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Issue #176: December 5, 2010

Q: I read your answer regarding the Internet Explorer “reset” button with interest.    However, before I pressed that button I decided to contact you about my problem first.  I have an 11 month old HP computer running Windows 7 and Internet Explorer.  I also use MS NBC as my default web browser page driven by Cox high speed service.  I have my pop-up blocker “on” with security set to “high”.  Suddenly, and within the last 6 – 8 weeks I have been finding unsolicited add pages that pop up over the IE page and/or are found displayed after I close the main IE page.  These pages are always ads.  Will the “reset” button described eliminate these pop-ups?  If not, do you have any remedy to stop my receiving these ads.  Note: many of these ads are accompanied by audio describing the ad.

– Rick G.
Crestview, Fla

A: Your computer is infected with some sort of ad-ware, Rick.  That is to say, you have a piece of illicit software that you picked up somewhere that has been programmed to feed you advertisements – possibly specially targeted – based on your web surfing habits.   At its most innocent, this is merely annoying; as you have to deal with unpredictable pop-up and pop-under ad boxes that you must close, distracting you from what you are trying to do on your computer.  At the worst, your private information, such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and usernames and passwords can be harvested and used for dishonest purposes, including theft of your identity.  To add insult to injury, these ads are using the Internet bandwidth that YOU purchase to feed you these ads.  If many of them use audio or video, the download time required to transfer their data into your computer could cause your internet connection to seem to run slower.  This can in-turn cause the whole computer to appear to slow-down.

There is no way for me to say with absolute certainty whether the reset button will help you, Rick, because there are so many types of malware capable of doing this, and they exist in so many potential places on your computer.  When you click IE’s reset button, you are simply telling IE to return its user-configurable settings to their default values, and disabling browser add-ons.  There are no user-configurable settings that would allow intrusive ad-ware to freely use your browser, so the reset button won’t help there.  Only if the illicit software is a browser add-on will the reset button have any effect on your problem.  If it is a browser add-on, clicking Reset will disable it but not remove it.  Regardless, you need a good spyware scanner or a computer professional to help you if that’s the case.

READER TIP OF THE WEEK – Subject: Toshiba laptop displays.  I heard from many owners of Toshiba laptops this week with regard to Jean W’s question about her laptop display’s backlight.  All of them said the same thing: that Toshiba seems to have issues with their laptops’ displays, but one reader’s comments were more comprehensive than others.  Reader Ken C. wrote in and said: “I’ve had three Toshiba laptops, all different models, with this symptom.  All were caused by defective LCD Screen Inverters.  Screen inverters convert DC battery voltage to high frequency, high voltage AC to power the backlight.  On laptops with the little cover button switch, sometimes momentarily depressing the switch will temporarily restore operation.  The problem usually worsens over time.    Replacements are usually inexpensive if purchased on eBay.  It is necessary to get an exact replacement for the existing part.  Better to use the part number off the item than the model number of the laptop.  On the ones I have replaced, they were mounted behind the screen bezel which must be removed for access.  Once the bezel is off, usually one screw holds the inverter to the laptop lid and two connectors are to be unplugged–a very simple operation.”  Thanks, Ken!

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