Spyware Horror Story: Computing blind

How do you fix a computer when you can't see your system folders or icons?

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Spyware Horror Story

Published by Johnathan; Pasadena, California

Well, one day I was logging onto my computer when I noticed a virus alert. I had noticed a week or so before that the sites I visit (like Crunchyroll) felt a little slower, and a month before that my computer started restarting randomly and continuously. I had to turn it off for a day to fix it. After I saw the virus alert, the sites I go on took about 8 seconds a page compared to the normal 2 or 3 seconds.

That's not all, however; I found that I couldn't log off, use the task manager, or look at the programs I had. It deleted my Mozilla Firefox icon so if I didn't have AIM--thank the gods I do--I wouldn't be able to use the Internet. Ad-Aware didn't do anything and when I finally used AVG, it saved my computer a bit. I don't have the computer on virus alert, but I still can't log off or look at my programs and I can't use Task Manager. Any help?

CNET Download.com editor

Editor's Response

I remember having to play Memory with hidden icons to launch my programs after a program jam that mucked up my display. That was before I discovered Launchy. It was a slow-going challenge, and an IT rep was dispatched to surgically remove my hard drive and return it a few hours later, completely wiped. Like I said, that was an issue with visual freezing and not a malware attack, but the bottom line is that invisible computing doesn't work. The erratic shut-downs you experienced should have be the first warning sign of something screwy overcoming your beloved computer, and a big hint to check the baseboards for malware.

I'll assume that once your computer began short-circuiting, you heeded the warnings and shut it down safely. I'll also assume that you let it rest a few minutes, then rebooted and punched F8 to arrive at Safe Mode. I'll assume you cycled through the boot-up procedure one more time in an attempt to refit whatever could be out-of-whack, and that you ran malware scans in Safe Mode when the problem proved not to be a one-time glitch.

The easiest move from where you stand is to fall back on a restore point, which is why you have them in the first place. If you can get into the Windows Start menu, first click Help and Support and then System Restore. Try rolling back to a restore point before the computer began fizzing up, maybe 2 months ago. If successful, you'll shed the ailment and will get to keep most of your files. If niether System Restore not normal malware removal procedures succeed, you may be forced to save what you can and reinstall Windows.

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About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.