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Dealing with a Computer Problem

Learning Objectives

  • Identify when you have a problem
  • How to solve common problems
  • Optimizing your system


The best way to deal with the problem is to avoid in the first place.  You can learn about this in our Computer Safety Practices tutorial. But let's suppose you do have a problem, how can you tell? Here are some common symptoms:
  • Your computer seems to become slower and slower
  • You get an error message on the screen
  • Windows and advertising pop-up on your screen unrelated to what you're doing
  • Your antivirus program detects an infection and displays a warning
  • Your computer seems to be processing and generating activity even when you're not using it
If you have any of the symptoms above, you may be infected or have a situation that requires your attention. If you ignore these symptoms, they can eventually cripple your computer and at worst, maybe sending your information to other systems that do not have your best interest in mind.

Taking Control

Often, these problems require professional intervention. However, there are initial steps you can take to minimize and sometimes repair the problem. A convenient way to remember these steps is to use the acronym CURE when you think about how to solve a computer problem.  The steps are:
  • C - Contain the problem
  • U - Update windows and anti-malware programs
  • R - Repair the damage
  • E - Enhance system security
Here are a couple of important things to take note of:
  1. When did the problem first occur?
  2. Was there any activity or event that coincides with this timeframe?

Containing the Problem

First, isolate the system so that it cannot affect other computers or communicate with illicit systems on the Internet.  Then stabilize the system so it can be repaired further.
  1. Disconnect from your network and the Internet
  2. Run a full antivirus scan and let it repair all detected infections.  (If possible - Quarantine the problems so that they are available for further assessment if required)
  3. If you have anti-spyware programs installed, run a full scan and repair as well.
  4. Remove all unnecessary software using Control Panel -> Add/Remove Programs (XP) or Programs Features (Vista)
  5. Remove temporary files by either using a cleaning program or:
    1. Run Disk Clean-up by right-clicking your hard Drive and clicking properties.
    2. In Internet Explorer - Go to Tools -> Internet Options and click the Delete.. button in Browsing History.

Update Windows and Anti-Malware

Once you have regained control of your computer, connect it back to the Internet.
  1. Run Windows update and make sure all update successfully install.
  2. Make sure your antivirus and anti-spyware programs are up-to-date
  3. Run a full antivirus scan and make sure the system is clean.  Repeat the scans until you get a "clean" scan.

Repair the Damage

Sometimes viruses and malware may damage files and programs on your computer.  If this occurs, it may be necessary to replace files or reinstall programs. Windows also makes backup copies of critical system files from time to time. These are called Restore Points. Occasionally it is possible to correct recent damage by restoring from a date prior to when the problem first occurred.

Enhance Your Security

Once everything is working properly, take the time to enhance your security.  If you are able to identify how the problem started, that can help you adjust how the system is used to avoid this problem in the future.  Here are some things to consider:
  1. Read our Computer Safety Practices tutorial for lots of great ideas.
  2. Manage access to your computer
  3. Train users how to avoid problems
  4. Improve your antivirus and antispyware protection
  5. Make sure your update and scan setting are automated

Optimizing Your System

Over time, your computer will accumulate a variety of programs and changes that will simply create clutter and disorder. This is not a security issue as much as a result of regular computer use. These dynamics will affect computer performance as well. The most convenient way to address these issues is to use one of the free optimizing programs that are available on the Internet.  One of our favourite programs is Advanced Windows Care from IOBit.com.  This program has many features to help you clean and optimize your system.  Be Careful! some of the advanced features of this program can remove unintended information.  If you're not sure, contact someone knowledgeable.
Additional Information
To learn more about these topics, explore the following helpful resources: