Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fix Files and Folders Hidden by Virus

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Being an advanced computer user, friends and colleagues would generally turn to me when problems on their computers arise. This one time a computer was infected by a virus. Obviously, the needed solution was to entirely remove the infection. But what was more important was reverting the damage it caused: The virus hid important files and folders.

Whatever the name of the virus was, it had the nasty habit of hiding objects and leaving behind harmful shortcuts that were seemingly for those hidden objects but actually executed or ran the virus itself when clicked.

An average user wouldn’t know any better, making it hard for them to view and recover important data.

Now that the situation is briefly described, it’s time to know the possible steps on how to show and/or unhide hidden files and folders. Let the invisible become visible!

Note: This guide is specifically made for Windows 7. However the procedure is possibly applicable to Windows XP and Vista with only a few differences lying here and there.

Furthermore, no additional software will be needed. Only the tools natively found on Windows will be used.

Lastly, during this guide I’ll be interchangeably using objects to refer to files and folders.

Folder Options

If files and folders are hidden, the initial step is enabling the showing of hidden files and folders in Folder options. To do this,

  1. In the Control Panel, open Folder Options.
  2. Click the View tab.
  3. Under Advanced settings, click Show hidden files, folders, and drives, and then click OK.

show hidden files folders

This step was the first thing I did. But the virus I dealt with had more up its sleeves! The procedure above was not enough; The hidden files and folders were still not shown.

Protected Operating System Files

The virus managed to modify the attributes so as not only make the affected objects hidden, but also make them read-only (cannot be modified), and become system files. System files are specially hidden to prevent users from accidentally changing and/or deleting them (which might cause system instability and crashes). Call them super hidden if you want.

The step is still fairly simple and similar in order to view these system files.

  1. In the Control Panel, open Folder Options.
  2. Click the View tab.
  3. Under Advanced settings, uncheck Hide protected operating system files (Recommended).

hide system files

From Hidden to an Ordinarily Visible Files

The previous steps were needed in order to just view the hidden files and folders. To make them permanently visible again, we need to remove the hidden, read-only, and system file attributes or properties. The common way to do this is to

  1. Right-click the file or folder, and then click Properties.
  2. Next to Attributes, uncheck Hidden and/or Read-only check box(es), and then click OK.

properties hidden

There are cases however when the check boxes are grayed out which means they cannot be changed. A more advanced method is by using the Command Prompt and use the attrib command.

Attrib CMD Command

  1. Click the Start button. In the search box, type cmd and then press Enter.
  2. In the command prompt, type

attrib [drive]:[path][filename] -s -h -r /s /d

The [drive] is the hard disk drive letter, while [path] is the address/path/location of the target file(s), and [filename] is the name of the target file(s).

The -s -h -r removes the system file, hidden, and read-only file attributes respectively.

The /s seeks files in the current folder and all its subfolders that matches the [filename] input.

Finally /d will mean folders are processed as well for attribute modification.

For example, foobar.doc in the folder location C:\Documents\Sample has been modified by the virus to make it a hidden system file. To revert this I’ll simply type in the command prompt:

attrib C:\Documents\Sample\foobar.doc -s -h -r /s /d

If you happen to know that everything in a folder aren’t hidden system files and/or folders, you can use *.* instead of specifying a [filename].

attrib [drive]:[path]\*.* -s -h -r /s /d

So, for instance, if a removable flash drive is infected and all its objects are gone, simply type in the command prompt:

attrib [drive]:\*.* -s -h -r /s /d

Depending on the current user access, the attrib may not work properly. It is therefore recommended to run the command prompt as an administrator.

Final Thoughts

With the last step above, I was able to recover the lost files. I then deleted the malicious shortcuts and got rid of the virus altogether. Problem solved.

One final piece of advice: install a reliable anti-virus program! :)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Virtual / Multiple Desktops

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Being a multitasker, I found my Windows 7 desktop cluttered with too many taskbar icons and windows of running programs. That’s when I realized that I need to have multiple desktops, with each having a different purpose, e.g., for work, blogging, school, etc.


I have a tendency to lose focus on what I’m currently doing when too many programs are running. And so with multiple desktops I can categorize apps that are meant for a specific purpose. So instead of having quite a lot of taskbar icons as shown below, it’ll be easy with just two or three at a time. This also means I don’t need to close programs anymore just to remove those taskbar icons.

There are two ways multiple desktops can be pulled off. The first is using multiple monitors. Although more efficient since you can see all desktops simultaneously, this option is basically expensive.
The alternate choice is ultimately cheaper and easier to accomplish: virtualization. Virtual desktops is not readily available for Windows 7 though. You will need to download a software that does the job. Here are two apps that I tried:
Desktops

The closest official thing Windows offers is Desktops. When run, it places a four-square icon at the system tray. One of these squares lights up to indicate that its corresponding desktop is active.
Clicking once on the icon will show you a preview of the desktops. Click on any of the four to switch between desktops.


