc to Format Your Computer:

When the system reboots with the disc in the floppy drive it will come up with a message:

“Searching for Boot Record from Floppy”

[Make sure your BOOT ORDER is set correctly so the system reads the disc]

Once it finds the disc and reads the information, it will come up with a message that says “Starting Windows ’98″

Once it has finished loading into the boot it will give you a prompt of two or three choices and you will want to select “Start computer without CD-ROM support”. We do not need CD-ROM support in this case because we are only focused on formatting the hard drive right now.

Once you make your selection it will come up to a prompt that says “Preparing to start your computer”. As the message indicates this may take a few minutes so please wait. Once it is done loading it will bring you up to a command prompt that looks like this:

A:\>

From this point you will need to type in the format command, which is as follows:

A:\> FORMAT C:

Once you type this command in you will receive a system message that says:

WARNING, ALL DATA ON NON-REMOVABLE DISK DRIVE C: WILL BE LOST!

Proceed with Format (Y/N)?

Hit “Y” to proceed with the format. As the message above states make sure you have any data you need on the drive backed up prior to attempting the format. If you are ready to proceed hit ENTER after you have typed “Y”.

You will now see another screen with a progress message that says:

Formatting 6,142m

xx% complete

This message shows you the size of the drive you are formatting and the percent complete the operation is at. Once the operation reaches 100% it will go back to the A: prompt:

A:\>

FDISK a Hard Drive:

At this point you can take it one step further if you like and do an FDISK on the hard drive. You don’t really need to do this but some people like to take this extra step to feel like they are working with a nice crisp drive when everything is complete. The FDISK portion of the process is not required when you do a clean format although some people have asked me how to do this so I am including it into the guide.

[NOTE: This part is also covered in an updated method, in the second portion of the guide. This is mainly a continuation of the boot disk method for doing an FDISK on your drive. The section that covers doing this from your original installation disk uses an easier, preferred method for performing an FDISK on your hard drive.]

Follow the steps below to perform an FDISK on your hard drive from the utilities that are included with the boot disk we created.

From the A: prompt type the FDISK command:

A:\> FDISK

It will bring you to a prompt that displays the following message:

“Do you wish to enable large disc support (Y/N)?”

Once again type “Y” for yes, and hit the ENTER key.

It will then ask you:

“Should NTFS partitions on the drives be treated as large (Y/N)?”

Once again type “Y” for yes, and hit the ENTER key.

[This way if you are working with Windows 2000 or Windows XP you will make full use of the entire size of your hard drive.]

At this point it will take you to a menu that offers you several options for operations you can perform. You will want to select option #4 which is “Display Partition Information”

It should show you information that is similar to the following:

Partition                      Type                Volume Label                 Mbytes

1                             NTFS                    primary                            2996

2                           EXT DOS                    n/a                                3153

[In this case the “Volume Label” part has been filled in by me. Not everyone has a drive label assigned, so if you do not this section will probably be blank. The volume label is mainly a name given to the drive that helps you identify it easily. If there is no drive label the n/a would actually just be blank.]

Once you have checked out the drive information you should have a better idea of the “TYPE” of drive you are working with. This way when you try to delete the partition, you know what option you will need to select from the main menu.

Hit “ESC” to go back to the main menu, and then select the option that says:

“Delete partition or logical drive”

It will take you to another menu where you can choose the following option:

#3 Delete Logical DOS Drive in the extended DOS partition

#4 Delete Non-DOS Partition

Depending on the “TYPE” of drive you have you will want to pick one of those options to delete the partition. If you are unsure just pick one and see if the next screen displays drive information. If it does not hit “ESC” go back to the main menu and select “Delete partition or logical drive” again, and then try choosing the other option.

Once you are at the correct screen you will also notice a message that says:

WARNING – Data in the deleted Non-DOS partition will be lost.

Since we formatted the drive earlier we do not need to worry about this part.

It will also have a prompt that asks you:

“What Non-DOS partition do you want to delete?”

At this point you need to “Select Drive #” and it will ask if you wish to continue. Type “Y” for yes.

You may also be asked to select by “Drive Letter”, and then “Enter Volume Label” and it will then ask “Are You Sure (Y/N)” Type “Y” for this also.

[The steps above may vary since people have different drive letters and labels but because we are at a point where there is no data on the drive you don't need to worry about working through trial and error to delete the partition. Even people who are familiar with the process need to do that at times, since a drive may be setup differently than what they are used to, especially when troubleshooting. Just be patient and you will eventually be able to delete your current partition.]

Once you have deleted the partition you will see your drive information disappear and you can now hit “ESC” to go back to the main menu and recreate your partition.

Recreating a partition is much easier than deleting it since it’s pretty much a two step process, and usually goes the same way each time.

From the main menu select option #1:

“Create DOS partition or logical DOS drive”

Once you have selected that, you be prompted for one more option and you should select:

“Create primary DOS partition”

Once you have made you choice you will see a message on the screen that says:

“Verifying Drive Integrity %”

This will show you the overall progress of the operation and once it is complete it will display a message that says:

“Do you wish to use the maximum available size for a primary DOS partition and make the partition active? (Y/N)”

Select “Y” for yes and you should see the message:

“Verifying Drive Integrity %”

Once this operation is complete you should see a message that says:

“You must restart for changes to take effect”

You have now run through a basic crash course on how to FDISK a drive from a boot disk. This step is not crucial to do when formatting a hard drive but since I have been asked about this so many times I wanted to include some basic information on the procedure for those who have never done it before.

How do I do a Clean Format and Install through Windows Setup ?

It used to be that back in the day you needed to do a Format by running utilities through DOS. Because this was such a round about way to do such a simple task Microsoft finally included a utility right through the setup screen to make this process easier.

If you do not want to mess around with creating boot disks or working through a DOS prompt to format your drive this is the method you will want to follow.

Make sure your “BOOT ORDER” is setup correctly so that your CD-ROM will boot before your hard drive and insert your Windows installation disk into the system. Reset your computer and when it boots it should give you a prompt that says:

“Hit any key to boot from CD..”

You need to hit a key as soon as you see this message since it is only displayed for about 3 seconds before your system skips the CD-ROM. If you miss this prompt then reset the system and make sure you hit the key the next time the message is displayed.

Once you hit any key you should see a message on a black screen that says:

“Setup is inspecting your computers hardware configuration”

Once it is complete it will take you to a blue setup screen that says “Windows Setup” in the top left hand corner and should also display a message that says “Setup is loading files” at the bottom of the screen.

This may take a few minutes depending on how fast your system is, and once it gets past this point it will take you to a screen that has three options on it. You will want to pick the first option that says:

“To setup Windows XP now, press ENTER”

Go ahead and hit ENTER at this point to begin the setup process. You should see a message that says “Please wait” and once it loads into the next screen it will show you the Windows License Agreement. You will want to hit F8 on this screen to agree to the license and progress in the setup process.

F8 = I agree

It will show you the “loading” message again and then take you to a screen that has two options on it. You will want to select the option that says:

“To continue installing a fresh copy of Windows XP without repairing, press ESC”

ESC = Don’t Repair

The next page will show you partition information for the hard drive. This is the section I mentioned before that will take you through a simplified FDISK procedure for the system. Since you are following this guide to do a Format on your hard drive lets go ahead and delete the current partition to do the first step in wiping your data off this drive.

On the Delete Partitions screen go ahead and hit the “D” key to delete the current partition.

D = Delete Partition

It will bring up a message that says:

“To delete this partition press ENTER. Setup will prompt you for confirmation before deleting the partition”.

ENTER = Continue

Go ahead and press ENTER to continue the delete partition process. Once you hit ENTER it will take you to a confirmation screen that says:

“You asked setup to delete the partition” and will show you data on your drive:

C: Partition [NTFS]               76309 MB (75120 MB FREE)

“To delete this partition press L.

CAUTION: All data on this partition will be lost”.

L = DELETE

Go ahead and hit “L” to confirm that you want to delete the partition, and once you do this it will take you back to the main page.

It should now show you drive information that will look like this:

Unpartitioned Space            76517 MB

At this point you have deleted the partition on your hard drive and completed the first step in wiping off your data. From this point you will want to create a new partition and then the setup program will Format your new partition.

To create a new partition you will want to hit “C”

C = Create Partition

It will take you to a screen that has the following message:

“To create the new partition enter a size below and press enter”

[I would recommend going with the default size that the system enters automatically. You do not need to change this option unless you are creating Multiple Partitions which we will cover in another guide.]

