Am I my brother's sister-in-law's computer's keeper?

The other night, as apparent recompense for my room and board while on vacation, I found out hostess had volunteered my host and myself to go over and try to “fix” her sister’s computer.
Darcy (as I’ll call her — name changed to protect the computer-impaired) has a rather nice system. Pentium 4 running at 2.53GHz, 384MB RAM, Windows XP home. But it was slower than death, and had huge popup issues. We got right to work.

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I had her sign on to her AOL dialup account first. (No remarks, please — it’s just about her speed. She’s very intelligent and talented, just not when it comes to this stuff. Then I fired up her browser and went to work.

First thing I saw was three different toolbars on her Internet Explorer. Then the popups started. And wouldn’t stop.

I downloaded Yahoo!’s toolbar first while rooting through the “add/remove” window and clearing out what I could. One of them — I think it was Gator — wouldn’t even let me uninstall without taking a brief survey, the bastards. (I filled it out with as much damaging info as I could — too intrusive, ads were not relevant, etc. etc. — but got very profane and insulting when it asked “what could we have done to keep you from uninstalling this?”) I also put on the latest version of Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware.

When done (and about 3 dozen popups closed out, and two restarts from the connection overloading and crashing IE), Ad-Aware detected (sit down for this, people) over 80 separate pieces of spyware (including two dialers and one keystroke-capturer), with almost 1700 different pieces and components. I had to stop and restart Ad-Aware every 200 pieces to keep it from freezing up (presumably in horror).

Darcy, trying to find the best of a bad situation, was inordinately proud of the sheer number of pieces — the most I’d ever heard of, let alone seen. (In her defense, she does have four kids, including twin 12-year-old girls.)

I grasped for a way to convey just how horribly bad that was, until I found just the right metaphor. “Darcy, what you’re bragging about is the equivalent of going on the Jerry Springer show and boasting about having the most possible fathers for your illegitimate child.”

That finally got it through.

Next time I do that, though, I’m putting on rubber gloves. I felt dirty just touching the keyboard.

J.

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