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FREE Software That Can Save You Headaches and Money

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My dad doesn’t talk much during my weekly phone calls with my parents, but he does pop on the line every now and then to get the abbreviated version of what’s going on. On one particular night as the conversation with my mom was winding down I heard the, “click” indicating he had joined us.



Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

“I need you to take a look at my computer the next time I see you. It’s super slow, and things keep popping up. It all started after a weird phone call,” he said.

About eight years ago the improbably happened, and my very old school father got access to email through his job at the time. He took to it as well as the online world very easily. We begin exchanging emails frequently, had conversations in the middle of the day via instant messenger, and within the last year we’ve even started using skype. But as technologically savvy as he’s become, there’s still a few things he needs to learn.

He went on to tell me how he got a phone call one day from someone claiming to be from Microsoft telling him that they had been getting errors reported from his computer. If my father would follow some directions to grant them access to his computer, they would look around. Even though his computer had been running fine at the time, he complied. Within a minute they delivered the bad news. His computer was full of viruses, but he was in luck! They were willing to sell him the software to clean his computer for $99. He hung up on them, but they called back. After several rounds of this, they stopped calling.

Obviously, when he granted them access to his computer they installed a bunch of malware on his computer, then tried to rip him off to fix the problem.

Luckily, I already had installed on his computer a way to get his computer running like new. Two weeks later when I visited my parents I did two things:

  1. Malwarebytes : Running this anti-malware program, several malicious pieces of software were found and expunged from my dad’s computer.
  2. Autoruns : This one’s a little more complicated. Autoruns is something I run each time I visit my parents, but I run it on my computer once a week. It essentially collects information about what will start on your computer when it’s booted. Each time it is executed, you can compare the current snapshot against the previous one and remove anything new that you don’t recognize. It can even search the internet and give you more information about the software, and make recommendations as to whether it is part of something normal, or if it is malicious.

It took a little time, but I was able to clean off my dad’s computer. Although you can upgrade for a fee, both of the programs listed have versions that are absolutely free.

Nobody plans to get a virus on their computer. Sometimes it’s due to your own doing while surfing the internet, and sometimes you unknowingly become the victim of a scam. The scammers would have charged my dad $99, and a professional IT person would have charged somewhere between $50 and $100 to do the same thing. Although they can be upgraded for a fee, both of the programs listed have versions that are absolutely free. More than that, there is the stress of not being able to access important information like family pictures and financial information that may be stored on the computer.

It took me a little time, but I got my dad’s computer cleaned, and running smoothly. All it cost him was an ice cold beer.

Is your computer protected against malware and viruses? Have you ever received a call like this?

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • @Kayla – I’d be interested in knowing what your brother thinks of them…..I use them (and like them), and I know a few others that use them as well…but getting another opinion would definitely be cool too! Thanks for stopping by!

  • We use MWB here at the office. We have been bitten by a few employees who have local administrative rights due to some programs they have to run.

    On management machines in the plant we install LibreOffice to avoid the expense of MS Office.
    LastPass helps us not see passwords on Post-Its.
    CloneZilla helps us copy/backup/image machines.
    SpyBot fell out of favor, but the latest version is catching some things MWB misses (and vice-versa).
    We buy TeamViewer for remote assistance, but you can use it privately for free.
    Foxit is a drop-in replacement for Adobe Reader with fewer updates, plus it allows PDF printing. Have to watch out for junkware ‘offers’ at the end of the initial installation though.

    I’m rambling, but I thought I’d share a few I find useful in my career. 🙂

  • @Dan – it’s always interesting to hear what other people use for software, Dan – thanks for sharing! I’m interested in LibreOffice… does that compare with Openoffice (another freeware MS Office clone)?

  • I’m running Windows 7 on a laptop . I have installed Microsoft Security Essentials, SpeedyPC Pro and speedzooka. And it’s still running slow. Am I missing something here ? I have run Malwarebytes with not too much success . Thanks for a great article .

  • downloaded mwb after reading this article. says it found 245 problems. when i checked fix errors it told me to call an 800 number. is this what’s supposed to happen? will it cost money? afraid to go any further..thanx.

  • @bikebob – the two pieces of software I mentioned can help you ensure that you keep malware and unwanted software off your computer. There are many other reasons your computer may be running slow – too many applications open at once, too much starting up at boot time, your disk being fragmented ,etc.

  • @Vicki – I can’t say I’ve seen that….each time I’ve run it (and malware was found), the “fix errors” immediately removed the malware from my system. Not sure what to think about what you’ve run into. My biggest draw to these two applications is that they were free. If I had to pay money, I would likely go with something a little more established in the industry.

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