I MADE my first stupid Windows mistake since buying a brand-spanking new laptop a few months ago. It's been running like a dream so far. But a few days ago I tried to download a movie on Bittorrent, and when it was almost done the video file refused to play--even on VLC--unless I went to a special website, downloaded a codec and installed it. Well, I fell for it. But even after installing the codec, the file wouldn't play. I took the bait and caught it hook, line and sinker.
Uninstalled the codec after that, but the damage was done. Past few days, some spyware has been randomly popping up Internet Explorer windows every few minutes, and a resource-hogging Internet Explorer process has been running in the background, restarting itself every time I stopped it. The dud antivirus program Windows Live OneCare failed to find anything, so I got AnVir, which was being given away for free just yesterday apparently. AnVir found some possibly-risky programs in the system, so I got it to rub them out. Then I got rid of AnVir--despite these annoyances, I still don't like having any more programs installed than I have to.
The problem didn't go away. I then installed Spybot Search & Destroy--given rave reviews by PC World--and it found and removed a bunch of tracking cookies. No actual software on my hard drive as far as I could see. Got rid of S&D too.
The problem still didn't go away. By today I was sick of lame-duck software and tried a different approach. Since it was Internet Explorer that was being continually started up at some random ad sites, I decided to get my firewall to block Internet Explorer.
The firewall in question is the slightly enhanced--and more or less easy to use--one that comes with Windows Live OneCare. I'm on a trial version of OneCare that'll run out in about a couple of months, so I'll have to get another firewall up and running then. But for now, this simple block is doing the job perfectly. After I killed off the last couple of Internet Explorer processes that were running, they didn't respawn any more. I guess maybe OneCare isn't so lame after all.