Behind the scenes of a free PC troubleshooting helpsite: Interview with BleepingComputer

Behind the scenes of a free PC troubleshooting helpsite: Interview with BleepingComputer

BleepingComputer is a well-known go-to site that offers the so often needed basic introduction to anything computer related, tutorials and software reviews. We sat together with Lawrence, the founder and godfather of BleepingComputer, to take a look behind the scenes and his motivation to spend endless hours in helping malware victims.



What made you found BleepingComputer back in 2004?

When I started BleepingComputer there were no computer help sites that explained content in an easy to understand manner. All existing sites had the expectation that you had some general understanding of computers. This made the existing sites difficult and embarrassing to use for those who had little or no computer experience.

I also wanted to create a site for friends and family who wanted learn computer basic on their own without nagging me

Since then both user base and staff have grown. How do you recruit volunteers?

I do not recruit anyone for the site. The site has two groups of people who volunteer to help at The first group is those who came here looking for help with a problem, loved the experience, and stayed to help others.The second group is those who love computers and are technology enthusiasts and enjoy discussing these subjects with their peers.

From what I’ve seen, you don’t charge the users either. So how are you maintaining all of this? Ad placement?

Yes, everything on the site is 100% free and we do not charge anything for support. The site does generate revenue from advertising and affiliate sales. Advertisements, though, are only shown to unregistered guests.

Bleeping Computer is a go-to-place, a source that people trust. How do you actually pick the software you recommend?

We get requests almost every day to review or recommend a particular program. I first determine if this is something the community would be interested in. If so, I ask for a test license, make sure it does what it states, check to see if it uses scare tactics, and then check its history. If it seems like a quality product, I will put it on the site and let the community weigh in.

Do you get approached by companies, to advertise and recommend their products a lot?

The site receives many requests to work with companies that have a dubious reputation. I flat-out tell them that we cannot work with them, and in some cases suggest ways to fix concerns. I never hear back from most of these companies, but there have been some who made an effort to resolve known issues.

This also goes with our download section. I get requests to bundle adware, installers, toolbars, etc in our hosted downloads. We refuse. Our downloads will always be installer free and we remove any downloads that add them.

What if a user were to post his opinion and you or a moderator feel differently. What happens?

Everyone is entitled to their opinion about our site or any product. In the past we have had unflattering comments posted in our forums about issues people have had with our site, products we are affiliates of, and other unaffiliated products and we never censored or removed them. It is our visitor’s right to post their opinion on anything without fear of it being censored.

So he wouldn’t be banned or the review censored in any way?

No. In fact, there have been a few occasions when a negative product review was posted in the forums and the developer came to discuss the feedback. These developers interacted with the community to learn what the issues were and how to resolve them. They left with greater respect from our members who also had a better feeling about their product.

With that said, we do delete spam.

Did you ever get into trouble for the opinions posted on your forum?

The only time we have ever been sued for negative comments was by a software developer named Enigma Software. They have a product called SpyHunter and didn’t like the opinion posted in response to another visitor’s question. This lawsuit is actually ongoing right now as they filed it this past January.

You find a lot of professional yet easy to grasp malware removal guides on Bleeping Computer. How long does it take to write such a piece?

Writing virus removal guides are a lot of work. Unlike some other virus removal sites, we actually analyze the infection and make sure we can install it and see malicious characteristics. If we can, we devise a free solution to remove it before we create a guide. This can be a long process as sometimes the malware doesn’t install properly and if we can’t get a sample to display symptoms, we do not write about it.

When I write a virus removal guide, I install each sample in a machine devoted to analyzing malware. Once installed, we use various tools to come up with a free removal method that works as it is our mission to not use any tools that require you to pay for them. During this process, I may also need to create a small utility or specialized batch file to assist in the final removal. This process could take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours depending on the infection.

Where do you get the samples? Do you need to actually infect your machine?

Since we are such a large computer support site, many times our visitors will report a new infection and provide a sample. This is typically how we find our Crypto Ransomware samples, but if it is not possible to decrypt the files for free we only write informational guides about them.

Other sources of malware samples are from relationships I have built with various antivirus/antimalware companies, infosec researchers , by downloading and installing adware, and from malware repositories such as VirusTotal or Malwr.

You probably have seen a lot. What was the worst malware infection on a user’s system that you ever encountered?

