How can I find malware the regular programs cannot find

Something is slowing my computer to a crawl at time.  My chief suspects are Mozilla and flash.  For the last month flash crashes regularly, so much that I can rarely stream my talk radio stations.  I have the latest.  But it also occurs at other times, the computer will start crawling.  I unplug from the internet and that seems to help at times.  I have run numerous scanners (I currently have Norton as my main antivirus.  but I have done combofix, malbyteware.  Also did the rescue CD from Kalpersky and AVG where you boot to their CDs.  Have also done rootkit scans.  I have removed all older server software and other software that could be loading resident and causing a problem.

I thought firefox was the main culprit, but this morning I tried IE and am having similar issues.  I know an i3 processor is not that great, but this is getting ridiculous.  Even while typing this I have had to wait several times for the words to appear. Only thing open is this window in IE and Outlook.

We read about how outsiders are planting malware deep in our computers, is there anyway for us to find these ourselves?

Sony Vaio, Intel Core i3-2370 @ 2.4GHz  4 GB mem   64 bit Win 7 Prol
Thanks for your time.
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qlockSystems AdministratorCommented:
Always start with the logs.

While virus should be one of the first things to pop into mind, it's not always the culprit. Event Viewer will give you a starting point and usually points to the root of the problem. Google any events you find.

Pull up your activity monitor and keep it up, when you notice the slow down, do you see any processes jumping to the top that look strange? Also, what are your CPU + RAM stats while this is occurring?
Flash continues to crash my FF also and I have iCore 5 with 8GB RAM.  IE 10 keeps giving me an many of my users IE needs to close.
Not sure if this is due to low network speed or bad website programming.
have you tried Chrome?  getting good reports with that.
i feel your pain.
and yes i3 is pretty far down the totem anymore.  Although better than a lot.
Steven CarnahanNetwork ManagerCommented:
As qlock mentioned, the first thing I do after logging into my computer is open task manager, set it to processes, click to show processes for all users and keep it open but minimized the entire time I am on the computer. Whenever I see a slow down I Alt+Tab to the task manager to see what it going on.  

I monitor it for anything that I don't recognize that wasn't started/owned by Microsoft or myself especially. If there is something that doesn't look right then I question it.  Some of the more obvious ones I look for are ones that really strange like 134a73q.exe.

I have found the IE (8-10) has a tendency to eat up memory and not properly release it.  Flash has more of a tendency to eat up CPU.
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jjackson2004Author Commented:
I have been checking the task manager and it is usually firefox or the flash plug-in that is utilizing the most.
If all else fails, consider a Repair Install.
This should not affect installed programs or personal data but a backup of these is always wise.
jjackson2004Author Commented:
I am currently working on an email and the system is sluggish.  Look at process explorer and flash player and firefox switch back and forth between 2nd place, but they are only taking up 15% and 12% when in second place.   System idle stays around 80%.  So it does not make sense to be sluggish with such a small percentage of CPU being utilized.  That is why I think it is something behind the scenes.

Have been trying to avoid doing a repair install.  This version was an in-place upgrade.

Does anyone know what is going on with Firefox and flash?  I had hoped the recent upgrade to firefox might do something.  Norton just popped up again and told me high disk usage by firefox.

btw, my system defrags every Wed night.  Run CCleaner regularly.
NVITEnd-user supportCommented:
Do you have symptoms if NO browsers are running?
jjackson2004Author Commented:
Not as obvious that I am aware of.  Will try for a while and see.  But an immediate answer is the problem is pervasive when browser open.  Assumed it as firefox, but experienced similar in IE today.
This article has a lot of ideas on how to fix a sluggish Firefox.

You could also try disabling hardware acceleration as suggested in this reference.

Since the problem also occurs with IE, a Repair Install may still be the fastest fix.  I am not sure what your reluctance to do a Repair Install is.  Did you read the article I suggested?

"btw, my system defrags every Wed night.  Run CCleaner regularly"
I hate to tell you but using CCleaner without knowing exactly what you are affecting could mess up your Registry.  Again a reason to do a Repair Install.
And defragging with Win 7 is needed only very rarely.  You really need to defrag only if the drive is more than 10 percent fragmented.  Win 7 does it automatically in the background as needed.

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qlockSystems AdministratorCommented:
Due to a performance hit in both browsers, I would stop focusing on Firefox and look at flash. Reinstall flash and see what happens before restoring windows.
when it is crawling, do you see a higher disk activity?
are you sure there is no scan - or task running?  
i would also have a look in control panel>Add remove programs, and uninstall all old -or not needed software + Toolbars; this often helps to clear up things
David AndersTechnician Commented:
I have Flash set to "Ask to Activate", it does not run on a site unless told to.
Chrome has Flash built-in and managed by the browser, it may narrow the symptoms to a specific browser.
EirmanChief Operations ManagerCommented:
I think the best "Second Opinion" malware scanner is HitmanPro
You can use it free for a month.

Did you try this in Firefox ... Help  > Restart With Addons Disabled
To do the same in IE use "Incognito" mode
also - run adwcleaner - that also helps
A sluggish system can also be the result of a hardware issue, especially a failing HDD. Run a hard-drive diagnostic and check the SMART values. I use HDDScan, but there's also manufacturer-specific tools.

A crashing program can also be the result of RAM. Memtest86+, run at boot, can check the RAM for any errors. I tend to run it using the Ultimate Boot CD, which also includes a lot of those manufacturer specific HDD diagnostic tools:
jjackson2004Author Commented:
Well, I decided to punt and bought a fifth generation i7 laptop.  But to update on this issue, I have found salvation with NoScript addon to mozilla.  It makes some websites not function correctly without tweaking, but it has stopped all the confounded scripts from running and my computer is more responsive, and I have not had a flash crash since I loaded it.  Thanks to all for your suggestions, though I had already done 97% of them before I decided to ask the experts.
jjackson2004Author Commented:
Would have given jcimarron more points, but kept on pushing repair install after I had already mentioned that I did not wish to do that (plus the comment about ccleaner), but I believe it was one of his suggestions that led me to search some sites and finally find NoScript.

Thanks to all.
Judit Camacho DíazCommented:
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