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Windows 7: Windows 7 x64; NO internet except when in safe mode!

14 Jun 2015   #1
Ohmster

Windows 10 Pro via free update.
 
 
Windows 7 x64; NO internet except when in safe mode! (Avast)

Okay, I need to get this one out there. I have been pulling my hair out for 2 days straight and finally nailed it down. No other forums had the answer, let me contribute what I can find nowhere else.

My mom's HP laptop, an HP Pavilion dv7-2185dx is all she has. She is 94, we could not afford another computer, so I made this laptop work with a nice LCD monitor, mouse, speakers, and full size keyboard for her.

She runs Windows 7 Home Premium x64 and lost her internet. AT&T tried to fix her problem and swears she is online and has internet. ANY browser "cannot find host yahoo.com". If I ping a site in Command Prompt; "ping yahoo.com", I get back nice pings but within about 90 seconds, cannot find host yahoo.com. If I look up the IP address for any site and use that, I get nice pings. But not with domain names, only IP addresses. So I have bad DNS, right? Nothing seems to work, not even putting in Google Public DNS in the adapter settings for IPv4 like 8.8.8.8 & 8.8.4.4.

Okay this is weird. I run MalwareBytes in safe mode. I run Hitman Pro, I run AdwCleanerm and even ran LSP fix. Nothing worked! I noticed that I did have internet by DNS in safe mode. This should be easy. I use msconfig to turn off all services, see it work, then turn them on, one at a time (I cut them in half and half again instead of one at a time.). But when I disable *EVERYTHING* in msconfig, one service will not allow itself to be "unchecked". Avast 2015. I reboot, expecting my internet back and same thing! Nothing has changed and I check msconfig, avast is still active but everything else is not running. Both HijackThis and Autoruns both show a startup for Avast sandbox and contain message (file missing). I use the Programs and Features in Control Panel to let Avast repair itself.

Long story short, nothing fixes this issue, internet in safe mode only. Avast cannot be stopped from starting up. I uninstall Avast. Guess what? Internet and DNS are fine now. I did reinstall Avast 2015 from a fresh offline installer file and all is well. Avast was the infected program! Nothing I used for scanning found this problem. Only a LOT of sweat, hours, and process of elimination fixed this issue.

Internet ONLY works in Safe Mode should have been the tip to lead me in the right direction but I got misled. The fact that Avast could not be disabled as a service should have nailed it down. I have since checked, Avast DOES allow itself to be disabled with msconfig. Since nowhere on the net can I find this answer, I have to get it online here for anyone that gets this problem in the future. I cannot believe that I burned up about 20 hours on this problem and finally, it is fixed.

The tip here is if you have internet in Safe Mode but not normally, shut off everything in msconfig (Run box, enter "msconfig" with no quotes.), restart, and you should get the same results as Safe Mode. If you do not, in msconfig, carefully go over the list of all disabled items to see if any of them are really not disabled.


I do hope this helps somebody because it nearly killed me.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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15 Jun 2015   #2
UsernameIssues

W7 Pro SP1 64bit
 
 

Kudos for helping your mom out. Some aspects of the Internet can help to meet a small part of an elderly person's need to socialize - to stay in touch.

I've seen what you described on more than one computer due to AVAST. I don't encourage people to use AVAST or AVG any more.

If you are not already using TeamViewer, it might help you in your support role. I keep it on my phone and my work laptop.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2015   #3
Ohmster

Windows 10 Pro via free update.
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by UsernameIssues View Post
Kudos for helping your mom out. Some aspects of the Internet can help to meet a small part of an elderly person's need to socialize - to stay in touch.

I've seen what you described on more than one computer due to AVAST. I don't encourage people to use AVAST or AVG any more.

If you are not already using TeamViewer, it might help you in your support role. I keep it on my phone and my work laptop.
Thanks for that nice message, UsernameIssues. I am the youngest of 4 kids at 56, I have 2 sisters and 1 brother. They have nice lives, homes, and children. I am single, poor on disability but did buy a small home when I had the money. My siblings have the money to buy mom a real PC but will not spend a dollar to to it. So I build her something nice to get online with. I started her with a WebTV, it was cheap, bought the keyboard, is eady to use, and only costs $10/Month for dialup. She is on her 4rth or 5th PC now with DSL.

Avast and AVG are good, free antivirus programs. They leave nothing out of the free versions so far as protection goes but no A/V program is bullet proof. I never suspected Avast and NONE of the "heavy hitter" scanners caught it. Because it was clearly DNS, I went over the host file, nothing there to cause issues. Only Autoruns and HijackThis gave a clue. Registry link for Avast sandbox (file missing). I knew the software was compromised but because no serious scanner caught it, I wasted so many hours looking for "something else". Rest of the details are in my first post.

UsernameIssues, if you do not offer your low income clients Avast or AVG, what do you offer them? Most recreational PC users will not pay for A/V software subscriptions. On a disability income, I cannot either.

