It'll Take More Than Clicking Heels 3 Times to Get Home

Q: Several months ago, I turned on my computer, clicked on the Internet Explorer icon and expected to go to Yahoo, the default home page I use. Instead, I found myself at

I went to the Tools, Options, General, Homepage and changed the default back to Yahoo. About an hour later, the default was back to Fortune City. And ever since, no matter what I do, I can't change it. Here is a list of things I have done: deleted all bookmarks, history and temporary Internet files; run anti-virus software (no viruses found); deleted all references to Fortune City from the registry; deleted all cookies from the hard drive.

Here are some details about my equipment and software: HP E-Vector, Groupwise, Gator, Windows 2000, Novell 4.11. The best answer I have gotten is a reformat of my hard drive to get a clean start. I'm hoping there is a better answer and wondering whether I am the only one to be hijacked by Fortune City.

A: The friendly geeks at Q&A; labs are glad we caught you before you erased your hard drive. Your browser's home page was not technically hijacked but was instead the victim of a virus.

Let us begin by complimenting you on your thorough description. The information you provided made diagnosis and treatment easy. Bottom line: You were infected with a virus, specifically, a variant of the VBS love letter worm. In addition to lots of charming things, once you open up the infected attachment buried in the e-mail this rode in on, it resets the home page of Internet Explorer to one of three Web sites.

Fortunately, the good folks at Panda Software have developed an automated tool for this specific infection, which you can get from

What have we learned, Dorothy? One, don't open attachments. Period. Just stop it. Two, keep your antiviral definitions up to date.

Q: My daughter's computer takes an inordinate amount of time to start up. How can she find out what programs are starting up? How does she determine what needs to be on that list? And how does she get rid of what doesn't?

A: First, make backups. Assuming you're using a recent version of Windows, start by hitting the Start key on your desktop and go to Programs, then Accessories and System Tools. Click on Systems Information. Under the Tools menu, hit System Configuration Utility. Look for the tab labeled Startup and tap it.

Everything that starts up on your system with each boot has a check mark next to it. Unfortunately, you'll have to engage in some trial and error. You'll want to leave the System Tray up and running, but lots of other stuff just chews up resources and gives nothing back. If you disable something and later decide you need it--such as the bit of programming that lets your modem work--just go back inside the System Configuration Utility and recheck the box.


Dave Wilson is The Times' personal technology columnist. Submit questions to Tech Q&A; at


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