We have 5 computers in the Brain household that run versions of Microsoft Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7. After writing this post...
...I had put Microsoft Security Essentials (Microsoft's anti-virus software) on all of them. The program is set up to update and run itself automatically, so I haven't really thought about it since installing it.
This week we had a virus problem on one of the machines. The thing that made infection obvious was the fact that, after going to google, any link you clicked on in the Google results took you somewhere you didn't want to go. One of the other symptoms of the infection was that, if you tried to update Microsoft Security Essentials manually, it would give an error dialog about not being able to connect. Something (presumably the virus) had disabled the Microsoft Security Essentials' ability to update itself, so Microsoft Security Essentials had not updated or scanned, apparently, for about a month.
The solution to the infection was to run a rootkit removal tool, uninstall Microsoft Security Essentials, reinstall a fresh copy, run a full scan with Microsoft Security Essentials and clean up the remaining mess.
This caused me to go around and check the other machines. On one of them, Microsoft Security Essentials was completely gone - not running at all. Even worse, there appears to be no easy way to fix it. I tried uninstalling the old version and re-installing a fresh copy (as on the other machine). But the new copy fails during the installation process. So now there is no way (that I can tell) to get Microsoft Security Essentials running again.
I post this in case you are using Microsoft Security Essentials. If you installed the program and stopped thinking about it... You may want to check your copy. Definitely try this:
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