I would say the most frustrating class of infection that I have dealt with is Crypto Ransomware. There have been many infections that are difficult to remove, mess up the computer, or just display annoying alerts to the user, but there is nothing worse than losing all of your data.

Could you be of any help?

With the help of various security researchers such as Emsisoft’s Fabian Wosar, Malwarebyte’s Nathan Scott, and one of our members BloodDolly, weaknesses have been found that would allow free decryption of files encrypted by certain ransomware.

It becomes really frustrating, though, when we cannot help them as I know how much of a violation it must be to lose all of their data, pictures, and work.

How much time do you and your colleagues actually spend helping others, on average, per day?

I know I spend a ton of time working on the site, but that is to be expected of the owner. What is really amazing is how much time our volunteers spend helping others on the site. Many of our volunteers have over 20,000 posts, with some as high as 130,000! The amazing thing is they do it purely for the enjoyment of helping others as they are not employed by the site.

BleepingComputer is not only a support site, but also a community where like minded people come to enjoy the camaraderie. We have some members who do not even help others, but talk about technology, politics, or play forum games. To many of them it is a place to come and unwind with friends after a long day.

Did you ever get a particularly  nice feedback from a user?

Over the years we have gotten a lot of great feedback, but I have to say the support we have received because of this lawsuit has been incredible. We have had so many members, new and old, come to support the defense of this lawsuit that is has really shown me how much good we have done for people over the years.

That is really nice, indeed. By the way, what does the name Bleeping Computer stand for?

I have to give my wife all the credit for the domain name. We were trying to figure out a good name that shows the frustration people have with their computer to the point that they want to curse at them. Thus BleepingComputer was born!

Well then, keep on bleeping and fighting for a malware-free world!

Thanks, will do!

  • Hoggimus Doggimus

    *camaraderie, not “comeraderie.”

    • Jaklo

      Bleeping Computer is a brilliant site with Lawrence and members who help millions of people every year with computer problems and YOU have to be an ignoramus and pick on a ONE letter typo.
      I donated money to help Lawrence, did you..?

      • .
        Oy, it wasn’t a criticism it was help, like fixing one letter in Windows Registration Database — sometimes that’s all it takes to make something accurate.

        • Jaklo

          Oi, Oi, Oi, has been adopted by Australians. Oy is part of Oy Vey, a Jewish expression, ‘Oi is British slang and to be original should contain an apostrophe at the beginning by missing the letter aitch. ‘Oi, as a form of speech, from the Greek, hoi polloi meaning many.

    • Christian

      Thank you. We have fixed that typo.

      • .
        Still got camaraderie, colleague, particularly wrong …

        • Christian

          Fixed, thank you! What do you think about “like minded” vs. “like-minded” by the way?

          • .
            Two approaches I use:

            1 — does it help reduce possible ambiguity?
            – – – example, more popular software vs. more-popular software vs. more popular-software

            2 – Google search each choice and count the results to find majority use:
            – – – like minded vs. like-minded vs. likeminded

            You have a choice of which wrong way to present your ideas!

            Thanks for the NEEDED article, now we’re all hunting for SpyHumter discussions and adding our 2 ¢.



    • Sokrates

      If you devote your life to spotting typos on the internet it may keep you busy for the rest of your life and you’ll hardly have time for anything else. I find them annoying too but what’s the use of shooting mosquitoes one by one?

      • .
        He didn’t make a big deal of it., just offered to make the author look more accurate.

        Please don’t shoot mosquitoes — they are an elemental part of the biosphere.

      • rhondalea

        Most often, typo-lames are accompanied–at the least–by a little name-calling.

        This didn’t come across as a typo-lame to me. It seemed more like an offer of help. Professional writers are well-aware that it’s simply not possible to accurately proofread one’s own work. To a fresh eye, however, the typos seem to jump right off the page.

        Of course, an entire meta discussion about corrections distracts from the topic of the article, so it might be helpful to shut it off now that the fix has been made.

    • .
      9.5 million majority spelling; camaraderie

      15,000 minority spelling: comeraderie

      I guess his spill chick missed it.

    • .
      Still got camaraderie, colleague, particularly wrong …

  • Jay Star

    “Bleeping” sometimes is what the computer is doing too. lol

  • CDavies

    I don’t now if what I did will be helpful, but I emailed Enigma Software the other day and told them of my past unpleasant experience with their software, that it had been on my list of software not to bother checking into again. I also told them that since I heard about their lawsuit, they are now on my list of companies that I warn people about. – It just made me mad that they would be so self-important that they think they can control public opinion.

