I have spent three days now trying to fix a computer. (I know my friend Cindy is going to appreciate this post-- er, maybe not appreciate so much as cringe in sympathy.)

On Sunday I tried to deliver a workshop for my writers group. The workshop was about how to set up a website for authors and writers, so I figured actually showing the process step-by-step was the best approach. I knew I would have about 7 attendees, and rather than have us all crowd around a computer screen, I arranged to use a TV/monitor. Normally I work on a MacBook, but I don't have the right cable to make it work with the TV. So I borrowed my kids' laptop, which does have the right output and cable. (After all the workshop drama, you'll not be surprised to know I returned home and ordered the right cable.)

We got to the library and started setting up, only to discover the library's free Wifi doesn't reach the meeting room in the basement. So we packed up and relocated upstairs in the children's department. The Wifi worked, but kept cutting out. (I think the library might receive a Wifi booster for Christmas.) Then the drama started. Websites wouldn't work. I kept getting booted offline. Links were hijacked. Long story short: the computer was loaded with viruses.

This was totally embarrassing. I'm supposed to be the tech person, and I can't make the tech work. Fortunately, we muddled through enough for everyone to set up a Wordpress.com site and play around. Next time we meet, we can go over questions and address more specific issues.

I returned home and began to diagnose the computer problems. As best as I can tell, my kids disabled the firewall and downloaded a few programs, which then let open the floodgates to malicious software of all kinds. No word of a lie, I removed nearly 20 toolbars. Every web browser was corrupted. Microsoft Security Essentials was disabled and I couldn't bring it back.

Over the course of two days I used a second computer to download repair programs to a thumb-drive to run on the broken laptop: Spybot Search & Destroy, Malwarebytes, Microsoft Fixit, TDSS Killer, and finally Hitman Pro. Each one took out hundreds of files of malicious software. (You'd think there would be One Virus Killer To Rule Them All, but no such luck.)

But I still didn't have Microsoft Security Essentials back. The viruses had made it so I couldn't install a virus checker. We don't have a Windows CD because they don't give you one when you buy a PC anymore, so I couldn't just wipe the whole machine and start fresh, which would have been the easiest solution. I had to continue to clean and repair the system.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) Windows knows all about these problems, and all I had to do was Google the issue and then follow their instructions. I have to say Windows help pages have gotten much better in recent years.

Next came Microsoft Safety Scanner, which finally removed a crapload of trojan viruses. I finally got Microsoft Security Essentials back and got the firewall up. Yay! I also had to run another program to remove files from the start-up, since many programs were removed by the anti-virus programs, but left bits and pieces behind. Gah.

I'm still left with two problems: the Windows updates keep failing and the computer has no sound. Of course, since the kids use this computer the latter isn't much of a problem. I know the sound works when Skype is used, it just won't work for anything else. This may be a Skype compatibility issue.

As for the Windows updates. I've exhausted all the help tutorials. I may just have to accept defeat.

I thought computers were supposed to make our lives easier...