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Originally published Friday, June 7, 2013 at 3:42 PM

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Best anti-malware programs can only thwart most threats

Special to The Seattle Times

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Q: I have an HP Quad Core PC with 4 gigabytes of RAM, and I am using Windows 7 Ultimate... MORE

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Q: I have an HP Quad Core PC with 4 gigabytes of RAM, and I am using Windows 7 Ultimate and Internet Explorer 10. I discovered a pop-up banner that always seems to appear after I close a window. The pop-up banner is from serve.bannersdontwork.com.

After much research, I found out this is malware that hijacks my browser. How do I remove this? Is there some free software that will remove this?

I have tried Norton Internet Security and Microsoft Malicious Software Remover, but these programs were unable to find anything. I even tried restoring the computer to an earlier date, but the banner came back. Have other PC users experienced this problem?

— Wilson Chee

A: I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all, users have experience with browser hijackers and other types of malware. Unfortunately, there is no single anti-malware program that catches all malware, just as there is no single anti-virus program that catches all viruses.

The thing is, anti-malware and anti-virus programs are in a constant game of catch-up, trying to recognize and remove new threats.

To make matters worse, anti-virus and anti-malware use techniques to detect threats that can conflict with each other. As a result, you don’t want to run multiple anti-virus or anti-malware programs on your computer.

So you need to pick a good general-purpose program and then deal with uncaught problems as they arise.

Personally, I’ve found Malwarebyte’s Antimalware to be a strong program that gets along pretty well with most anti-virus programs. Even better, several users have reported Malwarebyte’s program successfully removed this particular Web redirector.

If it doesn’t work for you, you can try the instructions for manual removal of the critter here: http://blog.yoocare.com/remove-serve-bannersdontwork-com-pop-up-ads-manual-removal/.

Q: I have a PC and run Windows XP. Many of my photos are duplicated many times because of the way I tried to move them, I guess. I downloaded WebMinds Duplicate Photo Cleaner on the advice of a computer consultant, thinking it would scan and remove duplicates automatically.

However, nothing is automatic. It scans and shows me the duplicates, but I have to delete each one myself. I have thousands of duplicates! Do you know of any program that will delete duplicates automatically?

— Margie Rose

A: Just search the Internet for delete duplicate files, and you’ll find a grab bag of programs to choose from. I haven’t done any comparative reviews on this, so I don’t have a particular program to recommend.

I did just download and try the free version of DuplicateCleaner from the CNET site. It gives users a lot of control over what kinds of files to search for. But, yes, it requires the users to confirm which ones are to be deleted. You can, however, delete groups of files. You don’t have to do a delete process with each one individually.

Fact is, I think you’d be asking for trouble if you used a program that just went about automatically making deletions. Also, I urge you to back up your important data before running any of these programs.

Q: I used to be able to uninstall unwanted programs quite easily, but recently I get a message, “Please wait until the current program is finished uninstalling or being changed.” What can I do?

— Ralph Federspiel

A: Try rebooting your computer. If the problem continues, it’s likely that either you have a virus or your Windows registry has been corrupted

First, I’d run a thorough virus and malware scan. If nothing turns up, it’s time to try repairing your Windows installation. If that fails, it’s time to reinstall Windows.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/

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