Computer Tip O’ the Day: No fast user switch!

My friend’s computer was on the fritz again today. I had worked on it this past weekend and got it going again, but they said it was having the same troubles as before: When they go to get their mail on the web, they get an error with the internet that it can’t open the webpage.

Well, I checked it out, and noticed that the ZoneAlarm firewall process called vsmon.exe was taking on average 40% of the cpu, peaking at 95% at times. I looked at all the running processes and saw lots of processes with the same name running as different users (the childrens’ user names), like aim.exe, which is the AOL instant messenger (IM) chat program. I also saw a suspicious looking windows.exe running, and when I went to Start >> Run and typed msconfig, then checked the boot up programs, windows.exe was selected. I have never heard of such a program, so it made me think it was spyware trying to “act official” by giving itself such a name. Well NO DICE evil spyware people because I know your tricks. I unchecked it from coming up on startup, then rebooted.

I figured the true problem was the fact that since the children were not logging off when done with the computer but using the fast user switch feature to jump between accounts, all of their running processes stay running, and this bogs down the system. So the moral of the story is: Don’t use fast user switching, but log off and then let the next person log on.

Always Have a Firewall for Your Computer

My friend’s computer was not working well recently. I have fixed the computer a few times, usually spyware programs had snuck onto the system and were bringing down the performance to a standstill. However, this time, I had removed all the spyware but the computer still had problems. Specifically, when you clicked on a link in a webpage, three out of four times, NOTHING happened. It didn’t even try to go to the site whose linked you clicked on. Then, one out of four times it would go there.

This was very frustrating for them, as you can imagine, as browsing the internet became almost impossible, and since they check their email through the web, it wouldn’t work right, either.
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They had already talked with the SBC Yahoo people to test that the DSL modem was working right, so I brought over my own ethernet controller, thinking that maybe their ethernet card was the problem. Even with my ethernet controller, the behavior was exactly the same, so I knew that wasn’t the problem. I thought a bit and decided I needed to see the internet activity, and since I saw that Zonealarm was not on the system, I downloaded it and installed it. As soon as I set it up, it blocked some “attacks” from other computers on the internet. I told it to block all such attacks.

Miraculously, the links began working normally again! After thinking about it, I figured that there must have been so many of these internet computers “scanning” or “attacking” my friend’s computer that it was disrupting their internet connection. Either that, or perhaps just one especially malicious computer was doing so.

Lesson from this story: Install Zonealarm or use the Windows firewall and keep it on, blocking bad dudes! May God bless you.