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Issue #410: May 31 – June 6, 2015

Q: I’m a snowbird who visits Destin annually, and I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your column in the Northwest Florida Daily News. Unfortunately the Pittsburgh papers don’t carry your column. I have some questions and will contact you when we return next season.

– Dick C.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

A:  Thank-you for the kind words, Dick!  I sincerely hope that you won’t let being away from Destin stop you from enjoying and learning from my column!  Feel free to ask your local newspaper to carry it, and barring that, remember that everything that publishes in print, and often a whole lot more is available for free each week on my website.  Just visit (not .com).

After writing this column, I reached out to one of the newspapers in Pittsburgh on Dick’s behalf to let them know of the existence of IGTM and its availability to publish in their paper.  As of the time I’m posting this I’m waiting to hear back from the editor who oversees such content, as he was out of the office when I contacted them.  If this works out and they pick-up the column, I may just be contacting other papers around the country to pitch it to them.  After all, that’s sort-of how the column got its start.


• • •

 Q: I am worried my desktop has Alzheimers. On bootup, get the desktop. It starts with weather bug, system explorer, Malewarbytes, Vipre. I can check status with SE, and sometime it is not running and system is frozen with the get the little windows ring around the rosie display. Then I shut down (power off since it is frozen) then next time can get SE showing it working, but freezes on WB attempt to exit and go to internet (IE11 and Mozilla choices), Then after another one or two shutdowns (power off) it will work great. Don’t like the power off shutdowns, but no choice since it just sometimes (80%) of time) will not run properly on first bootup.

– Pete C.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A:  Wow, Pete – you’re really putting your poor PC through the wringer.  I might be wrong, but it sounds to me like you may be causing your own problem.  Unless your computer is specifically designed for it, you should avoid at all costs simply powering it off without properly shutting down Windows, as that can lead to all sorts of system corruption.

The “ring around the rosie display” that you mentioned sounds to me like the Windows Wait Cursor.  Windows displays this when it is doing something that requires the system’s attention to the point that it is unable to respond to your immediate needs.  That doesn’t mean it is “frozen” – it means it is busy.  In fact, it could be busy fixing things from the last time it was improperly powered off!

I don’t know what kind of status you’re checking, and I’m presuming that what you’re calling SE or system explorer, is the Windows’ built-in Explorer program for accessing files.  Some people call this “the My Computer app”.  My recommendation would be to use Windows Task Manager to see the system status.  There are several ways to launch Task Manager, but the easiest is to press the key combination [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[Esc]. 

Task Manager can show you if some process is taking up an abnormal amount of system resources.  It can be confusing if you don’t know what you’re looking at.  Check out this link for info on how to use Task Manager’s various tabs.  If you find something, you can terminate that process, rather than simply yanking power to the whole computer.  Again, that is a dangerous practice, as the system might be in the middle of writing files, creating disk buffers, updating swap files, or any number of activities that should not be suddenly interrupted. 

4 Responses to “Issue #410: May 31 – June 6, 2015”

  • TeneseT says:

    The URL did not go to the instructions for Task Manager, but said it was redirected but went nowhere. Would be interested in knowing more about TM

    • The Geek says:

      My apologies! I have started doing something new with my TinyURL conversions, which is using the It’s Geek To Me issue number of TinyURL’s randomly generated code. The first one I did accidentally backfired, as I mistakenly linked the URL containing the issue number back to the TinyURL-generated link, instead of the actual link. Funny thing was, when I tested it, it worked!

      Anyway, here’s a new link for you: Thanks for pointing out the error.

  • misterc01 says:

    Thanks you for your reply to my problem, and I apparently did not give enough information the first time. SE is System Explorer which loads on boot up . Works as a SUPER Windows Task Manager (WTM). I do not see ANY process running excessively (before freezing), and of course I am not able bring up WTM on boot up when it freezes. I have seen MBSAM running at about 20-30 % at it’s highest (that is my Vipre AV). I have waited up to five – ten minutes, but the Wait Cursor just merrily runs in its happy little circle, and then it just stops and – nothing. Am I missing catching a process problem, program loading problem, hardware problem or?????? Any thoughts on what I should specifically look for? Hardware or memory diagnostic (where can I find good ones). I really don’t; want tot replace the system as it is great when I can use it! BTW – we have enjoyed the GLOTC for the last several years (I think from year, but no kids to ask right now:-). We head for the lights looking at displays on the way, then got to Wal-Mart in FWB to watch them close up the store for Christmas (it is a ritual now since the kids were little) and then home to make home made pizzas on English Muffins, We appreciate YOU being a part of OUR Christmas every year:-) Pete C.

    • The Geek says:

      Thanks for the compliments on the Geek Lights, Pete! We love our Super Fans, and even halfway from one season to the next it’s always nice to hear that our hard work is appreciated.

      I honestly don’t have any specific ideas on your problem, but it has all the symptoms of a malware problem. I doubt very much that it’s hardware-related (although stranger things have happened). Rather than go to the extreme of hating to replace the whole system, I wouldn’t think you’d have to hate anything more than re-loading Windows, but even that is a last resort.

      Remember that Task Manager doesn’t give you a complete picture of what’s running on your system at any given moment. I tend to not get into it much in the printed column, because there’s not enough room, and I think it would confuse a lot of people, but Windows maintains a bank of System Services that most users never see, and that Malware can use to get itself auto-launched, and run in the background without anything appearing where most users know to look.

      I recommend you arm yourself with an armload of scanners, and let them each take a crack at finding something. I’m talking everything from Malwarebytes, AdAware and SpyBot S&D to SuperAntiSpyware, HiJackThis, JRT (Junkware Removal Tool). Top it off with Rootkit scans by TDDSKiller, and… well, pretty much any of the RootKit scanners mentioned here:

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