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Built a Computer for My Aged Mother, Please Assist

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February 14, 2011 12:57:59 PM

Title gives the gist of the story. I built my first computer this past weekend, went through the BIOS, setup the OS, and everything ran like a dream for a few days. I mean, this computer was fast, 7.0-7.4s on everything but the hard drive (5.9) in the Windows Score, high scores on PC Mark and 3D Mark. My dearest mother made a trip to town, bringing with her her external hard drive with 35gigs or so of pictures and personal effects. Transfer went smoothly, checked and rechecked as much as I could, packed the computer up and sent it on its way with her. Two days later she sends me an e-mail saying that her new dream machine is now performing much like her four year old p.o.s. retail--slow boots, slow returns from sleep, difficulty loading programs (15+ second loads), bogging down during anti-virus scans and background downloads.

While I cannot attest to her internet connection (I believe it is some form of broadband), I *had* the utmost confidence in my build and took a great amount of pride in selecting quality parts (i.e. parts from newegg.com with high amounts of positive reviews, usually 5 star 1000+). I am unsure how to troubleshoot her computer from my current location, and due to family issues, I am not able to return home in order to work on it in person. Tomshardware builders, please direct me on how I might advise my technologically-challenged mother from afar in order to alleviate these unexpected issues...

BUILD:

AMD Athlon II x4 635, 2.9GHz CPU (Overclocked to 3.2GHz, but was still running cool and stable at 39C)
ASRock 870 Extreme3 AM3 AMD 870 Mobo
A-DATA Gaming Series 4GB (2X2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 1600 SDRAM
Sapphire Radeon HD 5670 512MB 128-bit DDR5 Graphics Card
SeaSonic S12II 520W Bronze ATX12V Power Supply
Cooler Master Centurion 5 ATX Mid Tower
SAMSUNG 500GB 7200 RPM Hard Drive
LightOn CD/DVD-RW
February 14, 2011 1:01:02 PM

Operating system is Windows 7?
Are you familiar with Remote Assistance?

Sounds like it could be a bad malware infection.
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February 14, 2011 1:07:52 PM

Sorry, forgot to include OS. Yes, Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate. First thing I did was automatic windows upgrades and installed AVG and ran a full scan. Is this still the most probable culprit? If so, is a clean install of the OS my best bet, or are there other ways that I should proceed?

Thanks for the timely response, I'm really hoping to resolve her issues within the next couple of days before she gets exasperated.

*Edit--Missed the comment about Remote Assistance. Sadly, I'm a terrible noob and was unfamiliar with the concept. I have been reading about it over the past few minutes and it seems like an excellent way to bridge the travel gap. Just a quick question: will I be exposing my computer to any potential malware infections by establishing said connection?
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February 14, 2011 1:13:13 PM

You're on Win7 Ultimate too?

It's one possibility. Another possibility might be CPU throttling due to overheating caused by a HSF coming loose while being moved.

A clean install is the best way to get around those nasty rootkits that can defend themselves against a lot of the AV programs.
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February 14, 2011 1:15:32 PM

Nice choice of parts by the way.
No way that should be under performing in normal circumstances.
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February 14, 2011 1:18:22 PM

No danger of catching an infection.
The data stream between the two PCs is pretty isolated to just screen views and control commands.
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February 14, 2011 1:26:44 PM

Thanks for all your help, WR2! I'll get her to check her CPU temperature first and if that still looks decent, I believe I will take the afternoon to walk her through a clean install of Windows and see if that corrects the problem. Is it possible that malware could have made the transition through Windows East Transfer from her old computer to the new machine? If so, I am unsure of a simple procedure for determining how to bring only the safe files along (pretty sure she will cry if she has to leave her pictures behind :-) ).
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February 14, 2011 1:28:49 PM

Before you do the clean install.... look for other problems as well.

Background programs running constantly can be really annoying and slowing things down.
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February 14, 2011 1:30:26 PM

I'd put the the most probable cause of malware infection as downloading.
How did you have the user account controls set up?
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February 14, 2011 1:35:47 PM

Sounds like a plan. I guess I had some notion of the almighty quad core (yet to own one myself), able to withstand limitless amounts of background programs, music encoding, and HD quality video simultaneously. But perhaps I should come back down from my builder's high.
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February 14, 2011 1:40:35 PM

Pretty sure that I accepted the default User Account settings that Win7 attempted to implement during the initial setup... perhaps I should have ramped things up above the Recommended settings for future usage?
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February 14, 2011 1:41:18 PM

It would be a pain to go through a OS re-install just to have the same problem occur due to some user initiated actions or behavior.
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February 14, 2011 1:44:01 PM

If that default is the 2nd notch on UAC that's usually enough.
But the best AV programs might not catch a user granting permission to install a program that shouldn't have been installed.
Check the installed programs since your build. The worst malware won't be there but there are also those rogue adware programs that install as 'optional' programs when something else is installed. Browser toolbars, etc.
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!