What is "TeamViewer", some sort of sevenforums app? I made this post here to get the message out, and more so the method. I looked everywhere and found NO help like this, anywhere. I have been doing this for decades. At least here, Google will pick it up and someone that really needs it, will find this help

AVG got to be too clunky and slowed down PCs so I switched to Avast. I have pulled out a LOT of viruses and have seen Avast completely disabled but gives a false message on the GUI that "You are protected". Yet the software was completely disabled and did nothing at all. The virus got launched at start-up and totally disabled Avast. But I never saw Avast or AVG "be the infection" and no software could detect it like MalwareBytes, Hitman Pro, and a few other really good scanners. I burned a lot of hours on this, even a system restore from Windows Backup system image did not fix this. I wanted to send a sample to MalwareBytes or Hitman Pro, but did not save a sample for analysis nor can I find an email contact to alert them to this issue. I saved an Acronis image of her drive, for what it is worth.

Nice talking to you. Very nice to hear someone else realize that the internet when used properly, can really help keep the elderly connected and feel wanted and with friends and family.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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15 Jun 2015   #4
UsernameIssues

W7 Pro SP1 64bit
 
 

TeamViewer lets you remotely control (and maybe fix) issues on your mom's computer. TeamViewer even lets you reboot the remote computer into the safe mode with networking and still connect/control it from your home computer or from your cell phone. For some of the people that I support, I ask them to not let the computer sleep and I'll work on it while they sleep.

TeamViewer's security is better than most that I've used over the years. If someone tries a wrong password, TeamViewer waits a while before accepting another password. Each wrong try makes TeamViewer wait a little longer. This makes brute force attacks fail. I've seen brute force attacks work against other remote administration tools (RATs).

However, there is something to be said for personal (in person) visits. Such personal visits are not practical for those that I support in other cities/states/continents.

I have installed and supported AVAST and AVG many times over the years... but they both kept adding features that just bloated the software. A few versions of AVG made some computers crawl because AVG loaded the virus signatures into the system process. People tend to feel secure when they see little icons telling them that a webpage is safe (e.g. safe search returns). Sadly, these anti-virus tools do very little checking of the code on the web page itself before they declare it safe. Also, the website's code might be benign and yet the Flash based adverts that the webpages is delivering may be infected. Yahoo's fantasy sports pages infected lots of computers in Oct of 2014 until they found the source (infected ads).

I install the very light weight Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). I'm not MSE's biggest fan. I've seen it fail to prevent the even the simplest type of infection. See this post. And Microsoft customer support is poor - so I could not help to make MSE a better product. Given all of that, people wonder why I still install MSE. Well, because it is light weight and simple to configure/use. Many that I support have weak hardware. MSE works well on weak hardware. That might be because MSE is efficient or maybe MSE is doing so little :-)

I also add other layers of protection:
HostMan - for updating the HOSTS file
OpenDNS - prevents access to lots of websites
Malwarebytes premium - for those that can afford it.
I might start adding CryptoPrevent, but it has problems that I cannot solve.

I have a few users that kept getting minor infections (Potentially Unwanted Programs) while using MSE. MSE does not attempt to prevent a lot of software in this rather subjective category. I moved those users to Panda (Best Free AntiVirus Software Download - Free AntiVirus). But Panda has its problems too.

I have a users that really liked AVAST - so I left him on it. The same issue that you described in your original post happened to him. Fortunately, TeamViewer was able to connect and I was able to remove AVAST. I've also seen posts like yours about AVAST in other forums that I visit... so, I already had an inkling that AVAST might have been causing his connectivity issues.

If you use AVAST on your computer, then it is fine to leave it on your mom's computer. You will know where every setting is and you can quickly configure her protection for her as AVAST changes from year to year. I don't have that luxury. I don't own a computer. I use a laptop provided by my employer. It has Symantec Endpoint Protection installed on it. I dislike Symantec's products and their company practices (e.g. buy and then ruin other companies). I support dozens of users. Most are elderly. Some are poor. I need to install an antivirus app that is free and simple to use/configure. MSE fits that bill. I also handle the computer support for some non-profit organizations. AVAST and AVG will not allow their free product to be installed on these computers. MSE's EULA allows such installs. (Sadly, TeamViewer disallows free usage on non-profit's computers too.)

Microsoft's monthly scans of millions upon millions of computers gives it a huge database of what infections are actually in the wild as well as what is trending. Microsoft could* use that data to build the most awesome antivirus product there is - then Microsoft would get sued for killing off the competition :-(

*it might be impossible for Microsoft to do anything really well, given its corporate structure and policies.


There is a long running thread about which antivirus app is the best: What's the Best Anti-virus? If you suffer thru even a fraction of the 5+ years of posts in that thread, you will see that forum members will never agree on what is best.

As you see from my ramblings above, "best" might depend on the EULA and finances.


If Autoruns could show that AVAST had file missing, then you would think that one of AVAST's many processes could watch for all aspects of AVAST's other processes. Call it a health process. If you plan on sticking with AVAST, you might want to invest some time letting them know that this was an issue and suggest a fix. AVAST should at least warn the user when one or more of its files goes missing.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2015   #5
Jake1702

Microsoft Windows 7 Professional x64
 
 

Hey! I was going to do the same thing as you. Using System Restore! But somehow my internet is back to normal now! Let's hope it stays that way! I will post about this on the Avast! forums to let people know! Maybe the Avast! team can fix it!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2015   #6
Ohmster

Windows 10 Pro via free update.
 
 

OMG UsernameIssues, you have MEGA experience and over 8 THOUSAND posts here alone!

Hey, this TeamViewer is awesome! It is free and if it can survive a reboot to Safe Mode and leave you in control, that is pretty amazing. I have it bookmarked, thank you very much, and will DL the software later. That would come in very handy for mom. She was pretty good at taking instructions over the phone and solving issues, but at 94, she is losing her ability to focus like that. When I give her any kind of lesson, I keep it to 5 minutes, 10 minutes tops because her attention span is not that long anymore and she gets tired. Team Viewer really looks great man, thanks for the heads up!

Oh, Microsoft Security Essentials is very good. I forgot to mention it and often overlook it. I do offer that to clients with slower computers or smaller laptops because it works and is very good about not "hogging all of the horsepower" as it does it's job. Does not slow down the PC at all and really works. I have heard a lot of good stuff about MSE, thank for the reminder.

There is no one, best Antivirus program. Gotcha. I know that already, just wanted to see what you offer if the clients cannot or will not pay for the pay stuff like Norton or McAfee and personally, I do not like McAfee at all. It "ruined" Outlook Express in version 4.

Yep, Microsoft is very powerful and they get spanked for it. But then again, Bill Gates caused THAT problem by not only winning over his opponents, but crushing the life out of them and leaving dead companies in their wake. Microsoft was not happy with gaining on Netscape, Bill had to force them into bankruptcy. Gates was the worst coprorate bully that I know of, not being around in the 1800's. That was a pretty mean thing to do. And then a strange twist when Microsoft threw Apple a million dollar lifeline when they were almost history and saved the corporation. Now Apple is huge again. I do not work on Apple because they are "too closed up" to get any parts or help with them. "They" work on it, "they" sell it, or else you do not get it, period. No thanks.

Yes, Autoruns and HijackThis both pegged the registry link with missing file for Avast. Easier to find in Autoruns at the Everything tab highlights anything with missing files in yellow, easy to find. But there in HighJack This as well. Avast should not run or alert you if any part of the system fails to startup and run. The sandbox was history! As Jake said, they should be alerted to this, it is a glaring error and a terrible oversight on their part.

I do not want to make this post too long. It really was a pleasure talking to someone of your caliber, UsernameIssues. I am a senior at this stuff too but not as much as you are. I was an electronic tech my whole life, not a computer tech. But since I love PCs, it was a natural thing to do. Take care my friend and I will keep an eye out for your posts again!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2015   #7
Jake1702

Microsoft Windows 7 Professional x64
 
 

I think it's cool! I'll be downloading it soon! Also, do you think that I may have the internet problem again any time soon?!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2015   #8
Ohmster

Windows 10 Pro via free update.
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Jake1702 View Post
I think it's cool! I'll be downloading it soon! Also, do you think that I may have the internet problem again any time soon?!
Jake,

I don't know if you will have further issues. Since nothing was found or corrected to be the cause of it and now it is working again, the chances of the issue returning is high, for the time being. Yeah, print out the first post of the thread and keep it handy. Also download HijackThis or Autoruns to use as a tool to find if you have missing files or something damaged like Avast (file missing) error.

Autoruns is easier to find missing files, your right click Autoruns and "Run as Administrator". In the Everything tab, allow it to fill up, then scroll down and look for yellow colored lines, these are "file missing" registry errors. Delete them with a right click and read them to see what they are. You should do this anyway, good practice and clean up your PC. HijackThis will do the same thing, but not with colored lines, and you have to *know* what you are deleting to clean things up. Do not delete items you are not sure of. But if you see things like "BHO Search Conduit", you have some nasty malware and need a good scanning and cleaning. There are a lot of them that are well known, and like this new Avast virus, not known at all.

HijackThis also does not require installation and will run unzipped into an empty folder. You need not run it as Administrator because it should do this for you.

Autoruns is a valuable tool. You should download it anyway and use it to see how it works. It does not install or installation is not necessary. You unzip to an empty folder, right click, and run as administrator. It will harm nothing for you to try this out. I suggest you do and become familiar with it. Especially the Login tab, these are all the services and programs that run when you log in. ...excuse me, there is also a Services tab, all of these services will run when you log in. Viruses that hide as services are more difficult to find and remove. But download and try out Autoruns, get familiar with it.

I cannot teach you all about how to remove viruses because they are all different with different tools to help and different instructions. Find out more if you find something with Google. Get your tools and print your Avast virus post and you should be all set if this happens again and IF, this is your issue. You are describing loss of DNS and there is a lot of help with this, but for the Avast virus. Good luck, Jake.
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