So, my roommate’s Windows XP box has been dead for a couple weeks now, and he asked me to take a look at it—though he didn’t specify that “dead” in this case meant literally dead. As in, he logs in, and while doing the desktop startup dance and it bluescreens with something about being out of memory. So I reboot into safe mode and poke around, eventually cranking up the swapfile size to 4G.
This allows me to actually get into his user, whereupon the first thing I did was install FireFox. He was using Mozilla 1.7.1 after IE “stopped working,” so at least it wasn’t totally messed. Then it was off to get AVG. Started scanning the system and when off to play bzflag in the meantime. A while later, I come back, with 141 different “virus found” messages waiting for me. Ugh. Clean all those out, get and run Spybot Search & Destroy. Another 100 spyware things are found. Clean them. 3 hours have passed (did I mention this is the middle of mid-terms here?).
Then I figure the system has been cleaned out pretty well, and open Windows Update. And all hell breaks loose. Suddenly 15 “ONLINE POKER” and “HOT GiRRLS” icons apear on the desktop, browser popups advising me to clean my system appear 5 at a time. Select updates and run them—and they’re running at around 75Kbps, which is not much better than a modem, and certainly much worse that the wireless links’ rated speed of 11Mbps.
Finished waiting for the updates to get downloaded and installed—and another 3 hours has come and gone. Start going thought Add/Remove programs to take out anything that wasn’t supposed to be there, and anything my roommate didn’t explicitly install. While doing this, I looked at the “Windows Hotfixes” stuff and started googling, trying to figure out why “Windows XP SP2” wasn’t listed. In the process, I discovered HijackThis, which provides an interface to remove the IE toolbar insanity which was putting all crap on the desktop, so I got that installed and cleaned all that up. After three hours of browsing around Windows Update, I finally found out that my roommate had cancelled the install of SP2 back in september, and for whatever reason it never re-appeared in Windows Update. So I spent another three hours looking for and downloading SP2, which I found on the “v4” Windows Update, and totalled up to 266MB (a co-worker informed me later that future searches for plain-jane downloads of anything Microsoft should include the term “Network Install”). Downloaded that and installed it.
Total time spent de-zombifying my roommate’s Windows box: 12 hours, 32 minutes. Over 200 different virii, worms, spyware, adware, etc. all installed themselves on my roommate’s computer, and literally brought it to the point where it was totally unusable. So, as someone who hasn’t really used Windows for anything but games in six years, and no longer even has a copy installed on his box, I have to ask: How do regular people—people who aren’t geeks or sysadmins or whatever—actually put up with this?