Anti-Virus Software Required? Diagnosing Sick Computers

January 19, 2015

There is a local pizza joint that has a great deal on Wednesday evenings on pizza and wine. So there I sat the other night with a friend when an attractive woman starting waving at me from the bar. She and her beau had stopped in for a drink themselves after a shopping excursion to CostCo.

She is also a friend and it was just coincidence we were both there. But she had a very important computer question to ask me. Recently she bought a new laptop and wondered if she really needed to install anti-virus software on it. My answer is quite simple, YES!

No matter how careful you might be, it won’t be long before a computer gets infected if you don’t have something installed to protect it. As soon as that computer goes online, there will be a bad guy (or girl) somewhere who wants to infect the computer. Whereas if you install some good software and avoid doing things that might get you infected, you will likely be able to avoid any viruses or malware. I have personally used the ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite for a decade and I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve never been infected. Since they released the “2015” version of their suite nearly a year ago, I’d expect the new version to be out fairly soon. Don’t worry, you get all new versions included during your subscription period. I always go for the two-year plan as it saves a little money and I have to worry about renewing less often.

Another friend heard that I’d be coming to Las Vegas next week to teach some CorelDRAW Seminars and asked if she could pay me to stop by her business to clean up two computers. For those who are interested, there are still spaces in the seminars. Before I agreed, I asked for some basics on what is plaguing the two computers.

The first computer is about a year old and has slowed considerably. There are frequent messages saying that something is using too much memory. This is minimal information and I’ll truly have to sit down at the computer and do some looking before I can find the culprit. One of the first things I’ll do is bring up Windows Task Manager as it can tell you what processes are running, the amount of the CPU they are using and the amount of memory being consumed.

Windows Task Manager

Above you’ll see a screen shot I did of Windows Task Manager as I was writing this post. You’ll note that my processor is relatively idle but 56% of my memory is in use (so more than 8GB) as stated on the very bottom line. While you can’t see everything running, you can see that Firefox is responsible for more than 1 GB of memory all by itself. Probably because I have a lot of tabs open and haven’t restarted it in a few days.

If you want to know what is the biggest CPU or Memory hog, just click on the title at the top of the column and things will be sorted so the hogs go to the top of the list. I’ll certainly use this to try and diagnose the case of the slow computer.

The other problematic computer gives messages that the fan is out. This isn’t likely something I’ll be able to fix simply because I won’t have time to pull the bad fan, go to the store to buy a new one and then return to install it. While it may sound scary to some to open a computer a replace a part, a fan is pretty simple as it probably involves four screws and one plug. It’s just important to know the size so that an appropriate replacement can be purchased.

While this is the initial diagnosis from the limited amount of information I was provided, it could be something quite different once I get there. I’m not sure I can completely fix them in the short time I have available, though I think I’ll be able to discover the problems and at least leave her with a plan on how to get them working better.

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Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III is author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences. His first Web site was built in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013.

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