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Confused newbie - hoping for clarification
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Clubofjacks
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June 5, 2010 - 5:34 am
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Hello all,

I'd like to introduce myself, my name is Tim Bowen, I'm British, Welsh in fact and while I've read the odd topic posted on here for some time, I registered with the site today to obtain some specific advice from you 'knowledgable one's.'

While I know my way around '[b:1w8vszph]my[/b:1w8vszph] computer' because of knowing how I've developed it's 'personality' over the years, I'm not exactly 'a techie,' being too old to learn too many new tricks nowadays. (LOL) I just hoped to derive 'some sense' as maybe one or more of you may have come across my problem previously?

My problem is something that has been happening for about the last month or so, some times it only happens once or twice a day, other times it can be most frustrating and can happen hourly. I have tried to rectify matters and have spoken to friends, but no-one is able to identify what ails my computer.

What happens is my computer suddenly 'freezes,' I cannot do anything with it, sometimes the mouse is still movable, but doesn't work, mainly though it all freezes, all the stuff I've been working on is lost. The only way to get back online is to switch it off at the main power button and reboot again. It's driving me 'demented.' I already have AVG 9.0.829 installed, but even with 'daily scans' it's not picking up the problem for some reason? Is this a virus or is it something to do with my operating system, registry or what?

I actually work on my computer, so it working efficiently is important to me. The problem I have is I'm a foster carer and occasionally I allow the children to have access to the internet. While their usage is monitored, I'm wondering if they have 'accidently' accessed/downloaded stuff that has infected the computer? I'm looking to purchase something to correct this, but until I know what the problem is there's little point?

So, lads...and lasses, I would appreciate it if you could offer an insight into this problem for me?

Many thanks in anticipation of a 'simple termed' response.

Tim.

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David Hartsock
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June 5, 2010 - 9:33 am
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Hello Tim and welcome to DCT.

The first thing I would do it make sure you have backup copies of anything you deem important (documents, etc).

Next I would download [url=http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/:1vsbni5f]Microsoft Security Essentials[/url:1vsbni5f], [url=http://www.malwarebytes.org/:1vsbni5f]MalwareBytes[/url:1vsbni5f], and [url=http://download.cnet.com/SuperAntiSpyware-Free-Edition/3000-8022_4-10523889.html?part=dl-6281995&subj=dl&tag=button:1vsbni5f]SuperAntispyware[/url:1vsbni5f].

Uninstall AGV and install Microsoft Security Essentials. Once MSE is installed let it update and run a Full or Complete scan. Let us know what, if anything it finds.

This could be a hardware, software, or malware problem. The above is just to get a "baseline" so we can see where we are. Also, can you tell us what you know about the computer? Age, Operating system, what speed internet connections, etc?

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grr
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June 5, 2010 - 2:59 pm
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Welcome to DCT Tim.

In addition to what Dave suggested above, I would like to what what work/application you would be using when ur computer freezes. Also is it the same application always that u use & freezes or different?

[quote:233wwyfy]What happens is my computer suddenly 'freezes,' I cannot do anything with it, sometimes the mouse is still movable, but doesn't work, mainly though it all freezes, all the stuff I've been working on is lost.[/quote:233wwyfy]

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Chad Johnson
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June 5, 2010 - 8:13 pm
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And my two questions.

When the computer freezes, does it feel extra hot around the power supply area (where the power cord connects)?
Do you have a surge protector / power conditioner / UPS hooked up to your computer? How old is it?
Does this happen in Safe Mode?
Any hardware additions, subtractions, upgrades or changes?

Ok, so it was 4. Close enough.

Oh yah. And welcome to the coolest place on earth. Well...sort of on earth. It's on the web, which is hovering about 32 feet above the earth.

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Jim Hillier
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June 5, 2010 - 9:07 pm
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Hey Tim - Nice to have you here. I was born in Wales, Newport actually. Grew up in South East London district and now reside in Oz.

Anyway, thought I might help clarify as to why so many questions in response to your post: The issue you are experiencing is a very difficult one to diagnose. The problem is there are so many possible causes; software, malware, faulty driver, just about every hardware component - including hard drive, RAM (unlikely though), fans, PSU, motherboard. Just about every element is a suspect.

