| By Lincoln Spector |
It’s that tech-support nightmare. You’ve barely described your computer’s troubles when your “support” advises formatting the hard drive and reinstalling Windows.
Hold on, don’t do that! If Windows at least boots before your problems begin, I’ve got six tricks you can try before reinstalling the operating system.
And if you can’t get Windows to boot, head over to my companion piece, “Reinstall Windows without losing your data.”
Make sure your PC isn’t hosting a virus
Given the number of malware threats these days, this should always be your first diagnostic step — especially if Windows acts unusually slow sometimes, if you can’t access certain websites, or if system programs such as msconfig won’t load. And if your regular antivirus program identifies an infection but can’t get rid of it, you almost certainly have one.
Either way, you need to scan your computer with an antivirus program other than the one you use every day. I’d start with Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware (info). Although you can buy a full edition that has extra features, the free version has a good reputation for digging out the dirt. (See Figure 1.)
Figure 1. Anti-Malware by Malwarebytes should be in your toolkit.
Unfortunately, you have to install or update the app before you run its scan, and malware may interfere with that process. If your first attempt to install a new antivirus program doesn’t work, try one (or both) of these portable malware cleaners: