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Help Me Properly Protect My Machine
January 9, 2007 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm a serial reinstaller of windows. Help me located freeware/shareware programs to properly protect my machine from affects which will make me want to wipe the slate clean again. I’d like to reinstall and do it right from the beginning. Feel free to post any useful utility.

Also interested in: (if you're so inclined)

I'm especially interested in any program which will make regulating my startup programs easy.

A packet sniffer so I know when things are accessing the internet. And some way to look up what programs running in my Task Manager actually are...

BTW- This is my gaming machine so I am not interested in changing OS. That's just to prempt all of you Linux users.
posted by JakeLL to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Okay maybe to refine this a little. I'm looking for capable and trusted programs. The kind that of programs who people, who know what they are doing, use. I value to opinions of the users here so I asked here. I've tried this on my own before and failed, now I do not value the opinions of the internet at large in this matter, thus I did not just google it as there is a tumultuous array of programs available.
posted by JakeLL at 11:27 AM on January 9, 2007


"The kind of programs that people who know what they are doing use."

Sorry for the genocide of grammar.

posted by JakeLL at 11:31 AM on January 9, 2007


b!tr0t, don't be an ass.


What you're looking for is Acronis TrueImage. Snaps an image of your hard drive and lets you restore at any time.
posted by mphuie at 11:47 AM on January 9, 2007


Unask the question.

One does not achieve a state of high-speed computing zen by installing successive layers of application to somehow magically protect you from yourself. Now. I am not one of the persons that says no one should use anti-spyware or antivirus applications. But I will remark that I do not and never have, and my windows installs tend to last, um. Until I build a new system.

So, here's what you do. Stop installing so much crap. Do a clean install. Install the right drivers. Turn on the firewalls for any connections you use. Install your games and any office-stuff you do. That's it. All the little helper programs, all the little guys that blink in your systray, no matter how neat they seem you need to not use them.

You really need to not be -- my god, man -- sniffing your own packets. God in heaven. Relax, and use good computing practices, ok? If you're curious about some process, google it. If google doesn't find anything, search symantec's free, publicly available database for mention of it. Stop installing things in some weird paranoid quest for... whatever it is you're questing for. And if you think this is weird advice, consider the fact that the way you have been doing things has you experiencing longer and longer windows boot times, faster and faster cruft accumulation, and frequent windows reinstalls. As the man said, "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
posted by kavasa at 11:48 AM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


More detail.

If you've ever use DriveImage (by the company formerly known as PowerQuest), Acronis TrueImage is the same thing. I used to swear by DriveImage until Symantec bought Powerquest out.

I like to keep images of my drive after a clean install of windows and after a driver install. Each of my images are around 1.5GB-2.5GB and you have to image the partition to another physical drive. You can also open the image up to extract specific files.

Backups can be done without rebooting windows. Restores require a reboot and your PC boots into the TrueImage DOS app to restore (~2-5 minutes).
posted by mphuie at 11:54 AM on January 9, 2007


On the topic of Windows maintenance.

Use Altiris SVS to install apps into a virtual "Layer" (it captures all installations into a package that can be deactivated (like the program never existed). It captures all reg keys, files, everything. Great for testing software.

TuneUp Utilities 2007. This program fricking rocks. Cleans your registry = no more computer slowdown. It does other optimizations too. Try it out, you'll love it. After using it I havent reinstalled windows for the longest time.
posted by mphuie at 11:58 AM on January 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


For Task Manager programs, google the exact name. Seriously- I've always had luck googling the process or exe name and will find a site telling me what the program is associated with.

Startup programs? Start --> Run --> MSCONFIG
(I assume you're using XP. If you're using W2K, you'll have to download MSCONFIG from the Internet- do a google search for "msconfig windows 2000")
Go to the startup tab and disable to your heart's content. If you don't know what a startup program is, google it.
Next, click on the services tab, click the "Hide All Microsoft Services" box and disable as desired.

Packet Sniffer. Then again, though I haven't used a software version in years (horray hardware firewall!), most firewalls report incoming/outcoming traffic. I used ZoneAlarm back when it was free, but I couldn't begin to tell you a good firewall to use now.

I recommend OSX, but it isn't freeware or shareware.
BTW- This is my gaming machine so I am not interested in changing OS. That's just to prempt all of you Linux users.
I also recommend reading the question before you reply.
posted by jmd82 at 11:58 AM on January 9, 2007


Jesus prostyle and b1tr0t's comments are rude, asinine and useless. I hope the next time they use askme that some punks throwup all over the first three or four answers with similar boneheaded responces...

Kavasa has it mostly. In your daily usage you'll accumulate lots of garbage just from internet browsing. Consider some of the better cleanup utils out there like adaware. For antivirus try something small and fast like NOD32 rather than bloatware from Norton.

A drive image is a great idea... otherwise spend time picking through your installed programs and uninstalling the stuff you haven't used in a while and do this regularly.
posted by wfrgms at 12:04 PM on January 9, 2007


If you can stand the cycle loss, you may want to consider doing a clean windows install, then installing Virtual PC, and setting up a virtual machine in which you can run XP.

Sounds wierd, but we just did it with CodeWarrior to debug a suspected OS problem and found it.

Advantage is you can copy the virtual machine. It's basically one file. Then, you can delete is just as easily, or make a single file backup copy.

VPC is free from Microsoft.

Again, I don't need any wise ass telling me it's going to slow down things. I know. But it might be an out of the box solution for this particular fellow's problem and a useful technique.

Good luck, jakell.
posted by FauxScot at 12:07 PM on January 9, 2007


I second the TrueImage recommendation. I also use norton ghost 2001 on a machine that has a raid not supported by Trueimage.

The key is to get your computer setup like you want it, make an image of it--to an external harddrive is fastest, and then occasionally run the restore. Takes 5 minutes.

This is what I do and its the best defense against bitrot and malware.

One key however is that you store your documents on external media so you dont have to mess with it when you restore.
posted by Osmanthus at 1:12 PM on January 9, 2007


Another shout out for Acronis True Image, though I use it in combination with Raxco's First Defense ISR.

Other essential utilities for this compulsive reinstaller: Sandboxie and Tiny Watcher
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:14 PM on January 9, 2007


I recommend running as non-admin. Spending all your time in a properly set-up limited user account, and installing the minimum possible stuff as Administrator will avoid problems that Internet Security Antivirus Firewall Registry Manager 2007 will only create.
posted by grouse at 1:45 PM on January 9, 2007


Startup Control Panel: Free, tiny, control panel app that lets you disable startup items. And by disable, I don't mean "I deleted it and now it's back"..StartupCPL actaully makes sure things don't startup. It's one of the first things I put on any new (windows) computer.
posted by niles at 3:31 PM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


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