This past Friday night at 7:21 pm I clicked on a executable file I had just downloaded from the Internet. The instant I clicked on it, I knew I had made a horrible mistake and sure enough my computer was immediately infected with a plethora of spyware, malware, viruses and trojans.
Friday night was interesting. I had downloaded the executable in question as part of a compressed file from Usenet. Earlier this week I had installed a shiny new graphics card and I wanted to show it off to Sally. So I Went surfing to find a high definition program to showcase my new toy. The show I downloaded came as a locked RAR file and a keygenerator executable. There was no good reason for that multimedia file to be locked, so I had no business even thinking about opening an executable file from an unknown source. Mea culpa, indeed. I force Windows to show file extensions just to avoid silly mistakes like that.
Within seconds the appearance of my desktop had chaned, I was getting spammed with adware, security notices, legitimate and spurious were proliferating, and I was a very unhappy camper.
After a couple of hours eliminating some but not all of the uinvaders, I threw in the towel and used the big gun. I reformatted the drive where Windows lives and reinstalled it. I do that once a year whether my computer needs it or not, so that should have been a smooth process. Instead, around 10 pm I found my self with Windows reinstalled unable to connect on my computer to the Internet.
Being in panic mode, I hadn't assembled all the tools needed and I hadn't planned the procedure out in writing. I had no checklist and was working from memory. I tried every trick I knew. I consulted books. I called our ISP. Nothing worked. Then, around 2 AM, I installed the driver for the onboard LAN on my motherboard. Three minutes later I had authenticated Windows and was off and rolling.
I managed to crawl into bed at 4 AM yesterday.
All seems right with the world now. My computer is back to its old self, only better because it's working off of a clean registry. I don't think there are any viruses loose on our systems. My confidence as to that fact is rather high.
Really good guides to handling this sort of thing may be found here and here.