So you can imagine, solving something like this via correspondence often involves a pretty long haul. Lots of questions and answers, lots of communicating backwards and forwards as possible causes are eliminated and we move on to the next one.

The good news is, you will receive the very best help and advice here!

The best way to handle situations like this is to follow a strict process of elimination and not jump about all over the place. Dave has started the ball rolling nicely; first and foremost thing to do is backup all your important personal data (this is to safeguard your data in case the freezing is a symptom of impending serious hardware failure). Then let us know the details of your computer, as outlined by Dave....as much information as possible (this is because the problem may be [computer] brand/model specific and also so we can give accurate instructions relevant to your particular operating system).

Cheers....Jim

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Mindblower
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June 5, 2010 - 11:19 pm
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Might seem rather silly Clubofjacks, but do you know how to back-up information from your computer? I only ask, since you mentioned your limited knowledge, and some users believe they know, when in reality they do not.

I'll add to Dave's comment of making backup copies, and suggest you verify that the backup is good (meaning it is readable and does contain the correct information). From here, it's a task of sifting through different possible scenarios as mentioned by ozbloke, Mindblower!

"Light travels faster than sound;
That is why some people seem bright until you hear them speak"

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Clubofjacks
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June 6, 2010 - 6:36 am
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Wow, Gents, I'm really impressed! So many helpful replies...

Firstly, thank you for your welcome and investigative suggestions.

I have to say the potential reasons you've presented for my 'computer freezing' is somewhat depressing, I kinda hoped this would be a common, easily remedied problem....'flick a couple of switches' and away to go! I suppose not eh?

Anyway, to answer your replies as best I can...

[b:bdh2ikdq][u:bdh2ikdq]Dave[/u:bdh2ikdq][/b:bdh2ikdq] Thank you for your time, effort and no doubt considerable ongoing expense in producing this excellent site. In answer to your points raised...I have a 1000GB external hard drive which I can use to back up my important/confidential info. Obviously because of being a foster carer there's a lot of confidential stuff and general information that I need to work with. I also 'play with' financial markets too in 'trying to earn a crust.' So that needs to be saved too. That back up, while neccessary, will be a momentus task though. I will download those security measures you've identified and run the scans.

With regards to the 'computer gubbins' itself, hmmmm let's see...? It's only a year old, it was built for me by a local computer shop that does not employ the chap that constructed it anymore, however his father/boss still works there so I may be able to derive more specific information from him. The Operating System is Vista home premium, it has a fast cable broadband internet connection. It has a 1000GB hard Drive and it's a 64bit OS, with 4.00GB RAM memory, an AMD Athlon(tm) 7850 dual core processor. Hopefully that will be enough, it not please ask for more info Dave.

[u:bdh2ikdq][b:bdh2ikdq]grr[/b:bdh2ikdq][/u:bdh2ikdq] There is no specific application being used when it crashes, it can happen at anytime, whether on the net or while working on say Word documents etc. This is what I'm fearing now actually, in the middle of this reply, it'll crash again and everything I've written will be lost...hence me copying every paragraph.

[u:bdh2ikdq][b:bdh2ikdq]ziggie[/b:bdh2ikdq][/u:bdh2ikdq] I have to say I haven't noticed any difference in power cord area heat levels. However my computer is 'housed' in an 'alcove' in my wall so I don't get to access 'the back end' that regularly. I don't have a surge protector, power conditioner or a UPS...not sure what those last two are in all honesty. Told you I was a dimmock! It is not powered by a router though. There are no hardware additions except for the external hard drive which is only used, if, when it's required.

[u:bdh2ikdq][b:bdh2ikdq]ozbloke[/b:bdh2ikdq][/u:bdh2ikdq] What a strange co-incidence you being a Welshman as well? I'm from Neath only 50 odd miles from Newport...we're practically neighbours. (I was born in Neath, raised in Neath and will be buried underneath.) (Old Neath joke)

Yes Jim, I'm starting to understand this could well be a 'lengthy process of elimination' to get to the root cause. I'm also eager to learn what the source is, so should it re-occur, I'll be better placed to identify it next time?

