PC troubleshooting tools

I have not worked on PCs in over 6 years, now that I find myself working on PCs again, I'm having a hard time. I having problem mainly with corrupt Windows OS and Viruses. Does anybody have any recommendations on PC tools hardware and software, for finding and removing viruses, correcting corrupted Windows OS or registry corruption. I need tools that I can take out on the field to reduce the time to fix problems.

I found myself taking to long to correct OS corruption and virus problems. At what point do I make the decision to back up the data and reinstall the OS, also what is the fastest way to backing up the data before reinstalling the OS.

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Lee W, MVPConnect With a Mentor Technology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Don't know what you charge, but if it's a professional rate, I would cut off troubleshooting at 30 minutes - MAYBE an hour unless you're CONFIDENT you can fix it.  At that point, consider how much a new hard drive costs and the "backup" is easy - replace the hard drive and install cleanly.  Turn the old drive into an external drive.

As for tools, My opinion is, if you know Windows, then tools are generally unimportant... the tools are really just a boot (or even Windows (Vista or better) CD and then you just manually clean the virus.  As for clearing out corruption, first line of defense is to use the SFC /SCANNOW tool/switch.
I suggest Avast as a great free anti-virus.  It has the option for a boot-time scan which it seems is rare in free versions of AV nowadays.

Spyware, I generally suggest MalwareBytes, AdAware, and SpyBot Search and Destroy.

If you spend more than 3 or 4 hours then you should probably go ahead and wipe it clean.

Backup software is one way to safeguard a users data, but I usually take an image using ghost.  This way I miss NOTHING and have an easy way to restore the files, drivers, etc.

A good (bootable) Swiss army knife of tools can ve created using this tool:

You decide which tools you want and it will even download them for you. All you need is a USB flash drive that will become your boot device.
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Use combofix

The standard download is from the following website:


This includes a tutorial on proper usage,

Follow the instructions and Get fixed your Windows PC
As Leew already mentioned, the extent that you use Windows malware utilities may depend upon your comfort level regarding manual cleaning.  If you do decide to utilize them, I typically prefer to stick with fairly standard "best practices" and run RogueKiller and Malwarebytes in tandem.

Here's a great Experts Exchange article that is the result of a collaboration between a few of EE's best antivirus/anti-malware experts that you may find useful:

Malware Fighting – Best Practices
I agree with RogueKiller and MBAM with the addition of TDSSKiller in between. If you can run CCleaner before MBAM, it will cut down significantly on scan time if there are a lot of temporary IE files. MBAM will scan all of them and some systems have a bunch to scan. Running CCleaner will remove all the temporary IE files.

You may also need additional utilities like unhide.exe to undo changes made by the malware.

Use ComboFix only if the above removal tools are unsuccessful or cannot be run. It is a great tool, but has rendered two Vista systems unbootable and unrepairable that I worked on. Data files were intact and was able to recover without too much trouble.
☠ MASQ ☠Commented:
One reservation with CCleaner is that it deletes temp file locations in Windows - there's a whole slew of malware out there at the moment that hides your data by changing the attributes and putting the files in your temporary folders.  Not a good combination.

Combofix is great but you really should be familiar with it, it's probably one of the biggest weapons we have but like any big gun there's a risk of collateral damage when using it and you may cause additional problems.

For first line RogueKiller and Malwarebytes MBAM, the TDSS Killer package as that's a rootkit that's "trending" right now and a boot CD that allows you to see Windows files in NTFS either Linux or Windows based - try Ultimate Boot CD.

As recommended check out the malware articles here: http://www.experts-exchange.com/Security/Anti_Spyware/ (Articles tab)

TBH if the first line tools don't get you progress then either go for reformat or ask for help until you're confident about the more complex tools, aim for no more than 1 hour over diagnosis and initial treatment - that's 1 hour of real time not IT time! :)
Danny ChildIT ManagerCommented:
to move away from the (excellent) malware suggestions above, other essentials might be:
BelArc (for a full inventory, as well as capturing many serial numbers for reinstallations)
Revo Uninstaller - to show what's in the AutoRuns.
GetDataBack from RunTime software for data recovery.  Recuva is ok for fast'n'dirty recovery.  
Speedfan is good for motherboard temps, also Motherboard Monitor.

I recommend Anti-Malware Repair Toolkit.

This is a great portable app that offers all the Malware fighting utilities in one, including MBAM, TDSSKiller, Gmer, Combofix to name a few. The great thing about the kit is that you can update all the tools in bulk automatically at the press of a button. Yes, that means all the latest and greatest tools and malware definitions on the go, ready to go and kill some malware!

Nice toolkit, problem is that malware is smarter these days. It can prevent cleaning tools from running. The bootable USB method will remove the OS from the equation so you are sure nothing is running to prevent you from fixing things or removing things.

Of course, the most secure method is to backup the data, wipe the drive, and install the OS again.
Then install some type of online backup tool like Mozy or Carbonite to majestic sure that you never have to worry about your data in the future. It will be backed up in the cloud.

"Yeah Cloud!"
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