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I regularly get called by people complaining that their computer no longer works. Pretty much every time it turns out that their machine is loaded with crapware. It amazes me how people just put up with random browser windows popping up and having to search via some random search engine that has been imposed on them.

At the minute I just have to put up with spending a few hours removing the worst offenders and then running several different adware removers. It generally keeps them running well for a few months.

I would love to set up a VM so whenever things start going wrong they could just delete the VM and start fresh. Currently VMs are a bit too heavy weight, a lot of people struggle with the concept of working in multiple Windows let alone knowing which machine they are actually working in. I am looking forward to Microsoft implementing containers ala Docker. It will be interesting to see what possibilities will be available for making it seamless and quick enough for a computerphobe to browse within a container.




I feel your pain. Whenever family ask me to look at their computer I spent an hour deleting spyware and such. The worst bit is they do have antivirus and Windows defender, but they do nothing to stop it :/

The common advice to stop it before was "don't use IE". Everyone uses Chrome now, and so that's now where everything installs itself (check the extensions and there is usually something dubious). Google even have a tool to remove this stuff: https://www.google.co.uk/chrome/srt/


I had to deinfect a adware infested computer of a colleague recently. In my oppinion, most adware is very eager to include some proper way of uninstalling, just to not be classified as a trojan/virus/... Even if this is completely leaning to persuade the customer NOT TO INSTALL it:

"You will loose precious functionality, your computer will get slower, the locusts will invade your country: Are you SURE to deinstall CrapToolbarAdMakeComputerFaster2000? [NO!] [NOT AT ALL!] (yes) [CONTINUE USING ADWARE]"

I guess it's done that way so that Microsoft would look like to impair a earnest software business' operation, would they choose to include it in their "evil monopolistic" antivirus software.


It is that 5% that refuse to go away and then reinstall themselves when you finally work out how to get rid of them that takes up 95% of the time.


> I feel your pain. Whenever family ask me to look at their computer I spent an hour deleting spyware and such. The worst bit is they do have antivirus and Windows defender, but they do nothing to stop it :/

Once I installed Linux for my folks, all these problems magically disappeared.


I can't find my InDesign icon... where have you put it?


InDesign is the industry standard.

There may be loads of OS alternatives, but unfortunately for people who can only just use a mouse and have invested years into learning that one package they just aren't going to be willing to invest a lot of time into exploring the alternatives.


I think the point was, most people like the OPs parents just use their computers for web browsing. And all of today's best web browsers run on linux.

I helped my parents switch to linux mint, and it's been fairly successful.


[deleted]


"if you aren't using your computer for work"

Even that's not much of a challenge. Many years ago when my wife started working at home on her mac (1st gen mac mini so this must be about a decade ago?) corporate IT had a few puzzles to solve, but even a decade ago everything was moving to either web or rdesktop or vnc. If you can get the corporate windows guys to implement a workaround or whatever to allow macs to be used, then its usually a very small jump indeed to linux or freebsd or whatever.

I'm struggling to think of a stereotypical desk job that can't be done with a browser and perhaps rdesktop on the side. The exceptions I can think of like 3-D cad would be a problem, but that's not stereotypical desk job work.

Also in my experience, school kids, volunteer workers, and grandma are google docs users not office 2010 users. Google is taking over that space quite effectively. The school system has a contract with google such that if you want to edit your essay in office on your computer at home, well, fine, but you'll be exporting into google drive to actually submit the homework, so save yourself some time and annoyance and do the whole thing online.


> I'm struggling to think of a stereotypical desk job that can't be done with a browser and perhaps rdesktop on the side. The exceptions I can think of like 3-D cad would be a problem, but that's not stereotypical desk job work.

Totally agree. The situation has improved so much in that regard - even if you don't have native apps for your platform, there is good chance there's a bunch of online services that can help you do the very same thing.



So your parents use inDesign who needs hours of training and they can't avoid install crapware? Yeah, sure.


Domain-specific knowledge. My co-worker designs complex machinery in solidworks like the best of us, but he keeps capslock on and navigates to google.com before doing a search. There are many people like him, who learn the things they need to learn and don't make any headway on the rest.


My wife.. she despises computers and only learns stuff that she absolutely has to, even then it is very reluctantly and is intensely stressful for everyone in her vicinity.


It amazes me how people just put up with random browser windows popping up and having to search via some random search engine that has been imposed on them.

I believe they just feel helpless, they don't know to do - but they are annoyed, because from my experience they'll ask for help the first computer-savvy person they see, even if they don't know them well.

Funnily, situation is actually a perfect dating opportunity for introvert geeks like me. I get a ton of requests for help from pretty much every student of non-CS field I talk to for longer thant 5 minutes. Removing their crapware can be a good start of a closer relationship ;).


It's always wise to begin all relationships with an open and honest conversation about any viruses each person may have.


For some getting to the point of actual conversation might be a difficult thing; fixing someone's computer serves as a good social object.


Non-technological people are very bad at distinguishing bad sources from legitimate ones. I see it all the time - "well, the address bar said freemp3converter.com - it looked legit to me..."

