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Windows XP users: How to keep things clean:
How to remove spy ware, ad ware and other annoyances from Windows XP sp2. We are sure that there is a lot of information out there but here is a concise To-Do list that we run all the times for our clients:

First stop unwanted services from XP startup:

Find the icon 'run' in the 2nd column of the 'Start' menu, and type in 'msconfig' then enter. Up pops a window with multiple tabs. Select the 'Services' tab, and select 'Hide all Microsoft services' so you only see 3rd party services. In here it is possible to turn off services, but you need to know who is who. If in doubt type in the name of the service on Google or another search engine. and usually you will find answers to what it is. After you need to select the 'Start Up' tab and do the same. This list might be extensive but don't despair; most are legitimate programs. You can move the column divider at the top to the right to expand the view of the command column and see the exact file which is loaded, and a search for that online will return you enough information to learn what you have going on. After deselecting the once you want, hit 'apply' then 'close' and you are prompted to reboot - do that.

Then update of install anti virus software:
There is no need to pay for antivirus software. I use free Grisoft AVG; you can download it here: Download. This will install a good free antivirus software, and after it will start scanning. You can stop it for now since the next step will access all files and automatically scans the files on access.

Scan your files for ads, spy ware, browser hijacking and other annoyances:

Most of the infiltrations on XP can be removed by using AdAware Personal from Sweden. It's free but has to be launched manually. Get it here. Install it and then reboot your computer... this seems to make it work faster for some odd reason. After reboot, start the program (desktop icon) and click 'Check for updates', get the latest update always! Once back in the main window select 'Start', click 'Use custom scanning options', click 'Customize' just next to it and select all by making them all green. Then hit 'Start' again to start the scanning. Even though you might only have a few files on your PC, there is actually often 100-200,000 files in XP, so scanning can take some time. Note; if a virus is found in any file during this scan, your antivirus software will popup to intercept and prompt you for action. Choose Delete, Wipe or Clean if possible, or select Quarantine or Deny Access. Once the scanner is done, it will sound like a fart (really!) and if anything was found you will see a red flashing bug. Click 'Next' to see a page with everything found. You might only have a few cookies, or you might have 400+ infiltrations, but either way you need to right-click somewhere in the list and 'Select All', they will all be tagged for removal and you finally click 'Remove' . Then reboot you computer again.

Clean up your registry

You can download a registry cleaner at www.download.com. I simply use the MS RegClean from Microsoft found here. Run this from a folder and click 'fix errors'. That will take out any un-referenced entries to the registry, you can say it takes the clutter out that does no longer is needed. Then reboot again; this step normally speeds up your Windows.

Clean up the hard drive
By now your poor hard disk have information scattered all over the place. You can defrag the drive to put every file in a good order so Windows can find them quickly. Scandisk is used to check the hard disk for errors, which occurs during crashes or created by the infiltrations you just removed. Open 'My Computer' and right click on the C: drive, select 'Properties', then 'Tools' tab where you find 'Error Checking' (Scandisk) and 'Defrag'. Error checking can only be scheduled to start after you restart, and if you select both 'Fix file systems errors' and 'Recover bad sectors' it will take 1-2 hours after reboot. Defrag take time too and you should not work on the computer during.

Add even more security to keep your XP safe:
Create limited user account for kids, guests etc:

Nothing attracts more spam than your teenage kids. But also many of them know more about the PC than you. You should make your kids learn about cleaning a PC again. Normal users login to XP with administrative rights and can cause damage to XP at any time. Go to the Control Panel and launch 'Users'. Here you can create limited accounts for your family, or even change existing accounts to minimize infestation.

Use simple password protection:

When you have created limited account, you should set a basic password for all user accounts with administrative rights. Also, on all administrative accounts, set the screensaver to prompt for password after 10-15 minutes so the screen is logged automatically when you leave. Simply right-click on the desktop, select 'Screensaver' tab, select a screensaver, set the minutes and click 'On resume password protect'.

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