Virus and Malware Infections
If you open Regedit.exe (register edit) on your Windows XP PC and it closes itself before you can change any settings, then you most likely have a virus or some kind of malware infecting your computer. You might be lucky and there may only be some kind of file corruption or memory error that can be solved with a reboot or defrag, but chances are you’re computer has been compromised. In this article, I’ll offer a few suggestions on what to check for and what to do in case you run into this problem.
I have personally witnessed two different types of malware that would close Regedit immediately upon opening. My wife’s uncle had a PC that was so infected that he had to completely reformat the hard drive and reinstall Windows because I couldn’t do anything more with it. On that machine, not only would it close Regedit, but it wouldn’t let me get into the Task Manager or MSConfig, nor could I run or update any kind of virus scanner or Windows Defender. I’m not sure what exactly was infecting that PC, but it was nasty and tough. Not even System Restore would work on it. If you have trouble getting into any software that is normally used to diagnose a problem, then there is a very good chance that your PC is infected with something that is deliberately trying to keep you out of those programs.
Protect Your Passwords
First and most importantly, don’t log into any websites or use your credit card online until your computer has been cleaned up. The last thing you want to deal with is identity theft or bank fraud because you accidentally installed a program that let somebody else steal your passwords or online banking information. If at all possible, get on another computer and change your password on every single website that you log into. I can’t stress this one enough, because you never know what the virus or malware is doing in the background.
Rebooting your PC is sort of a generic catch-all when it comes to fixing problems, but you’d be surprised how often a shut down and restart actually corrects things. If you encounter a problem with Regedit or other programs behaving weirdly, you should first shut down your computer to where it turns off; wait a few seconds and then turn it back on. This won’t help a thing if your PC is infected with a virus or malware, but it’s a good starting point and you might get lucky.
Think Back - What Did You Do?
If your computer starts to do strange things like turn off certain programs or display extra pop-up ads when surfing the web, the first thing you need to do is consider what you might have done to make that happen. Have you recently installed any new software? Have you downloaded anything lately? Were you browsing any websites that might be considered shady, like adult content or pirated software sites? One of the most common methods of infection these days are pop-up windows designed to look like virus alert messages where the user unknowingly clicks OK when told their computer might have a virus. Did you see anything like that?
If the answer to any of those previous questions is yes, then you should run System Restore immediately. If you can remember the day when you might have done something to get your computer infected, then you should restore from a point sometime before that day. If you’re lucky, whatever is infecting your machine will let you run System Restore and it’ll work fine. After you loaded the restore point, check and make sure your computer is running normally by trying to open Regedit or any of the other programs that didn’t work properly before. If they are working again, you should get a virus scanner and run a full system scan, then get Windows Defender and let it run a full system scan.
One thing to remember with System Restore is that it might bring your PC back to a good working status, but the infected files are often still lingering somewhere on the hard drive. If System Restore is successful in removing the infection, you should then turn System Restore off and back on. Make darn sure your computer is in good working order before you do this. Turning it off and back on will clear out all the previous restore points so that you never accidentally restore back to the infected point.
Here’s a great article on using System Restore in Windows XP.
Hopefully, you can get rid of whatever is infecting your computer. Sometimes it takes multiple antivirus and Windows Defender scans to fully get rid of the virus or malware because many of them like to replicate themselves. If nothing else works, as a last resort you might have to reformat your hard drive and reinstall Windows completely. This is only necessary in the direst of circumstances, such as when you have multiple infections on one PC.