What is a computer virus?
A computer virus is a type of malicious software program designed to spread from one computer to another and disrupt computer operation. Viruses can delete files, slow down your computer, display unwanted ads, or even allow hackers to access your private information. Viruses spread when you open an infected file attachment, click on an infected link, or install malicious software. Some common ways viruses enter your computer include:
- Opening email attachments from unknown senders
- Visiting compromised websites
- Inserting infected storage devices like USB drives
- Clicking on false browser pop-up warnings
- Downloading freeware or shareware
Once a virus infects your computer, it can replicate itself and infect other files and programs. A virus operates in the background without your knowledge. You may notice strange computer behaviors, like slow performance, more frequent crashes, odd pop-ups, etc. But it can be difficult to directly trace these issues back to a virus.
How do I know if I have a virus?
Here are some common signs your computer has a virus:
- Your computer runs slower than usual
- Programs crash frequently and unexpectedly
- You experience frequent system errors or pop-up messages
- You notice unusual activity like file deletions or new icons
- Your browser opens up odd pages or unwanted ads
- Your computer overheats or the fan runs constantly
However, these could also just indicate normal computer problems. The only way to confirm you have a virus is to run a virus scan.
Anti-virus software is designed to scan your computer and detect viruses. Most will quarantine or remove infections after detection. Running a scan can verify whether something malicious is truly lurking in your system.
How to scan for viruses
Here are the steps to scan for viruses on your computer:
- Install antivirus software if you don’t already have it. Some popular options include Avast, AVG, Malwarebytes, and Norton.
- Update your antivirus software and virus definitions before running a scan. This ensures it can detect the latest threats.
- Disconnect from the internet before starting a scan. This prevents any infections from spreading.
- Run a full system scan. Most antivirus software has a “Scan” button or option.
- Remove any infected files. Your antivirus will prompt you to delete or quarantine detected viruses.
- Reconnect to the internet once the scan finishes.
- Schedule regular scans to stay protected. Set your antivirus to scan weekly or daily.
Your antivirus software will scan memory, system files, registry, drives, and boot sectors. It searches for patterns indicative of viruses, worms, trojans, spyware, and other malware. Most antivirus software today has real-time protection that constantly monitors for threats too.
If your scan detects an infection, your antivirus should quarantine the file so it can no longer run or damage your computer. However, you may need to delete the infected file altogether to eradicate the threat. Your antivirus will alert you if manual removal is required.
How to remove a virus manually
In some cases, a virus scan won’t completely remove an infection. You may have to take additional steps to delete the virus files and undo the system changes. Here is how to manually remove a virus:
- Enter Safe Mode to disable other processes. Restart your computer and press F8 before Windows starts loading to access Safe Mode.
- Delete infected files. Check the virus scan report and delete any remaining infected files. Backup important data first.
- Edit the registry. Some viruses make registry edits to run on startup. Carefully remove any questionable registry keys.
- Restore system settings. Viruses often change system configurations. Undo any recent settings modifications.
- Update your antivirus software and run another scan. This verifies that the virus is completely removed.
- Change all account passwords. Viruses frequently steal passwords and login credentials.
Manual virus removal can be complex. Make sure you feel comfortable editing the registry before making changes. If not, a computer technician can safely perform these steps for you.
How to prevent viruses
Preventing viruses from ever reaching your computer is the best defense. Here are some key tips:
- Install antivirus software – Use a reputable antivirus program and keep it updated.
- Avoid suspicious links/attachments – Don’t click on links or files from sketchy or unknown sources.
- Update your software – Apply the latest security patches which fix vulnerabilities.
- Use strong passwords – Unique passwords prevent hackers from spreading infections.
- Back up data – Back up critical files regularly in case your system gets compromised.
- Be wary of public Wi-Fi – Use a VPN when connecting to unsecured networks.
- Disable macros – Block Office macros to avoid infection through documents.
Practicing safe browsing and computing habits goes a long way in keeping viruses off your devices. But occasional scans are still required in case something slips through. Catching infections early allows you to remove viruses before they cause too much damage.
Virus Removal Software
Antivirus and anti-malware programs are essential for scanning for and removing viruses. Here are some top-rated virus removal software tools:
Malwarebytes is one of the most popular malware removal programs for Windows and Mac. It specializes in catching viruses and major threats that standard antivirus software can miss. Malwarebytes performs deep scans to detect rootkits, trojans, spyware, ransomware, and more sophisticated infections.
- Threat detection and removal
- Ransomware protection
- Real-time scanning
- Free and premium versions
Norton is a household name in antivirus software. Their virus removal capabilities are top-notch. Norton can scan your computer and mobile devices for existing malware. It also has features to block future virus infections.
- Real-time threat monitoring
- Advanced ransomware protection
- Firewall and email scanning
- 100% virus removal guarantee
AVG offers excellent virus detection paired with extra PC optimization features. Beyond just antivirus scans, AVG can also boost your computer’s performance. There is a premium version, but the free antivirus still provides comprehensive malware protection.
- Real-time security updates
- Scans for performance issues
- Blocks suspicious downloads/links
- Lightweight design
Any of these virus removal tools should protect your devices and rid infections. Run regular scans with your chosen software to be proactive against viruses.
Professional Virus Removal
For severe virus infections, you may need professional help removing the virus and repairing your computer. Options include:
Computer Repair Shop
Take your computer to a local repair shop for hands-on virus removal. Technicians have the skills and tools to safely delete infections and undo system changes. This is the quickest way to get a badly infected computer cleaned.
Geek Squad from Best Buy offers computer repair and virus removal at many retail locations. Their technicians make house calls or you can take your device to a store.
Online Virus Removal
Remote computer repair sites like Support.com allow you to connect and get expert virus removal help online. This is convenient if you can’t travel to a repair shop.
Professional virus removal averages $100-$200 depending on the severity of the infection. Software-based removal costs much less, but may not fix every issue.
Recovering from Virus Damage
Even after removing a virus, your computer can still suffer lingering damage and instability. Try these tips to recover after an infection:
– Run a complete system restore to revert your computer to an earlier healthy state before the infection.
– Wipe your hard drive and reinstall Windows if necessary to eliminate any remaining virus traces. Be sure to backup your data first.
– Replace compromised files with clean versions from a backup or installation media.
– Uninstall and reinstall damaged applications that are behaving oddly.
– Reset browser settings to remove unwanted changes from browser-hijacking malware.
– Change all account passwords that may have been compromised by keyloggers or information-stealing malware.
– Update your operating system, software, and security tools to patched versions without any known vulnerabilities.
– Avoid accessing sensitive accounts like online banking from the infected computer until it’s fully restored.
With time and patience, you can overcome a virus attack and get your computer back into proper working order. But prevention is still the best medicine – be proactive about scanning regularly before an infection can take hold.
Viruses can sneak onto computers in many ways and quickly escalate into major problems. Catching and removing infections early is critical. Use reputable antivirus software like Malwarebytes and Norton to scan for and erase viruses before they can spread. Be vigilant about performing full system scans weekly. Avoiding suspicious links and downloads keeps many threats off your computer in the first place. Backup important data regularly as well. For severe infections, professional virus removal services may be required to fully decontaminate your computer and restore stability. With the right preparation and software tools, even the worst virus damage can be undone.