PC Troubleshooting for a Neighbour (1st May 2010)
My neighbours reported their Internet was running very slowly or badly to my dad. He relayed the message and I went over to help, while lunch was being cooked. I fixed it!
- Transferring Internet connection from BT to Virgin Media.
- Previous had BT telephone and Internet
- Had modem connected with Ethernet leads, all seemed correct.
- No router and no need for one as other PC won’t be put online.
- Small company in Fleet had built the PC and installed Norman security on it. (No, not Norton.)
- Virgin Media engineer had connected up the cables and other hardware.
- Neighbours had installed the Virgin Media Security software as well.
- Entire system was extremely slow.
- Start menu took 50 seconds to open!
- Parts of the screen would not refresh after dismissing the screensaver.
- Neighbours confirmed both these symptoms.
- Task Manager opened some minutes after I had pressed Ctrl+Alt+Delete.
- Was followed a while later by the All Programs list, which I had tried to open minutes earlier. It was blank for many seconds until it became dismissed by my actions from more recent minutes.
- Task Manager listed dozens of processes, a couple occassionally used more than 1% but less than 10%.
- No obvious stuck on 50% processes and HDD light was hardly coming on, so the glacial pace was quite mysterious.
- Security was running at startup?
- Right-clicked the Norman system tray icon and it eventually appeared, minutes later.
- Context menu for Norman has an item called Stop on-access scanner.
- Clicked this and after a few seconds the HDD started thrashing like mad.
- After a minute or so the Virgin Media Security window appeared.
- Many seconds later the HDD light stabilised and the system was now properly responsive again!
- Windows Security Center noticed that there was no Anti-Virus installed.
- It detected the system had more than one and that they were disabled.
- Windows Firewall was also disabled, so I enabled that for belt and braces.
- Once I had uninstalled Norman, the Security Centre noticed that only Virgin Media Security was present.
- Virgin Media Security says it includes Anti-Virus and Firewall.
- I began uninstalling the Norman software.
- It had several questions which had to be answered in the Uninstallation wizard, one per page with no indication of how many there would be.
- It only displayed the progress button after the answer was selected.
- Button were centered with the cancellation button below the progression button.
- Neither of these was named Next or Back.
- The text for the question was very large, possibly Arial, wrapping across a few lines.
- The size of the wizard window was huge and mostly empty space.
- Required a restart after uninstallation.
Uninstalling BT Internet
- There were 5 applications listed in Set Program Access and Defaults.
- A restart was required after uninstalling 3 of the 5, which I was doing one by one.
- Another restart was required after the final one, which failed to initialise some sort of browser component and triggered the IE8 JScript debugging options.
- Clicking Yes to the near-incomprehensible message the debugger displays results in some pseudo-IDE giving a screenful of code with a breakpoint at the failed line of code.
- Incredibly scary for typical “always click Yes” users, no doubt!
Refinements & Extras
- Explained everything I was doing in a running commentary.
- Homepage in IE8 was some Virgin Media landing page; changed that to Google’s UK site.
- Removed the Virgin Media Security shortcut from the desktop.
- Ticked the context menu option from the system tray which prevents the main Virgin Media Security window from being displayed at startup.
- Showed how to use simple SUM formulæ in Excel.
- Created a Photos folder in Outlook Express.
- Removed the Quick Launch shortcut for Outlook 2003.
- Removed the Start Menu frequently used applications item for Outlook 2003.
- Logged into their Virgin Media e-mail account via the webmail interface.
- Reassured them that PCs work fine with thousands of e-mails, photos and other files on them.
- They are also fine with lots of programs installed, so long as the programs play nicely with each other.
One Good Turn Deserves Another
As well as a nice cup of tea whilst I was there, my neighbours gave me an Easter egg and a generous fee. It was less than a professional PC repair person would tend to charge for doing only the essential parts of the job, so I feel fine about accepting it.