5. You Think Your PC Is Infected
Is your computer behaving oddly, slowing down at the wrong time, or refusing to run certain programs? It could be infected with malware. What can you do about that?
If your regular antivirus program--the one you already have up and running--hasn't stopped the questionable software, it probably can't. What you need is a second opinion--and possibly a third and a fourth.
Start with the free version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, a utility with an exceptional record of finding and removing malware. Download it, install it, launch it, update the database, and then perform a full scan.
Since installing and updating a cleaning utility are tasks that the infection may interfere with, it's a good idea to follow your Malwarebytes scan with other scans that don't require an installation or even an update.
On someone else's PC, download SuperAntiSpyware Portable and copy it to a flash drive. Boot the infected PC into Safe Mode, plug in the flash drive, and run the program. Since SuperAntiSpyware.com updates the portable program every day or two, you don't need to update it before the scan.
For a fourth opinion, try the F-Secure Rescue CD. This is another .iso file from which you can burn a bootable CD. Just boot from the CD and run the scan. The program will try to update its database over the Internet. If it can't, you can download an update on another PC, put it on a flash drive, and keep that plugged in while running F-Secure on the infected PC.
6. An Important File Disappears
You've been working on a report for six weeks. You have to give the speech tomorrow. The PowerPoint presentation is beautiful. It's perfect. It's...where is it?
Maybe you just moved it to another folder. Click the Start menu, type the file's name, and see what turns up.
Nothing? Maybe you've renamed it accidentally. Click Start, type a word that's in the presentation but not in many other files, and see if that gets better results. If it pulls up a lot of results, click See more results so that you can sort the found files by date.
No luck? Try the Recycle Bin. Maybe you deleted the file.
Dead end? Don't panic. You can always restore the file from the backup you made yesterday.
You don't back up? I bet you will now. As for the file you desperately need to find today, you'll have to use file-recovery software. Before I discuss specific programs, I need to lay down one absolute rule about using them: Until you've either recovered the file or given up, do not write to your hard drive. Every time you do so, you lower the odds of successfully retrieving the lost file.
Following this rule requires you to use portable file-recovery software. Download the utility on another PC and save it to a flash drive. Plug that drive into your PC, and launch the program from there.
The rule also means that you shouldn't restore your file to its original location. Save it to the flash drive, as well.
With luck, either of the following two utilities will be able to find and recover your missing file. First, try the free Recuva Portable. It's fast and simple, it can preview image formats, and it works reliably most of the time.
If that doesn't work, try Software Shelf's File-Rescue Plus. It costs $40, but you can recover up to five files with the free demo version. Strictly speaking, File-Rescue Plus isn't portable, but you have a work-around. Install it onto another computer, and then copy the program file, FileRescuePlus.exe, to your flash drive. After you pay the $40, use Notepad to create a file called key.ini containing nothing but the license key that Software Shelf sent you after you bought the program. Place key.ini on the flash drive, in the same folder as the program file.
Lost files and other disasters happen. You can take all the proper precautions, and something could still go horribly wrong, plunging you into a Windows nightmare. But follow these tips, and you should enjoy some sweet dreams.