Double-clicking on the icon will show you a few options you can modify: changing hotkeys and whether Desktops runs at startup.

sysinternalsdesktops
Dexpot
If you want more customization, use Dexpot. Some of its features include having up to twenty desktops, more control over hotkeys, and better switching between desktops and their applications. Another useful feature is Window Catalogue, an overview of all programs of the selected desktop similar to Mac OS X Exposé.

Other features not found in Desktops are moving/copying windows between the desktops, different background/screensaver/desktop icons per desktop, adjusting window appearance, among others.



Still Not Satisfied?
If Desktops and Dexpot does not pass as your virtual desktop manager, there are other software available, many of which are offered for free. Just google virtual desktop manager.
Compatibility Issues
As I mentioned before, Windows is not readily made for virtual desktops. Thus, some programs might experience compatibility issues and might not run/perform as expected. But considering the advantages by using virtual desktops, the bugs and annoyances are far outweighed and can be neglected.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dim or Dark Screen On Mafia 2 Exit

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Oh no! It's so dark, I'm scared! Lol.
Some users might experience a noticeably dimmed or darkened monitor display after closing Mafia 2 or even when just switching windows (alt-tab) while playing the game. If you are one of them, you need not to buy a new display because your current one is just fine. Just follow the tips below to fix the problem.

Ctrl-Alt-Del Does the Trick, Temporarily

When the screen becomes dark, you can easily revert it back to its original brightness by invoking the Windows Security by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Del. It's as simple as that.

This is the quickest fix. You don't have to manually turn Windows Aero off every time you play, change screen resolution, or restart your computer. Ctrl-Alt-Del simply is the fastest way to make your display 'blink' and reset to its previous setting.

However, you need to do this every time you close Mafia 2 or switch windows while playing it. For a permanent fix, continue reading.

Kill the Composition and You Kill the Culprit

By disabling the desktop composition setting, Windows Aero is automatically disabled and remains that way while currently playing Mafia 2. Aero re-enables on its own after closing the game. 

To do this, just go to your Mafia 2 directory. Next, in the pc folder find the mafia2.exe file and right-click it to open Properties. Under the Compatibility tab, click on the Disable desktop composition checkbox then click OK.

Driver Update Might Finish the Job, Soon?


I happen to know that this problem only involves some video cards under the AMD/ATI Radeon brand. Nvidia card owners are probably fine. On the other hand, the former is aware of the problem. Unfortunately it is still an open issue and remains to be fixed as shown in the release notes of its latest driver for ATI Catalyst (version 10.9).

I've tried these fixes on Windows 7. They will likely work on Vista as well. As for XP, I'm not sure.

Have fun playing Mafia 2!

Globe Limits SuperSurf to 1 Gigabyte per Day

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It turns out their 'unlimited' was quite limited after all.

That's the recent case for Globe Telecom's SuperSurf, its so-called unlimited mobile internet service. Globe has recently set a limit of 1 gigabyte per day when subscribing to SuperSurf prepaid for both its 1-day and 5-days variants. When you reach this limit, the internet just stops and you'll receive an SMS:
Globe Advisory: Your account has reached 1GB in usage today. Subject to Globe Fair Use Policy, your internet service has been temporarily deactivated and will resume tomorrow. This promo is intended for moderate use. For heavy browsing, please upgrade to our Tattoo Postpaid plans. Thank you.

Heavy internet users, don't be fooled by their suggestion to upgrade to postpaid (or even to their WiMax plans); their postpaid plans also have cap limits, albeit monthly. And actually those limits are even worse. Read their Fair Use Policy yourself and get ready to be pissed.

So what does this all mean? It simply means Globe is keeping up its promise to be a high-speed (if not the highest) internet provider by only catering to casual Internet users. That's how they prevent congestion.

If you need to download large files, switch to other providers instead. For one, Sun Broadband postpaid, though rumored to be restricting the speed when downloading torrents to up to 250kbps only, does not have a monthly bandwidth limit or peak volume capacity. And hey, if I'm wrong, their contract's lock-out period is only three months.

P.S.: To piss off more Globe users, the truth must be told: the 1 gigabyte limit is for both download AND upload data.

2 Gigabyte Trick

Do you want to get the most out of your SuperSurf50 (1-day)?

Then register around midday. Consume your 1 gigabyte limit that day and wait until next day (12 am) to use the internet again until your subscription expires! Don't bother subscribing back on that next day (and you can't anyway), as the limit still holds. Register on the day after instead.

At least I'm ending this post on the bright side. :)

UPDATE: During this Christmas season, Globe – as stated in their recently changed Fair Use Policy – has decreased the limit down to just 800mb. The news just keeps getting worse.

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