| By Ian “Gizmo” Richards |
When your PC suddenly starts churning away on its own without obvious cause, you probably wonder: Just what the heck is going on in there?
The possibilities range from the benign to the nefarious — from normal background maintenance to a hacker mining your system for whatever he can find. Here are some tips and software that can help you know exactly what’s happening.
Is it computer maintenance or a hacker?
It’s perfectly normal for modern PCs to perform all kinds of activity on their own. In fact, much of this background activity is specifically designed to take place when you are not doing much with your PC, so that the background tasks don’t slow you down.
A classic example is indexing. Windows Search updates its indexes when you are off doing something other than pounding the keyboard. Indexing can create significant hard-drive activity and run over long periods of time.
Other applications that run in the background include PC tune up, disk cleaning, and backup programs.
But it’s also remotely possible that unexpected PC activity means that a hacker has infected your computer and is busily downloading your private information or using your PC for something bad. Hackers sometimes take over PCs to store or distribute junk e-mail, various kinds of malware, or even pornographic images.