ENTER = Create

Go ahead and press ENTER and the setup program will create a new partition and then take you back to the main page.

You should now see that there has been a new partition created on hard drive and the setup program will now give you an option at the bottom of the screen that says:

ENTER = Install

Hit ENTER and it will take you to another screen that says:

Format the partition using the NTFS file system (Quick)

Format the partition using the NTFS file system

I would recommend using the “Quick” option because it will take less time and get you to the reinstall portion of setup much faster. Since you already had data on the drive at one point you are able to use the quick option since the standard option is usually only used the first time a hard drive is setup and takes MUCH longer.

[NOTE: One thing to remember is that the standard format option is used when the drive is first setup. The main advantage is that it does a basic error check for any bad sectors on your drive, and is a little more thorough than the quick option. Both options will remove all data from your drive.]

Once you have highlighted the Format “Quick” option hit ENTER to continue with setup:

ENTER = Continue

You have now successfully preformed FDISK and FORMAT through the Windows Installation Disk. From this point on the installation will be the standard Windows install. Just follow the prompts and provide the necessary information [i.e. Windows Key, Date, Time, Time zone, Network Info, Computer Name, etc.] The installation Wizard will walk you through the rest of the setup process and you can reinstall your operating system knowing that you have a fresh clean hard drive to work with.

At this point hopefully any virus, spyware or corruption problems will be fixed and you should have no more issues. If you do experience any other problems after doing the clean install you may be running into some type of hardware issue with the hard drive itself and may want to look into contacting the manufacturer to find out about warranty info on the drive or doing an RMA [Return to Manufacturer] for replacement.

Good luck with your install, and enjoy your clean crisp hard drive and improved performance now that you are starting over on a clean slate.



How to Detect and Remove Spyware

Spyware – The Modern Day Virus:

Since the birth of the internet there have always been many forms of invasive advertising. People engage in these practices for many reasons. The biggest reasons being to make money from sponsors or promote their company or products.

As the years have gone by these practices have become more and more annoying to the point where they have become malicious attacks on users systems. Modern day spyware is now so bad and damaging to a system that it can exhibit the same symptoms as if a computer were to get a virus.

There a numerous signs that can point towards a spyware infection. A couple symptoms are listed below:

01. Slow boot times, when a system used to be fast.
02. Overall performance slows down.
03. Getting popup ads even when you are not online.
04. Programs or shortcuts added to menus that you did not put on your system.
05. Programs that tell you they found spyware on your PC that you did not install.
06. Frequently getting disconnected from the internet.
07. Memory errors or BSODs [Blue Screen of Death]
08. Added toolbars in your internet browser that were not installed by you.
09. A changed wallpaper or homepage that you did not set.
10. Not being able to boot into Windows.

Those are just some of the most common symptoms caused by malicious spyware on a system.

Now that you can recognize some of the symptoms of spyware we are going to talk about the steps you can take to protect yourself and you system from these types of threats.

I Have Spyware!!! How Do I Remove It?..

So after reading the general symptoms above you have come to the conclusion that your machine is most likely infected with spyware. The first important rule is don’t panic.

Since we are going to be walking through a multi step process for cleaning up your system you will need to be calm and patient to make sure you follow this guide in its entirety to fix the problems with your system.

In most cases, almost all spyware infections can be cleaned and corrected without needing to do a complete reinstall of Windows. That is the one advantage of being infected with spyware over being infected with a virus.

The first thing we need to do to clean the system is install Anti Spyware programs. These are programs that are designed like Anti Virus programs except their main functions are to find and clean spyware off your system. I am going to recommend 4 main programs in this guide that we use in house when customers bring in infected machines. These programs do an excellent job of eliminating almost any threat on your system.

[NOTE: All the programs and links below are resources you can use FREE of charge. Some of the companies may ask for donations if you like their products but you are not required to pay for the use as they provide them as a benefit to the computer community. If you really like a program feel free to make a donation, if not they are still happy you like their software and hope you’ll recommend it to a friend.]

SpyBot Search & Destroy:

The first program we are going to download is called “SpyBot S&D”. The S&D in the program name stands for “Search and Destroy” which is exactly what this program does to malicious spyware. The SpyBot Homepage can be found at the following link:

http://www.spybot.com/

Once you are at their main page select your language and then it will take you to the homepage. After you are there select the “Download” link in the upper left corner of the menu. It will take you to a page that you can scroll down through to find the link:

Spybot – Search & Destroy 1.4 – product description
md5: C1A843913269018A8FC962407D7E5169

This is under their “Download” icon, and if you look to the right of that info you will see a “Download Here” button. Click on this button and it will take you to a page with multiple download locations. Any link you click on will take you to another site that hosts the SpyBot program. In this case I am going to click on the top link and it takes me to the “FileForum” website.

In the top right of my screen there is a “Download Now” link and when you click on this the page will change and a “Save File” window should now open. I recommend saving the program to your desktop so it is easy to find.

Once the download is complete you should see a file on your desktop named:

spybotsd14.exe

Double click on this file and follow the install wizard to setup the program on your system. Go with all the default options and it should install pretty quick on your system. Once it is complete click the “close” button to finish the installer.

You should now have a Window that says “Completing the SpyBot Search & Destroy SetupWizard“. Make sure the “Run Spybot.exe” option is check marked and click the “Finish” button to complete the install and run SpyBot for the first time.

The first time you run the program it is going to take you through a setup process. You can go with the default options for most of the questions. I would recommend clicking the button “Create Registry Backup” on step 3 of 7 so you have a restore point if the program takes off anything invasive that you actually need. When you select this option it will take a couple minutes to finish the operation.

Once you have done that click “Next” and do the “Search for Updates” option. When you click that button the program should go online and then show you a window with a list of all available updates. In the same window that you click Search for Updates you should now be able to choose “Download All Available Updates“. Do so at this time.

As it downloads the updates you should see each option in the window behind it gain a green checkmark beside it. This shows that the update was downloaded successfully. If one does not download completely let it finish and then click the “Search for Updates” button in the main window of the program once the small window is gone. [It will be the third button down on the list with the world icon.]

Now that you program is completely up to date lets do one thing before we scan for spyware. In the left hand menu you will see 5 icons. Select the middle icon that says “Immunize” This will take you to a new window that will do a check to see how vulnerable your computer is.

It will do a quick scan and then tell you “Warning” “xxxx bad products already blocked, xxx additional protections possible. Please immunize.” Go ahead and click the “OK” button. Now it will take you to the Immunize main screen. Select the “Immunize” icon in the top left hand portion of the main Window. It has a green + sign next to it.

When you click it, you will see a progress bar go across the screen and once it is complete it will give you a message “Immunization has finished” “9812 bad products are now blocked.” The number may vary depending on your system and the version of SpyBot, but sadly enough my system just got immunized for almost 10,000 products classified as spyware. [Now you see how bad the spyware trend really is]

Once we are done here, go back to the left menu with the 5 icons and select the one on the top that says “Search and Destroy“. Now that the system has been immunized we are ready to attempt to remove spyware.

When you click the top button it will take you to a new window with a “Check for Problems” button on the top left hand side of the main window. Click this button now. The button will now turn into a red X that says “Stop Check“. Let the program do a complete scan at this point.

You will see a progress bar at the bottom of the screen that shows you a percentage of how much longer is left on the spyware scan. I would recommend getting up now, and getting a drink or making a snack because the scan will take anywhere from 5-25 minutes depending on your system.

Once the scan is complete any malicious files that are found will appear in the window in red. You will also notice that they have a little box next to them with a check mark in it. The program flags all the files with the check mark by default so all you need to do is click the button at the top that says “Fix Selected Problems“. Once you click this button anything with a check mark next to it will be removed from your system.

When I did my scan it came back with one file found that you can get details on by clicking on the + sign next to the file name. This will show you extended details about the problem. In my case the file found was a “Tracking Cookie”. This is by far the most common form of spyware, and low on list of actual threats. In any case we want our system totally clean so once you check out any details [if you even want to] click the “Fix Selected Problems” button and the program will now clean off the spyware.

Once you click the button a window will popup that says “Confirmation” “You are about to remove these entries. Do you want to continue?

Go ahead and click the “Yes” button. You will now get a second “Confirmation” window that says “1 problem fixed” [or however many you had. In my case just the one tracking cookie.] Click the “OK” button.

