How To Remove Viruses And Malware
The introduction of new viruses and malware files is growing at an alarming rate. According to comprehensive reports from the anti-virus development company Kaspersky, more than 200,000 new viruses and malware files were released every single day in 2012. In Kaspersky's latest 2014 report, that number has skyrocketed to more than 325,000 new malicious files being released daily. This means that almost all Internet users will encounter dangerous files at least once while surfing the Web, using social media networks or working with email.
There is no foolproof way to avoid viruses or malware unless you choose to never use the Internet or install new software. Consequently, it's probably just a matter of time before you download or install a virus or malware program inadvertently. In most cases, a good anti-virus application or suite will save you a lot of hassle by detecting and neutralizing dangerous files automatically. However, if your PC has already been infected, cleaning and restoring the system may take a little more work. Some viruses or malware applications are easier to remove than others. But, just in case your PC contracts a really nasty infection, here are some steps you can take to help restore the computer and get it running normally again.
Isolate the Threat
If you notice that your computer is running sluggishly and suspect the system has a virus or malware application, disconnect from the Internet immediately before the malicious files can do further damage. If you have CDs, floppy disks, external hard drives, USB drives or other removable media inserted in or connected to the PC, remove or disconnect them immediately. Do not use the media with other computers until after you have had a chance to scan the media source for viruses or malware.
If the computer is part of a local network, disconnect the Ethernet cable or turn off the Wi-Fi adapter. Some viruses and malware files can travel easily across a network and infect multiple computers in a short period. Disconnecting the infected computer from the network will help prevent spreading the virus or malicious files to other connected PCs. In addition, disconnecting the computer from the Internet will help prevent sensitive data from being leaked if nasty spyware is on the machine.
Restart in Safe Mode
Ensure that you continue to keep the computer disconnected from the network and Internet, and then restart the PC in safe mode. When you boot the computer in Safe Mode, Windows loads only the most basic of programs and services needed to run the computer. If a virus, malware or spyware application is set to launch when Windows starts, booting the computer in Safe Mode may prevent the malicious file from running and give you a chance to remove it.
With Windows 7, booting the computer in Safe Mode is relatively simple. To boot a Windows 7 computer in Safe Mode, simply restart the machine and beginning tapping the F8 key as soon as you see the Windows logo or initial boot screen. After a second or two, Windows will display the Advanced Boot Options menu where you can select Safe Mode and continue booting the PC.
With Windows 8, though, getting into Safe Mode can be a little trickier depending on if you can boot the machine or not. If you are able to log in to Windows, hold the "Shift" key, click the "Power" button icon and then click "Restart." Once the machine reboots, Windows 8 will prompt you with a Troubleshooting Options screen where you can select Safe Mode.
If you cannot boot the PC to the login screen, try pressing "Shift+F8" as soon as the computer starts. With some systems, this key combination will take you to the Advanced Troubleshooting Options menu, which will enable you to boot the computer in Safe Mode. If the "Shift+F8" combination does not work for you, try rebooting the computer a couple of times until Windows prompts you to troubleshoot the computer automatically after failing to boot. When Windows displays the Troubleshoot menu, select "Advanced Options," "Windows Startup Settings" and then "Restart." After the machine boots, you will be able to select Safe Mode from the Advanced Boot Option menu.
Clean Up Temporary Internet Files
After you boot in Windows Safe Mode, you'll want to delete all of your temporary Internet files. Deleting the temporary Internet files will help virus and malware scans complete faster, free up hard drive space and may even get rid of a few nasty virus or malware files, as they were probably downloaded from the Internet in the first place. While viruses or malware downloaded from the Internet usually propagate or spread to other folder locations quickly, deleting the original files will help prevent future infections.