[u:bdh2ikdq][b:bdh2ikdq]mindblower[/b:bdh2ikdq][/u:bdh2ikdq] I'm not absolutely sure about the back up process. What I tend to do is to save what I'm working on, the important stuff anyway, to my external hard drive as I go along. My worry is if it's a virus, has it may well have infected the external drive too? There is something I would be grateful if you could explain to me perhaps, is the steps to enable me to 'save my favourites' (British spelling) in one file, as I tend to use 'favourites' for a quick 'n easy way around my various tasks. As there's a lot of them, to save them individually would be a nightmare! Saving them in one file would enable me to reset them up again quickly should I need to 'wipe the computer' which although it's a daunting task...sadly, it's something I realise I may well need to do?

Anyway lads, thanks again for your input into my problem, it is genuinely appreciated.

There will no doubt be more 'clarification questions' generated by my answers so I look forward to receiving them.

Tim. (Clubofjacks)

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Mindblower
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June 6, 2010 - 7:11 am
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Well Clubofjacks, you seem to underestimate your knowledge. Since you store information to an external drive, do you use a USB port?

See you answered some questions, but the point I (and maybe others were waiting to hear) deals with running scans (looking for virus, Trojans, malaware).

Any storage device connected to a computer can be comprised. They need to be scanned as well. I'd start with Dave's recommendations post haste, Mindblower!

"Light travels faster than sound;
That is why some people seem bright until you hear them speak"

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Jim Hillier
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June 6, 2010 - 7:37 pm
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Hey Tim - When you say "favourites"; do you mean the links to specific sites which are saved in Internet Explorer and displayed in the side-bar (on the left hand side)?

If so, this is how you can back them up: Open Internet explorer and, in the menu across the top, click on [b:19vvtu3c]File[/b:19vvtu3c]. (NOTE: If the top menu is not displayed...go to [b:19vvtu3c]Tools[/b:19vvtu3c] [top right hand side] and from the drop down menu select[b:19vvtu3c] Toolbars[/b:19vvtu3c] and then [b:19vvtu3c]Menu Bar[/b:19vvtu3c]). From the File menu select [b:19vvtu3c]Import and Export[/b:19vvtu3c]. In the little box that pops up, select [b:19vvtu3c]Export to a file[/b:19vvtu3c], click[b:19vvtu3c] Next [/b:19vvtu3c]and then select [b:19vvtu3c]Favorites[/b:19vvtu3c] and click[b:19vvtu3c] Next[/b:19vvtu3c] again. Now you will see a list of you Favourites folders. Click [b:19vvtu3c]Next [/b:19vvtu3c]again and you can choose a location to 'save' the file. Now just hit the [b:19vvtu3c]Export[/b:19vvtu3c] button.

As soon as you have performed the scans as detailed by Dave let us know the results please mate.

I am seriously hoping this will be a software issue, in particular a program which is causing some sort of conflict or perhaps a faulty driver associated with an installed program. Simply because that will be easiest to identify and rectify, via msconfig.

Keep in touch mate,
Cheers....Jim

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Chad Johnson
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June 6, 2010 - 8:44 pm
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Hi Tim --

A few things...bother me. First, as has been mentioned, make sure you have multiple copies (i.e. backup) of every file you cannot lose or would be more than annoying to recreate. The more important the document, the more copies in different places you should have (That's backing up after all... )

Second, run all of the scans mentioned by others here. Report any non-A-OK results (you can report the A-ok ones too if you like).

Third...how do you connect to the Internet? You mentioned that there is no router hooked up....are just plugged directly into your DSL/Cable?

A power conditioner is a souped up version of a surge protector. Usually has a few electronics in it to ensure power is delivered consistently to anything plugged into it. Helps protect against surges, dips, spikes, etc (a good power conditioner will cut power entirely if it cannot maintain levels). A UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) is simply a battery backup device. In the event of a power condition (outage, surge, spike, dip, sag) the UPS continues to supply power from an internal battery. And beep a lot. (Ha ha).