The Window will now look like the spyware is still on the list, but don’t worry. You see the big green check mark by the name now? That means the spyware has been removed. If you have any doubts feel free to scan the system again to make sure it was completely removed. Otherwise go on to the next part of our guide.

[NOTE: Some spyware will reinstall itself on your system even after it is removed by Anti Spyware programs like SpyBot. If this happens it is not a failing of the Anti Spyware software. It means the spyware you have is very malicious and was written to propagate itself on the system. Continue with the guide and one of the following steps should correct the issue.]

We have now concluded how to setup, immunize and run SpyBot S&D to protect your system. This is the first step in cleaning off any threats that may exist on your computer. Go ahead and close down SpyBot and continue to the next part of our guide.

Downloading and Installing Lavasoft Ad-aware:

The next program we are going to use is called Ad-aware and was created by a company called Lavasoft. As the name implies it scans your system and makes you aware of any current threats, and once they are found it will remove them like SpyBot did. It’s good to run multiple anti spyware programs because one will usually pickup something another program missed. I have found that Ad-aware and SpyBot are a nice compliment to one another when you are trying to get all the spyware off your system

The first thing we need to do is go to the Lavasoft Homepage and download a current version of Ad-aware. The homepage can be reached at the following link:

http://www.lavasoft.de/software/adaware/

[NOTE: The above is actually the download page which is link #1 through Google when you do a search for Ad-aware. I don’t like to hotlink people but I want to ensure anyone reading this guide gets the correct version of the program. If you like their program and would like to show your appreciation please visit their homepage here:

http://www.lavasoft.de/

So they know people are getting good use out of their software. Thanks]

From the download link above it will take you to a page that has a red button on the top that says “Download Now“. When you click on this button it will take you to CNET’s Download.com page that is hosting the program download.

In the top left of the main window you should see a green button with arrows on it that says “Download Now“. Click on this button and it will take you to a second page and open a “Save As” window. Once again save the installer to your desktop so it is easy to find and click “OK“.

Once the download is complete go ahead and click on the “aawsepersonal.exe” file that should now be on your desktop. Once again go with all the default options on the installer Wizard and once it’s complete it will open to a window with 3 check boxes.

Make sure that these two options are checked:

Perform a full system scan now

Update definition file now

You can leave the last box unchecked which is the option for “Open the help file now” since our guide will help you through how to use this program and keep you on the fast track to cleaning up your system.

Go ahead and click finish and you will see a window that says “Performing Web Update“. Once the progress bar is complete the program will automatically begin scanning your system for problems.

In the top of the window you will see a “Current Operation” section. While the program is running you will see the “Objects scanned” number constantly changing. Down below this you will see the “Summary” portion of the window. Anything that shows up in Dark Red in the Summary window is spyware.

The program will show you spyware it finds with different classifications that are noted next to the number of spyware it finds. Once it’s done it should take you to a “Scanning Results” page. This is very similar to the SpyBot page expect Adaware does not automatically check mark the spyware for you. This can be frustrating if you have 100+ files that need to be removed but they added a good feature to the program that will allow you to check them all at once.

Once you have your list of infected files you can make sure they all get check marked by “right” clicking on one of the files and choosing the “Select All Objects” option from the popup menu. Once you have done this all the items should now have check marks next to them. When they are all checked click the “Next” button in the lower right hand corner.

A new window will popup that says “Ad-Aware SE” “28 objects will be removed. Continue?“. [The number will vary but my scan found 28 items. 27 were tracking cookies, and 1 was low threat spyware.] Go ahead and click “OK” and you will see a quick progress bar go by, and now Ad-aware has removed all the spyware it found on your system.

At this point you can close down Ad-aware and you have now completed the second section of the Spyware removal guide.

[NOTE: The next time you run Ad-aware on your system you will be given an option to do a “Smart Scan” or “Full System Scan”. If you have a really bad spyware infection you may want to choose the “Full System Scan” option which will take longer but is more thorough.]

Check Your System Status At This Point?

Ok, we have covered a lot of ground up to this point. You are now at a point where any minor threats should be taken care of and removed. Take a look at your system. Is it running better? Does it seem like the problems have been resolved? If not there are still 3 more steps you can take to ensure that your system is fully restored to its original state, short of formatting your hard drive.

If it still seems like you are having problems you may want to finish the next part of the guide to make sure everything is back in order.

One type of spyware that can linger around more than any other is known as “Hijacker” spyware. One of the most notorious types of this spyware is the “about.blank” homepage hijacker.

This is a very annoying piece of spyware that takes over you homepage and sets it to something new that you did not specify. It also does a good job of coming back once it has been removed. A good program I have found for taking care of this problem is called “Adware Away“.

[UPDATE: Adware Away is now a PAID program since so many people are using it. Unfortunately the company decided to no longer offer a free trial, but if you are sick and tired of dealing with the about.blank homepage hijacker or other Hijackers [and can't afford to format your hard drive] you might be interested in the following section. I think it’s unfortunate that they no longer offer a free version though.]

Downloading and Installing Adware Away: [LINK]

In an effort to offer a FREE alternative anti hijacker program to Adware Away I am recommending “Hijack This“.

Hijack This is a freeware scanner that checks for programs that exhibit the behavior of Hijacker Spyware.

First we need to get a hold of the program and install it onto the system. You can find it by doing a search for it through Google:

Hijack This

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=hijack+this&btnG=Google+Search

The first link through the Google search at www.majorgeeks.com works good to download the program [refer to the Google search link above]. When you click on their site they will give you a list of mirror sites that you can download the program from. I went with the top link in Texas which downloaded the program quickly for me.

Once you click on the mirror link wait a couple seconds and your download should automatically start. You will see a “Save As” window, and once again lets save the program to the desktop.

You should now see a file on your desktop named:

HijackThis.exe

Go ahead a run the program and it will open a “Warning” window telling you that this program does not specifically look for Hijackers but any programs that exhibit Hijacker behavior. Because of this be careful what you remove. Software such as web toolbars and pay per click programs may stop working if you remove them from your system.

[Or something along those lines. It only displays the message the first time you run the program so I do not have the exact message]

Click “OK” and then it will take you to the main Window of the program. From here you will want to click on the top button that says “Do a system scan and save a log file“. It will do a very quick scan and then open a file in notepad named “hijackthis.log“.

Go ahead and close the notepad file and take a look at the scan results. The window has a warning at the top that says:

Below are the results of the scan. Be careful what you delete, HijackThis cannot determine what is bad and what is merely customized by you. The best thing to do is save a log file and show it to knowledgeable folks.

This is where the notepad file will come in handy. What you will want to do is post your HijackThis log file on a forum where experts can analyze it for you and tell you what the threat is on your system. One good resource for this is a forum that specializes in HijackThis log files which can be located here:

http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/

and look for the section that says:

HijackThis Logs and Analysis

This way you can get help from people who are used to dealing with these types of spyware and hopefully get the Hijacker removed from your system.

I Have Tried All of the Listed Steps and My Computer Is Still Acting Strange:

At this point I would start to wonder if you problem is spyware related or if maybe it is a virus that is affecting the system. As mentioned in the beginning of the guide viruses can exhibit very similar behavior although they can be much harder to pin down, and remove.

If this is the case you have a couple options available to you. You can try the following:

01. Go to www.PCPitstop.com and check for bottlenecks on your system.
02. Run Anti Virus and Virus Protection Programs to Remove the Problem.
[LINK]
03. Attempt to do a Windows Repair / Recovery Installation
[LINK]
04. Do a Full Format and Clean Reinstall of Windows to Guarantee the Problem Gets Fixed.
[LINK]

If the first three links don’t help you the fourth is bound to work since a clean reinstall will fix any problems except hardware issues. Just make sure you have all your data backed up before hand since any information on your hard drive will be lost.

Overall I hope this guide helped in resolving any serious spyware issues or problems you are running into on your system. The methods mentioned above are good habits to get into for maintaining your system. If you keep your anti spyware programs up to date, and do scans on a regular basis you will notice improved performance and better overall stability on your system which will lead to you enjoying your system that much more! Good luck.



How to Format and Setup a Floppy Disk

How do I Format and Setup a Blank Floppy Disc ?

This guide will walk you through formatting and setting up a blank floppy disc. This is a good procedure to know since most diagnostic programs rely on using a bootable floppy disc to run diagnostics on the system. Since most of our guides require you to create a bootable floppy disc at one point or another we are providing a guide which will give you in depth information on how to prepare your floppy disk so you will not run into any problems during the creation process.

