Ask HTG: Using the Malicious Software Removal Tool, Scheduling Computer Startups, and Diagnosing an Overheating Laptop

By Jason Fitzpatrick on November 21st, 2011


Once a week we select a few questions from the pile of emails we answer and share the solutions with the greater readership; this week we’re looking at the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool, scheduling computer startups, and how to diagnose an overheating laptop.

Do I Need the Malicious Software Removal Tool?


Dear How-To Geek,

I’m running Vista Home Premium on my laptop. I have Microsoft Security Essentials installed and it is set to run every week. I have no other anti-virus software on my system. Is it necessary for me to run the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool every month?


Scanning in Syracuse

Dear Scanning,

Microsoft Security Essentials is a great (and free!) anti-virus offering from Microsoft that is designed to offer broad spectrum and detection for a wide range of virus and malicious software activity. The Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool is a very focused tool designed to ferret out new and spreading threats. Here is Microsoft’s explanation of how the Removal Tool differs from an anti-virus tool:

    • The tool removes malicious software from an already-infected computer. Antivirus products block malicious software from running on a computer. It is significantly more desirable to block malicious software from running on a computer than to remove it after infection.
    • The tool removes only specific prevalent malicious software. Specific prevalent malicious software is a small subset of all the malicious software that exists today.
    • The tool focuses on the detection and removal of active malicious software. Active malicious software is malicious software that is currently running on the computer. The tool cannot remove malicious software that is not running. However, an antivirus product can perform this task.

The Removal Tool is intended to precisely target existing infections and prevent large networks of malicious software (aka BotNets) and other undesirable infections from gaining traction. It does not protect you from getting infected; it does the dirty work of cleaning up when fresh threats find their way into your system. We highly recommend you maintain both an up-to-day virus scanner (as you are with Microsoft Security Essentials) and that you continue to use the once-a-month Malicious Software Removal Scan.

How Can I Schedule My Computer’s Startup Time?


Dear How-To Geek,

I’d like to be able tell computers around my home and office to turn on at specific times. Is there any way to control this all from a central computer instead of going to each computer and waking them up? Does it matter if they are using different operating systems?


Boot Time in Tennessee

Dear Boot Time,

If you have a router that will accept 3rd party firmware then this DD-WRT hack is right up your alley. While you’re reading up on it, we’d suggest you check out some of our other articles about Wake-on-LAN (WOL) including What Is Wake-on-LAN and Setup a Wake-on-LAN Control Panel for Your Network.

How Do I Diagnose an Overheated Laptop?


Dear How-To Geek,

I’ve been trouble shooting my laptop for a few days now. I’m pretty sure that the source of my troubles is heat. The symptoms are too far reaching to be a single thing (like a hard drive problem or a faulty stick of RAM). It really seems like heat (and boy does this laptop get hot) is the source of my problems. How can I diagnose this short of using my laptop in a walk-in freezer? Help!


Hot Lap in Houston

Dear Hot Lap,

Heat build up in laptops is a more serious issue that in desktops due to the tightly constrained spaces within the laptop’s body. Something simple like a dirty or under-performing fan usually doesn’t cause much trouble in a desktop but can completely overheat a laptop. We’d recommend you check out our guide to diagnosing laptop heat problems here. The guide covers cleaning your laptop fan, diagnosing a bad battery, and software-based steps you can take to help unload your processor and decrease the heat buildup in the process.

Have a pressing tech question? Shoot us an email at and we’ll do our best to help out.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/21/11
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