Now imagine a site or software that tries to look just remotely serious. Normal people often just don't see the difference. Plus, it's pretty normal in Windows world to have all kinds of crap installed - Dell, nVidia & Co. install and autostart their little, unnecessary helpers left and right. I think for many people it's hard to tell if that checkbox from the XYZ App is worse than Dell's.


It's true, but how can you blame them? Even "reputable" sources like the official Java updater and many others attempt to install crapware.

I consider myself reasonably savvy and even I get tricked to install crap on windows if I'm not 100% attentive when installing software.

The other day I was setting up a brand new windows machine. I wanted to download chrome so I boot up internet explorer, end up at the bing home page and search for "chrome".

I've just tried again just now, here's what I end up with: https://i.imgur.com/1fTyQXI.png

You'll notice the first ad has a green URL pointing to google.com, seems legit enough right? Wrong, if you click it you end up on some other URL.

I didn't pay attention to that and actually ended up downloading the installer on that webpage, thankfully I realized something was wrong when the actual setup wizard looked weird. I still ran it though, and with administrator privileges, so I'm basically already dead.

This is me, all tech savvy and yet I fucked up with the first thing I attempted to install on a fresh windows.

After that I wanted a PDF reader. Adobe being completely crap I googled for alternatives and found many recommendations for "foxit". I download and install it: it tries to install a bunch of third party "cloud" services and prompts you to subscribe to third party services basically everywhere on the UI. I just wanted a bloody PDF reader... That's the state of "free" software on windows in 2015.

At that point you just can't blame the user, Microsoft should have done something about that issue at least a decade ago.


> I googled for alternatives and found many recommendations for "foxit"

Unless you have some specific need then the only good alternatives are Chrome and Firefox. They both can open PDFs without any extensions and after you tell windows to always open pdf files with one of them you basically get the same experience minus ad ware and shoddy coding.

> You'll notice the first ad has a green URL pointing to google.com, seems legit enough right?

Is Microsoft really as stupid as to put some other domain/url than the one advertised inside href of that link or am I missing something?


SumatraPDF is an open-source, minimal PDF and epub reader.


And yet, when they introduce a sandboxed store like Apple does, people throw a pitch fit :P (at least from what I remember, so pardon me if my memory is a bit fuzzy)


Firefox has a very useful setting to block installation of add-ons, which I've taken to setting after installing some of the fundamental, safe add-ons.

In about:config, create a boolean value xpinstall.enabled and set false.

This does protect against those browser toolbars that people somehow manage to install.

However there is apparently a UI feature that prompts to re-enable installation ( though I've never seen this ):

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=668999

It


That is REALLY useful, thank you!


Back in the day I was an intern at an elementary school, and the computers there had a piece of software installed that basically disallowed any change (unless entering a password by an administrator like myself), and if a change did happen it was undone at a reboot. I'm not sure how it worked or even how it's called, but that's another option. I'm sure it didn't keep browser history either though, although I'm sure there's workarounds for that too.

Just don't give people administrator accounts in Windows, that way they can't / shouldn't be able to install anything, and definitely not something that can permanently change stuff in a computer.


Are you possibly talking about DeepFreeze[1]? My school had it too, IIRC.

[1]: http://www.faronics.com/en-uk/products/deep-freeze/enterpris...


Deep Freeze was a huge help at my school as well.


The problem is that is an all or nothing solution. Sometimes they legitimately need to install something.


> It amazes me how people just put up with [...] having to search via some random search engine that has been imposed on them

Yes, exactly. It's as though your yellow pages phone book had its pages replaced with green paper, the entries were all written in comic sans and all of the entries just gave the same phone number for Dominos Pizza. And yet, you continue to use it to try and look things up, stopping occasionally to phone a friend of yours who works in the dictionary industry to complain, and he tells you to sell your house and move to a different street, so that you will get a new copy of the yellow pages delivered.

Of course that would never happen, so why do we put up with it here?


I expect it's down to a 'computers do inexplicable things all the time that I will never understand, so i better just put up with it or something worse might happen' mentality, which we (as IT professionals) can do something about. Computers should be as obvious, understandable and predictable as physical objects.


Can't you do something similar with Windows Restore points?


I seem to recall getting burnt by them a long time ago, so I've never trusted them. Are they stable now?


They're only useful for simple problems – e.g. a user-level compromise or an innocent mistake by non-malware. If anything malicious ever gets admin privileges, you still need to reinstall from scratch.

Since you need a real backup solution either way I've always disabled restore points since they're at best redundant.


They seem to be. I successfully used them a few times to get rid of that annoying kind of malware that tries very hard to not let you uninstall it (includind even automatically killing any open cmd.exe and regedit.exe window).


What I find bizarre is how people put up with multiple useless browser toolbars that sometimes take up so much space that you can hardly even see the browser content area.


I find Conduit on so many computers I get called to touch.. and the person can't even recall their actions to how such things got there.


You can install Windows to partition inside VHD file without using virtualization.

You can use "Refresh your PC" option in Windows 8+.




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