Step by Step Instructions:

The first thing you need when formatting a floppy disk, is a 3.5′ 1.44mb disk that does not have information on it that you need to save. The reason you need to make sure it does not have important data is once you begin the formatting process all data on that disc will be wiped off and you will be unable to recover it. So make sure it does not have backed up emails or your English assignments that are due at the end of the week.

When you have a disk that you are ready to format, put it into your floppy disk drive and then open the “My Computer” icon on your desktop by double clicking it. In the My Computer window you will see several drive designations. You will be looking for the A:\ drive which is your floppy disk drive.

[in some cases it may be another letter like B:\, but A:\ is the most common.]

Once you have selected the drive verify that this is in fact your floppy disk drive to ensure you do not wipe important data off your hard drive. The volume name should show up as:

3½ Floppy (A:)

Once you have verified that it is the correct drive, right click on it and a menu will pop up with several options. Look through the menu for the “format” option. [Usually located near the middle of the menu] Select the Format option and it will open a Format A:\ window.

The format window gives you several options:

01. Capacity

02. File System
03. Allocation unit Size
04. Volume Label
05. Format Options

I will explain the following sections in more detail so you know what each one is and what they do during the format process.

The “Capacity” of the disc shows you what type of floppy disk you are currently working with. You should not need to select this unless you are using a non standard floppy disk, in which case you will probably know which selection you need to make. The most common type of disk is the:

3.5″ 1.44MB, 512 bytes/sector

That is your average, everyday floppy disk. This should almost always be in there by default, so you do not need to worry about changing this selection most of the time.

The next section is the “File System” selection. This can be more relevant if you are into tweaking options to squeeze out every last bit of performance. The main thing to remember is FAT is the file system that was commonly used with Windows 95, 98 and sometimes with Windows 2000. Where as the NTFS file system was normally used with Windows 2000, XP Home, and XP Pro.

FAT [File Allocation Table] was an older file system that was good for it’s time, but lacks some of the features of the newer NTFS file system. NTFS also has slightly better compression which allows you to get a little more storage space out of the media by using this file system.

In the case of making a boot disk, the main thing you need to do when you are setting up your disk is remove the data. The program you are using to make your disk will normally take care of what file system needs to be present on the disk. So if you are unsure which you need to select, don’t sweat it, and just go with the default options through the format window dialog.

Next is the “Allocation unit Size” section of the format dialog. The technical definition of this is, “a group of sectors on a magnetic disk that can be reserved for the use of a particular file”. The fact that I am giving you a definition instead of an explanation lets you know that you really don’t need to worry about this section. If you are reading this guide to find out of the basics of how to format a disk this section does not pertain to your project. This would be more for someone that is creating a disk for a very specific purpose and certain criteria needs to be met.

The “Volume Label” is basically the title of your disk. For the most part this can be anything you want it to be. I recommend leaving it blank if you mainly need to create a blank disk. As mentioned before if the disk does need a label the program that is creating your disk will fill in this information for you. You can feel free to use this section if you are creating a blank disk for school work, or personal data in which case you could name it “HOMEWORK” or anything else that will help you remember what information is on your disk.

The last section is your format options section. There are two main options in this category. “Quick Format” which is an option that allows you to quickly erase data off a disk. [There is also "Enable Compression" which is an additional NTFS feature that is mentioned above]. The Quick Format option can be used as long as the disk has been fully formatted at least once since you started using it. It’s main purpose is to save time but since the full format option does not take much longer, it’s up to you which you prefer to use. For any type of boot disk, I like to do a full format and leave this option unchecked to make sure I will not run into problems during the disk creation process.

The other option is “Enable Compression” which is an NTFS only feature. Remember how we talked about NTFS having more features before. This is one example of that. If you are using a FAT file system disk, this option will most likely not be available to you. [i.e. grayed out]

Now that you have a complete understanding of the floppy disc format window and the options it provides, you should feel more comfortable setting up a blank disk. Remember that you usually do not need to set a lot of these options as the system does a good job of defaulting to what you need. This guide will basically give you the extra info you need to setup additional options if you ever desire to do so.

Now that your options are set, go ahead and create your blank floppy disk so you can create your bootable diagnostic disk without any problems.




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