As regular readers of this column are aware, I try to emphasize the need to have an anti-virus program and it is even of greater importance to keep it updated with the latest virus definitions. I recently had a friend of mine contact me about a problem with his computer. He said he was unable to connect to the Internet and that when he had contacted his Internet provider they suggested that he uninstall their software and re-install it. Needless to say, this did not correct the problem. When I first examined his computer, I discovered that in addition to his problem accessing the Internet, the computer was running slow, and, more importantly, other programs would not run at all. One of the programs that failed to run was Norton Anti-virus. When the anti-virus program wont run, it is an indication of a major problem. There are viruses that will deactivate the anti-virus programs so they can do their harm. To start the virus cleaning it was necessary to start the computer in Safe mode so that only the driver files that Windows actually needed to function were loaded. After this was done, it was necessary to use the Windows startup manager to prevent certain programs from being started when the computer booted up. Sure enough, there were three or four suspicious programs that were running at startup that were not part of the normal Windows programs. When these were disabled and the computer restarted, the Norton program ran and the computer was back to normal speed. Next, we tried to connect to the Internet. Success! The first thing we did was to go to www.grc.com and download his security programs for Windows XP. We then went to www.symantec.com and downloaded the latest anti-virus files. While we were there, we allowed the site to do a free online virus scan. When this was finished finding the 43 infections on the computer, we allowed Norton to scan the 150,000 files on the computer to disinfect the hard drive. When this was completed we went to http://security.kolla.de and download Spybot. This is the program that inspects your computer for spyware and also will prevent Web sites from installing dialers or changing your Internet settings. We then went to www.popupstopper.com and downloaded Popup Stopper, which prevents those annoying ads from appearing while you surf. Along with this, we downloaded ZoneAlarm from www.zonelabs.com. This is a firewall program that prevents others from accessing your computer. The final stop was to the Microsoft Windows update site, where we downloaded and installed all the critical updates for Windows XP while we were online. The total time to do this on just the one computer was five hours. If this were in an office with multiple networked computers you can see the amount of time that can be lost cleaning the infection and protecting yourself against future attacks. My friend was lucky and he did not lose any valuable data, but he could have just as easily lost everything on the computer. Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 243-1162.