    • rhondalea

      Careful there.

      Enigma’s lawyers should know better, but because they don’t, I fear they will not hesitate to attempt to gag anyone with a critical opinion (by adding critics as defendants, that is).

      With that said, the lawsuit is a load of horse puckey, and Enigma needs to beware of the Streisand Effect.

      What I don’t understand is why Bleeping Computer’s owner hasn’t contacted the EFF. Another option would be Popehat. Among others. Opinions are protected speech, and there are lawyers all over the internet who work pro bono to prevent the erosion of rights threatened by exactly this sort of litigation.

      As for the site itself…I don’t use it (no need), but I’ve recommended it to people over the years, and I would like to see it survive for many years to come.

      • Sokrates

        This far I’ve never heard of Enigma Software but now I did. Today I learned from you that it’s called “the Streisand effect”, until yesterday it was to me just the old saying “the more you stir it, the more it stinks”.
        I hope that after this blunt and careless step Enigma eventually vanish from the scene, though perhaps only to reappear under a new name, but at least that would cost them some dear money.

        Somewhere I read that “95% of the lawyers spoil the reputation of the whole category”. Will it be true?

      • CDavies

        Thanks for the warning. I did consider repercussions before I posted, but posted anyway because bullies need to be called out on their behavior. It has to start somewhere.

        • rhondalea

          I know. Been there, done that, got sued.

          10k later–and a bargain it was–I was out of it on a CDA Section 230 motion for summary judgment. But because it was such a nuisance while it lasted, I feel compelled to sound an alarm now and then.

    • .
      Copy that email to other public sites, like facebook.

  • Rainman

    A great site to download from, unlike C=NET whose downloads can come with alsorts of unwateds.

  • Bill

    These days it’s hard to fine anything on the internet that you can totally trust. I have used this website many times over several years and trust it completely. This is where I met up with Malwarebytes. A very class company that has an awesome product.

  • .
    I just did a Google search for [ Enigma Software ] and of course I have WOT Web Of Trust add in on my browser, and ALL Enigma official web site have TWO rings:

    — green ring up front meaning it’s a PAID google sire advertisement ( the green rating is GOOGLE )

    — red ring at the end meaning Enigma itself has horrible user rating for poor trustworthiness, safety, malware, scan, poor customer experience.

    Enigma / SpyHunter can’t PAY their way out of a hole!

  • Cat Tilley

    Bleeping Computer is the best self-help site on the Internet today for those not wanting to spend hundreds of dollars at a ‘PC shop’ to fix many issues, including what would be expensive Malware cleanup.

    Plus we have a great LInux forum that many are becoming aware of!

    Lawrence, aka ‘Grinler’, has created a fantastic site with a family friendly orientation, yes there’s rules, mainly common sense ones (no spam posting, cursing, etc), so that computer users of all ages can participate. Though there’s many seasoned veterans on the site (some Microsoft MVP’s) & others who specializes in Malware removal, the majority are everyday computer users & enthusiasts.

    Am honored to be an Advisor on the site, where I dedicate 4-6 hours most every night.


  • techienumber1

    hat is bottle necking well in computer this can not happen as most of the components on the mother board smooth the voltage and keep the components working well so bottle necking doesnt exist in electronics


    Yes Bleeping Computer like many others sites gives helps for many computers problems even malwares. I say Many Thanks to Emsisoft for their security support too. I use Emsisoft Anti-Malware as base security defender for 30 days. I also use Malwarebytes tools and SUPERAntiSpyware on oldest OS Windows XP, I don’t know how long will LIVE Windows XP on my PC on this JUNGLE = Internet, with all Security holes of Windows XP I guess it will be an adventure…

  • Ike Bottema

    Please let Laurence know that if he needs any evidence as to the underhanded and likely malicious intent of SpyHunter, I can attest to it’s attempt to infiltrate my computer. As soon as I saw it was claiming literally hundreds of site addresses that were about to be removed from my host file and wished to replace it with only two sites, I became immediately suspicious and checked the host file. The backed up copy was clean whereas the new copy already in place even before I had approved it, were the two addresses I mentioned. I still have that host file if it’s of any use to Laurence.

    In any case I immediately disinfected with AdAware, RogueKiller, and on the recommendation of BleepingComputer, I’m trying out your Emisoft program. There may be further evidence in the logs so I’d be more than happy to pass those on if Laurence needs further evidence.