It is recommended to at the least plug a computer into a surge protector as variations in power can most certainly lead to issues you are experiencing.

We're starting with software because it's easier to diagnose. While we're at it though, these questions could come in handy later if we don't find the problem in software.

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Jim Hillier
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June 6, 2010 - 9:12 pm
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Zig - I am not leaning toward a software issue mate. I think it is more likely to be a hardware issue, and you are quite right...[i:21f0kh2a]"We'll start with software because it's easier to diagnose[/i:21f0kh2a]"....seeing how software is a possibility which can be verified or eliminated comparatively easily and quickly....is that not the best place to start?? And software should not be discounted altogether, I know of quite a few cases where the fix for this has been to disable all non-Microsoft services via msconfig.

I don't think anyone really believes it will be malware (I know I don't) but it is a possibility, easy to check and better eliminated from the list of suspects anyway. Eliminate the possibilities one at a time, moving from the easiest/quickest through to the most difficult/most time consuming........one step at a time mate!

Cheers....Jim

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David Hartsock
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June 7, 2010 - 6:58 am
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Well, normally I would go for hardware first, but a couple weeks ago I came across a computer with a nasty rootkit. It wasn't well written and one of the symptoms was that it would freeze. Can't remember the name, but it was hijacking network traffic and logging the results. That's what had it fresh on my mind!

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Chad Johnson
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June 7, 2010 - 8:20 am
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Heh. Oops.

[color=#FF0000:27369xwl][size=50:27369xwl]What can I say, I'm a hardware guy first and foremost and went straight there. You're right though, one thing at a time. I did not mean to offend, infer anything, detract from, or insult, or whatever.

Maybe I need a standard disclaimer on all my posts so when I post without thinking I'm covered?

Hmmm...[/size:27369xwl][/color:27369xwl]

I really have to stop posting before I have coffee.

Going back to the original post, I do see he asked for clarification and we all went off on our own tangents.

That said: Let's be systematic. Start with malware, because it's the easiest. We'll move on from there.

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David Hartsock
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June 7, 2010 - 9:09 am
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Any other time I would have went the same way(hardware), but I had that rootkit issue stuck in my head!

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Clubofjacks
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June 10, 2010 - 1:18 pm
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Hello Gents,

Thank you all once again for your interest and help with my current troubles.

Happily, I have to report a successful outcome to my computer 'freezing' problem.

I've not been on this board since Saturday, but haven't been ignoring you fellahs, it's just that I wanted to check things over for a couple of days, to confirm the problem had been defeated...for now at least!

First thing Sunday morning, as advised by Dave and supported by a couple of you, I started out by uninstalling AVG and then installed 'Microsoft Security Essentials,' 'Registry Mechanic and 'Super Anti-Spyware.'

It took a good couple of hours to install all three and for them to fully scan my computer. It was fairly apparent after they had finished, there had been lot's of nasty/naughties lurking in my system which I was surprised about, as my AVG (a well respected anti-virus protection software) is set on a daily 'full computer' scan and I fully expected any nasties to have been identified and eradicated.

I still wasn't convinced wiping those virus' was the source of the problem, until my freezing problem stopped occurring.

I wanted to come on here then on Sunday evening, to report the news but thought it more sensible to wait until now when, for four and a half days, I haven't had even one recurrence of my freezing. I was really disappointed that AVG hadn't provided me with the same level of protection, particularly after purchasing the full product in late April.

So Dave, your advice to install the protection was an excellent suggestion and certainly 'did the trick,' thank you very much.

In some respects I was glad it was something simple and easily defeated, in others it's frustrating it caused me 'so much grief' over the time it did.

All's well that end's well though eh?

Gents, I really appreciate the time and effort you all spent helping me, I'd like to make a small contribution to the site in some way Dave if its considered appropriate? Site's like this offering friendly, enthusiastic and quality advice to 'ignoramuses' like me, should be appreciated and even more importantly, financially supported.

Let me know how I can do this Dave please.

As in the words of Arnie Swarzenegger..."I'll be back!"

Tim.

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