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Linux to the rescue! How Ubuntu can help a computer in distress

Chris Hoffman | April 29, 2014
This may sound like sacrilege, but it's not: Ubuntu Linux can be useful even if you're a hardcore Windows user.

We'll use ClamAV here because it's open source and easily installable on Ubuntu. It isn't the only option, though; you may also want to look at commercial antiviruses like AVG Free for Linux or BitDefender for Unices.

To install ClamAV, open the terminal and copy-paste or type each of the following commands into the terminal in order, pressing Enter after each. (Again, if you've already run the first two commands performing another task, you don't need to run them again--just start at the third.)

sudo add-apt-repository "deb $(lsb_release -sc) universe"

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install clamtk

Type y and press Enter to confirm the installation.

Next, run the following command to update your virus definitions:

sudo freshclam

You can now run the clamtk command in the terminal or open ClamTk from your list of installed applications. Be sure to click the Preferences button and enable the "Scan all files and directories in a directory" option after you do.

To actually scan your Windows drive for malware, click the Scan option on the menu at the top of ClamAV's screen and select Recursive Scan. Select your Windows drive in the sidebar and click OK. ClamTk should scan every file on your Windows drive with the ClamAV antivirus engine.

Give your hard drive a check-up
Ubuntu can also check for hardware-related issues.

The SMART hard drive status system allows a failing hard drive to warn you before it goes down in flames. To check a drive's SMART status from Ubuntu, click the Ubuntu logo icon at the top-left corner of your screen, search for "Disk Utility" and press Enter. Select your Windows drive and look next to SMART Status to see the drive's health status. You can click the SMART Data button to see more details and perform self-tests.

SMART isn't perfect. A drive may be failing and reporting that everything is fine even as it grinds to a halt. Another drive may report a serious problem and continue working fine for months. But, if you see a serious warning, you should get your files off the drive and replace it as soon as possible.

Test your RAM
Ubuntu comes with the popular memtest86+ memory-testing utility built-in. This utility will write data to your computer's RAM, read it back, and check if it's correct. If your RAM has a problem, memtest86+ will notice when the RAM returns different data. In normal computer use, these problems can lead to application crashes, file corruption, and even the dreaded blue screen of death.

This utility must be chosen at boot, so you'll have to restart your computer if you're already at the Ubuntu desktop. When Ubuntu starts booting, repeatedly press Escape and you'll see the normally hidden boot menu. Select the Test Memory option here to launch memtest86+.


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