I recently was called upon by a friend, to help him fix a computer problem that he described as something that replicated a browser hijacker involving Internet Explorer. I really could not get much out of what was occurring without sitting down at the PC; besides, I hadn’t seen the guy for awhile and I thought, why not, let’s get dirty.
Typically, since my retirement from IT, I shy away from home based computer problems due to the amount of time that is often involved with minimal payback. It literally can take hours to diagnose and clean a malware infection and worse case scenario is a complete OS reinstall; which oftentimes the end user does not have available the resources (or discs) to perform the reinstall. It literally can be a nightmare…
Armed with my latest arsenal of techie software and recovery utilities, I began working through the diagnostic process in my head, since it had been awhile. I was even thinking, I have not done this for awhile, do I still have the touch? Anyone who knows me, knows when I do something, I go full tilt (and more) and attempt to be as prepared, as possible.
When I finally got behind the PC, which was a HP Notebook (Vista OS), I questioned my friend further, prior to firing up the notebook and learned that he had the PC for 2 years, performed routine maintenance (such as running a defrag utility, disk cleaner, and virus and malware scans). He was still leading me to believe that Internet Explorer had been hijacked, toolbars missing, new toolbars showing, etc…
You know, by questioning and listening to the end user, you can gain a lot on the computer knowledge level of the user, etc… In this case, his knowledge was just above the normal level (in my ratings scale) for the home based computer user, which was a good thing. He was even naming the utilities he regularly used such as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, SuperAntiSpyware, Microsoft Security Essentials, CCleaner, and Web of Trust; which, he said he learned of these utilities from reading the blog. I was impressed that this was the same level of protection I was using on my PCs.
I did a test boot of the PC and to be honest it was probably the cleanest and fastest boot time for a home based PC, that was 2 years old, that I have experienced. As a matter of fact, just based on what was initially occurring and seeing that the desktop was not a vast array of icons, like most PCs that are 2 years old, I was starting to sense this was not a malware problem, but an end user problem.
In the event this was a malware attack or browser hijack, to be on the safe side, I shut down the PC and disconnected from the internet. I rebooted, and again nice boot and load time. I opened Internet Explorer, and as soon as it opened, I knew exactly what was wrong.
The browser was set to full screen. The fix, hit the “F11” key and the browser toolbars, menus, etc… reappeared. My friend, was like, WOW! He asked, what caused that to happen? To be honest, he accidentally hit the key or one of his many cats did. I ended up giving him a lesson on how to use the F11 key to go from normal browser view to full screen view. He was very fascinated that you could do that. As a matter of fact, to my readers, give it a try, when you are in your browser hit the “F11” key to toggle between normal view and full screen view (whether it be Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, or Opera).
I ended up checking my friend’s PC out and found it to be in great shape (firewall “on”, MS AutoUpdates “On”, Malware Scanners “On”, etc…) I never did have to use any of my techie utilities to burrow down into this notebook. Oh well, it was a good exercise anyway and besides I made a good friend happy. Simple as this experience was, I thought, why not write about it… Just may be something in here that you may learn about.