A portable Windows sysadm for the common man?
January 2, 2006 3:56 AM   Subscribe

What would you put on a CD to give to non-technical Windows users to help them clean spyware off of their PC and doing other related easy technical tasks?

When people discover that I'm a programmer, they tell me about problems they'be been having with their machines (invariably, windows users). Sometimes I end up giving them a lot of URLs for tools I'd use to troubleshoot problems, and I'm left with the feeling that they'd have a much easier time if I just gave them everything on a CD along with a list for what everything is used for.

I love Sysinternals's tools. They're usually the first thing I think of (no, wait the first thing I think of is that I wish they were using Firefox instead).

Bonus points for listing descriptions with the tools that are easy for a naïve user to understand. perhaps say what the utility is for, and a simple narrative for what one would do with it.
posted by furvyn to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Spybot S&D: removes all the nasty bugs from your machine, provided you use the "Update" button regularly.

Adaware: see 'Spybot'

CrapCleaner: cleans crap, protects privacy, removes a lot of unused disk space

AVG Free Edition: blocks virusses
posted by NekulturnY at 5:06 AM on January 2, 2006

Hitman Pro, without a doubt.

Don't be scared of the Dutch on the page, the program is in English. It's basically a "macro" program that downloads all the major freeware anti-malware apps, configures their settings, updates their definition files, and scans with each and then gives you a report of everything in HTML. It also has a built-in heuristic analysis and its own browser protection.
posted by Ekim Neems at 6:17 AM on January 2, 2006

The disk I usually bring along when doing a general "fix" has Microsoft Antispyware, Spybot S&D, AVG Antivirus and CodeStuff Starter. I used to also install Tiny Firewall but some people will find its messages confusing.

It also has HijackThis for tough infections, but this is probably not a good idea for your normal user to run themselves without guidance. However for beating the latest spyware sometimes it's the only tool.

You could add Firefox and maybe a registry cleaner. Consider in addition some remote control software like TightVNC, or opening XP's firewall for its Remote Desktop tool, if you plan to do further support.
posted by cps at 6:26 AM on January 2, 2006

CrapCleaner: cleans crap, protects privacy, removes a lot of unused disk space

Be aware that CrapCleaner can -- or could, maybe it's been fixed -- hose Firefox if you run it with the default settings. Uncheck the appropriate boxes so it doesn't touch Firefox, and you'll be ok.

With that caveat, I'll second Nekulturny's recommendations.
posted by pmurray63 at 8:00 AM on January 2, 2006

I do these 3:
- Microsoft Antispyware
- Spybot S and D
- AdAware

Lifehacker.com had a great write up on cleaning spyware last year.

The big catch in doing a really good job is booting into Safe Mode to do the cleaning after you've installed and updated all of your tools.

Microsoft Antispyware is best for you pal because it is always running and updates itself in the background. It does a GREAT job. (funny for a MS product, I know!)
posted by k8t at 8:43 AM on January 2, 2006

To be honest, I've had only moderate luck with cleaning Windows machines of spyware. I'm not an idiot (or so my mom tells me!); rather it's that most Windows machines I get to have been spyware'd up the wazoo for months, and the process of extraction is long, tedious and requires a lot of expertise and trial and error. So I'm not sure a CD would help the user so much as it would help you diagnose and fix the problem. If there's a lot of spyware and the problem's been there a while (which it has been, if your user is truly clueless), it's simply too complicated to tackle.

This is based purely on personal experience, however; I'll have to check out that Lifehacker article and see if it's got any hot tips I don't know about.
posted by chrominance at 9:27 AM on January 2, 2006

Spyware / viruses are more of an educational problem than a technical one. If you can convince people to:

(1) Not use IE and Outlook
(2) Always default to clicking on CANCEL or NO in dialog boxes
(3) Not click on the bouncing monkey, etc.
(4) Not run executables or other files from email unless they're specifically expecting one for some reason

They're unlikely to have a problem, except for truly catastropic exploits like the new gdi one seems to be shaping up to be.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:41 AM on January 2, 2006

In addition to the above, Firefox, either Ultr@VNC or set them up with Windows Remote desktop, and put Knoppix on the cd. It's great to be able to have somebody be able to boot to Knoppix so you can help them diagnose troubles.
posted by theora55 at 10:23 AM on January 2, 2006

Ditto on the above suggestions, but also I emphasize that education is the most important thing. Leaving a CD may do just the same as a list of URL's...they'll ignore it. Installing programs, working with the user to decide when it should run, telling them what not to do, etc, may be much more effective.
posted by radioamy at 12:07 PM on January 2, 2006

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