Q

Too many IDs on my Win2k machine

My OS is Windows 2000 SP4. My hardware is AMD 950 with 195 MB of RAM. My configuration is a home office network with two hardwired desktops, one wireless 802.11b laptop, one Linksys 802.11b wireless router and one Alcatel 1000 DSL modem.

The machine in question was put on the network ahead of the router (Linksys' stupid solution to my VPN connection problem). After less than 20 minutes the machine was totally infected with all sorts of malware. There are several IDs on the machine. When I log on with any ID and log off, I cannot re-logon with the same ID. The machine would hang up at the transition screen, the one just before the desktop appears. If I bring up the Task...

Manager, it shows the ID is logged on and it allows me to log the ID off. I then can log on with a different user ID. After logging off the second ID, I can log on with the first ID. This happens with every single ID on the machine.

I have tried putting the machine back inside the firewall protection. I ran two free spyware programs (AdAware and SpyBot) then reinstalled and ran McAfee Virus Scan. I ran CWShredder. I deleted all of the .tmp files, all cookies and all temporary IE files. Nothing worked.

I reformatted the hard drive and reinstalled everything. But that clearly gave me unsatisfactory results.

Ouch. Malware is becoming so malicious and nefarious that it's getting more difficult to defend against everyday. While your solution was extreme, sometimes it's the only way to be sure all of the malware is gone, and in some cases it's faster and easier to reload from scratch than it is to constantly chase down a really persistent infection.

Your problem also highlights another point -- third-party tech support. Staffing a tech support line is a tough job that not many people like doing. Worse, companies don't staff and pay tech support people well enough that experienced people will want to stay. It's seen as an "entry level" job, so it's often a revolving door. This is bad news, because you may get bad advice from a well-meaning tech who just doesn't know any better.

This was first published in March 2005

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