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Ask How-To Geek: Rescuing an Infected PC, Installing Bloat-free iTunes, and Taming a Crazy Trackpad

You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers. Today we highlight how to save your computer if it’s so overrun by viruses and malware you can’t work from within Windows, install iTunes without all the bloat, and tame a hyper-sensitive trackpad.

Once a week we dip into our mailbag and help readers solve their problems, sharing the useful solutions with you I the process. Read on to see our fixes for this week’s reader dilemmas.

Clean an Infected PC with a Bootable Rescue CD

imageDear How-To Geek,

I’ve got a fever and, alas, the cure wasn’t more cowbell. My computer is infected with “System Tool 2011” malware and I’m in a bind. I can’t reboot into Safe Mode with Networking and I can’t (because of a previous incident that damaged it) use my system restore! My entire system is being held hostage at this point. What can I do?

Sincerely,

Cowbells Can’t Fix Everything

Dear Cowbells,

A fever that can’t be cured by more cowbell is serious business and requires serious tools. You’re going to need access to a clean PC to create a boot CD. We’re going to outright circumvent the malware by loading an entire operating system—however lightweight—into your computer’s memory. With it we can work on the infected disk from a safe distance and without the hassle of the malware having any control over the system.  We have two guides you’ll want to check out. Start with our guide to making a bootable BitDefender rescue CD. If for some reason that fails you, check out this guide on creating a Kaspersky rescue CD. Good luck!

Installing iTunes Without The Bloat

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Dear How-To Geek,

After years of being an Apple-free household this Christmas the long arm of Apple’s consumer electronics division will finally snag us. I bought my wife an iPad and I just found out my brother is getting me one of the new iPods.  This means I’ll be installing iTunes; I know there are alternative managers out there but for the sake of having something my wife can use without any hassle, I’ll be sticking with iTunes. Is there anyway to install it without all the crap? I want as little iTunes as possible while still making simple tasks like syncing music and creating playlists easy.

Sincerely,

Cupertino Got Their Claws in Me

Dear Cupertino,

You’re in luck. After the advent of iTunes 10—the most bloated release of iTunes yet—we put together a guide to installing just the components you need. Check out our guide here and see how you can skip annoying bloat like the nearly useless iTunesHelper.exe. Should you find you need any of the tools in the future, you can always install them. While you’re checking stuff out you might want to take a peek at our massive list of iPad tips and tricks to get yourself familiar with what the iPad can do (and how you can fix some minor annoyances).

Lock Down Your Touchpad While Typing

sshot-2010-09-05-[01-33-24]

Dear How-To Geek,

We recently got new laptops at work and the new ones have a totally smooth touchpad that is flush with the wrist rest. I find myself bumping it all the time and the stupid cursor jumps all over, often deleting parts of the email I was writing and doing another annoying things in the process. It’s driving me crazy! I need the trackpad (I don’t want to lug around a travel mouse with me everywhere) so disabling it completely is out of the question. What can I do?

Sincerely,

Jittery Trackpad

Dear Jittery Trackpad,

We feel your pain, it seems like every year trackpads get more sensitive and ever easier to bump with your hands as you type. You’ve got a couple options for resolving your problem. You could use an application to disable the trackpad while you’re typing or you could decrease the sensitivity of the trackpad until it is low enough to not register small bumps while typing. Check out our guide here to see available software solutions and how to adjust the sensitivity. Also, you may want to check the documentation that came with your laptop. Many newer laptops have a little button near the hinge that, either through software on the laptop or through a hardware switch, allows you to turn off the trackpad temporarily.


Have a question you want to put before the How-To Geek staff? Shoot us an email at ask@howtogeek.com and then keep an eye out for a solution in the Ask How-To Geek column.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 12/20/10

Comments (3)

  1. Drecked

    Hi guy’s like your site! I down loaded the bit defender rescue-disk Cd program and burned it on a
    CD and thought I’d give it a run however It did a bit and then wanted a command to continue.(I booted up with it in the dvd rom by the way ) I have no idea what that command is to be honest can you put me on the straight and narrow and give me a clue ? regards drecked

  2. Flex

    Thats pretty cool. Perhaps I’ll use it for the two old desktops my family uses since my dad refuses to replace them. It is really a troublesome since the HP always gets infected by something serious and has to be rescued.

    But i also have another alternative. I keep a copy of the latest Malware Bytes on my flashdrive that I keep with my keys, and I use my flashdrive to clean and remove viruses. The good thing is that my laptop comes with at partition and automatically backs up all my files.

  3. DINESH DESAI

    KASPERSKY RESCUE DISC IS WEAK ON INTERNET CONNECTIVITY. MY COMPUTER IS SET UP FOR AN AUTOMATIC WIRELESS CONNECTION, BUT KASPERSKY FAILED TO CONNECT FOR AN UPDATE. IT MALFUNCTIONED AND STATED THERE WAS AN ERROR DOWNLOADING UPDATES. THE ERROR CODE WAS 502 BAD GATEWAY, HOST NOT FOUND OR CONNECTION FAILED. IT WAS MISTAKENLY TRYING TO OPEN A FIREFOX BROWSER EVEN THOUGH IE8 IS THE ONLY BROWSER CURRENTLY INSTALLED.

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