Q: I had an old laptop running XP Pro. A couple weeks ago, every time I would connect to the Internet via DSL or wireless, the hard drive light would come on, as if it were writing something to the hard drive. It would cause IE to run slower than dial-up. I looked in task manager, and although the CPU usage was high, there didn’t seem to be a process listed that was using it. I used LavaSoft Ad-Aware to scan on a regular basis as well as Norton 2005. I eventually gave up and bought a new laptop (Vista Home), which now has the same problem.
It is obviously related to something that I copied over to the new computer from the old computer. But the thing is, Norton Internet Security isn’t picking up a virus. I used it to scan everything before copying it on to the new computer. Has anyone heard of such a thing or had the same problem? I’d much rather be able to find and remove the problem than restore.
A: Based on your description, I have a few suggestions that could help lead you in the right direction toward solving this issue. The first thing I would look into is your virus-scan software. If you have not updated your virus-scan definitions in a while, it could be possible that your virus-scan software cannot detect new viruses. Check with your virus-scan vendor to see if your software is up-to-date, and make sure you are running the latest version.
A good way to detect whether you have a virus that is attempting to connect to the Internet is by installing a software firewall on your machine. Windows XP Pro comes with a firewall as part of Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2, which can be enabled through the Control Panel. If the virus is trying to use the Internet to spread, the firewall will detect this unauthorized access and let you know.
Running LavaSoft Ad-Aware will help you find and eliminate obstructive adware programs but will not help you eliminate viruses. Also, make sure your Ad-Aware software is up-to-date. Having all of your software up-to-date is always a good start for solving these types of problems.
If you have tried this and are still having problems when connecting to the Internet, another thing you can look into is what type of software you’ve installed in the past. If you have Google Desktop installed, it will connect to the Internet for indexing purposes, which could slow down your computer or your connection.
There have been issues reported with certain wireless mouse or keyboard peripherals that disrupt the indexing process. Check this and other software such as old versions of Instant Messenger software that may be causing issues. Use Add/Remove Programs to remove any unnecessary programs from your computer that are out-of-date or no longer used.
You mentioned that you looked in Windows Task Manager and did not see a process using the CPU. Take a second look in Windows Task Manager, and make sure the check box at the bottom of the window, labeled “Show processes from all users,” is in checked state. This check box allows you to see the processes that may be running under other Windows accounts.
If you have more than one Windows account on your machine, there could be processes running under another identity that you cannot see without that box checked.
Make sure you are using the proper modem, as some inexpensive models and internal modems are not made to handle certain speeds of data transfer. DSL speeds are affected by the network’s location. The further you are from the central office of the telephone company, the slower your high-speed Internet connection will be. Some wiring in older homes may also be the cause of a slow Internet connection.
Finally, always make sure your Windows software is consistently updated.
Andrew Bonslater, MCTS, MCSD, MCAD, is a solutions developer for mid- to large-sized organizations. He is a thought leader with Crowe Chizek in Chicago. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.