Rampant. What's a PARASITE? Read http://www.doxdesk.com/parasite/ to see these new pests which your antivirus doesn't find.
At http://reviews.cnet.com/5208-6132-0.html?forumID=32&threadID=1313&start=0 I note these tools (all free!) to find most of these pests. Also STARTER to selectively disable a suspected item and reboot to test.
The OFFICE ITEM is noteworthy. Microsoft WORD has an enduring bug in that the NORMAL.DOT file grows, never shrinks and can be corrupt. Delete it, run WORD and you get a new one. You may find WORD to stop misbehaving...
I know your setup well and in short, it's likely to be some pest, normal.dot or that you are letting that PREVIEW WINDOW show e-mail in OE. Today, I must write that such is far too dangerous. I know it seems like a small thing, but it's a doorway for things to invade your system even with an Antivius/firewall or such.
In closing, after all the pests are removed (yes, you can't rely on just one spyware tool or your lone antivirus), the normal.dot issue done, you can then head to Optimizing Windows at http://www.aumha.org/articles.htm as well as two last items.
1. Run Disk Cleanup.
2. Uninstall those softwares you haven't run in the last year.
I hope you folks can give me an idea of what to do next. Do I reinstall my lineprinter driver, reinstall Windows, give-up and buy a new system??? I'm a user, not a system tinkerer -- I'm not sure what I'm dealing with.
First off, I have a Dell Dimension, Pentium II with 288MB SDRAM, 8GB hard drive and HP710 multi-function printer all bought in 1999. I've added a Visioneer scanner, a Jaz drive and USB connected digital camera. I run Windows 98, Office 97 and Earthlink Total Access 2003, and regularly update my McAfee antivirus, download Windows critical updates and run/update AdAware and HDvalet as well as disk scan and defrag, and occasionally use Adobe photoshop BE.
About 1 year ago, things just noticeably slowed down --I'd had lots of problems upgrading the Earthlink email from Mindspring to Total Access 2003 (seemed like daily contacts with customer support and trial & error parameter changing for over a month before the kinks were worked out). I use Outlook Express with the Total Access. These may not be related to the
slowdown, but it was in the same timeframe. Within the last month, the printer is acting up -- both when I try to print from the internet and when I print locally with no dial-up connection activated. It takes minutes before the print window opens and after that 5-6 minutes before action on the printer, if at all (sometimes it tells me it has a printer driver
problem, restart windows). Recently, even the Office applications are unreliable. Working in a pre-existing excel file, making any changes takes 1-2 minutes.
It seems that the system is deteriorating. Does the hardware wear out? Does Windows collect gremlins over time (never had a virus, knock wood)? Would the print driver get corrupted so that it works sometimes, but not always? Is Office 97 part of the problem? Where do I start??