In view of the new Clampi virus that goes after your financial information, this seemed timely. I hadn't heard of it before I started on this post, but I did and went through the steps below, myself.
When I lived near family I'd go home and visit my Mom, and my Sister and my Nephew. They were not the most technical people, but understood that there were uses for a home computer. I got my nephew started when he was 2 with a PC, and he had one ever since. Mom really didn't see that she needed to learn although she was curious and my sister was an occasional user.
On the weekends I'd come home, after the long Honey-Do List I'd sit down and see if their PC, my nephew's mainly, was still working. This was back in the days before high speed internet was widely popular and they were still on a modem. Every time I'd sit there, I'd hear "It's not working right, do you know what's wrong?". Sure, the virus protection was turned off, and after a scan there were sometimes hundreds of viruses.
That a teenager (then) would have viruses on the machine didn't surprise me, and many people have them without noticing. I personally run a copy of Symantec Antivirus on XP, don't bother with anything on Linux or Mac OSX because I don't do anything even slightly risky there.
I do have a backup plan and here is my recommendation. For now and into the immediate future what I do is on Windows based PCs to surf via internet explorer, and this is about the only use I have for IE, the following link:
That link brings up Microsoft's free scanner. It does not work unless you go there, answer the questions and start the scanner yourself. Its best use is an occasional use where "something doesn't feel right".
Start the link, I'll wait...
There's a lot of text on that page, but if you page down to the button "Full Service Scan" and click it.
There may be a click through "Service Agreement" signing all sorts of legalese rights away, and a good lawyer could get them back, so page down and click "Accept" and a small window should pop up. If it doesn't, check your pop up blocker settings and allow the site to pop up.
Make sure that the following boxes are checked:
All boxes under Performance and Network Scan should be checked.
Under "Comprehensive Scan" there is a link saying "Select Folders" or Customize. This will allow you to set the scanner to look at drives other than your C Drive. I've got two drives, so I can click there to turn it on to scan them, but if you are like 95% of the people, that link should be unneeded.
This being web software the links may change, so you'll want to try this out if you're unsure of your current scanner. It is free, Microsoft tries to keep it up to date, and they intend to include this in the next operating system I've been told, called "Windows 7". For those of us out there who haven't gotten Win 7 yet, and as of this writing, it is not yet out officially, this exercise is a great backup.
Oh by the way, you may want to do this and leave the machine up over night or while you're at work. It takes a couple hours for my machine to do a full scan. It isn't so much of a "resource hog" that you can't do other things, but you then won't have to babysit. I have it running now as I sit in my Ikea Poang chair and bounce.
It took my system three hours to get to the point that it was through churning. It came back with a window titled "Results". I didn't have any viruses, thankfully. But what I did here was to click the boxes that said "Defragment your hard discs" and clicked Next.
When you're finished the scan, the final window asks you to "Let Windows OneCare take care of your PC". That is not necessary. Click on the link that says "Not Yet, I'm not ready".
Now you have the Summary. Click to clear the box next to "Share information with Microsoft". I don't THINK so. I personally share as little info as humanly possible. Make sure that box is cleared, then click on the "Next" Button.
After the window refreshes, you may close that window and any other window you like. You're Done.
And so am I. CYA!