To delete the temporary Internet files on your computer, click the "Start" button, "Programs," "Administrative Tools" and then "Disk Cleanup." Select the "C" drive when prompted, and then click "OK." Wait a few seconds for the application to scan your computer hard drive for unneeded files ad display a new window. In the Disk Cleanup window, enable the "Temporary Internet Files" option, and then click "OK." Click "Delete Files" when prompted, and then wait a few minutes for the utility to finish the task. After the cleanup utility finishes, restart the computer again in Safe Mode. Note - When selecting Safe Mode, be sure to choose the "Safe Mode with Networking" option so you can download or update your malware scanner application. At this time, you can now reconnect the computer to the router or Internet connection. However, disconnect all other computers or devices from the router or network before doing so.
Download, Install and Run Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
Now that you've deleted all of the temporary Internet files, it's time to start scanning for and removing malware files and programs. While there are many applications that can do this, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is simply the best one for removing the malicious files from your computer. Investing in the paid, or Premium, version of the program is the best way to go because it offers real-time monitoring and scanning. Nevertheless, for the purposes of removing malware already installed on your PC, the free version will work just fine. You can download the free version of Anti-Malware from the Malwarebytes website located here Malwarebytes downloads.
Once you download and install Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, update the definition patterns when prompted, and then run a complete system scan. Depending upon the number of files on your computer (and the number of malware or spyware programs installed,) the scan may take a few minutes or a couple of hours to complete. Just be patient while the scan runs, and then follow the recommendations when prompted to remove or quarantine any malware found. Restart the computer again in Safe Mode when prompted.
Download and Run a Good Anti-Virus Application
If you're lucky, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware will have removed all of the malicious files and applications on your computer. Since Malwarebytes is primarily an anti-malware and anti-spyware program, though, it may miss true Trojans or viruses on the PC. Consequently, you'll need to run a good anti-virus scanner to ensure that your computer is completely free from infections.
There are many excellent free and paid anti-virus applications available. Paid versions generally offer the benefits of real-time monitoring, anti-phishing and malicious website protection and other added security tools. Some of the best performing anti-virus suites we have reviewed include BullGuard, Avira, Kaspersky, ESET and Panda. For complete details on the anti-virus suites we recommend, please click here.
You can download free trials of any of the recommended anti-virus applications so you don't need to spend any cash up front. Alternatively, some relatively good free AV applications can help you out in a pinch. For a list of free AV programs we recommend, please click here.
Download and install the anti-virus application on your computer, and then follow the prompts to download the latest definition patterns for the program. Run a complete scan on the computer. A full scan can take an hour or two depending on the speed of your computer and then number of files on the hard drive. Follow the prompts to remove any found infections, and then reboot the computer. You may need to run the virus scan program several times to ensure the removal of all of the infected files. If the anti-virus program prompts you to restart the computer, select "No" or "Not at this time," and then use the process outlined above to restart the PC in Safe Mode.
Repair Your Web Browser
One of the surest ways to know if your computer has a virus or malware infection is if your browser's home or start page changes suddenly (and you know you didn't change it.) In fact, changing your browser home page is one of the most common traits of many malicious files. Removing the malware or viruses will clean and speed up your system, but it won't restore your browser's home page. Nevertheless, restoring your browser home page back to the site of your choice is relatively simple. Just click the "Settings" or "Tools" icon in your browser, and then look for "Options" or another similarly named menu link. In the Options or Settings window, you should see a "General" tab. On the General tab, you can change the start or home page to any site you choose.
Other Virus/Malware Related Problems
In many cases, running Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and a good anti-virus application will settles your malicious file woes. However, there are some really nasty malware or virus files that do more damage than removal tools can repair. Some malware or viruses can corrupt Windows system files, damage registry keys or create malicious processes that are very difficult to terminate. Fortunately, there are a number of specialty tools that can help you retake control of your computer.
Programs such as COMBOFIX, and HitmanPro are all excellent utilities that help you eradicate hard-to-remove Trojans or rootkits that most other AV or anti-malware utilities cannot even find. After removing all the viruses or malware from your computer, it's also a great idea to run RogueKiller to clean up and remove any malicious registry keys the bad applications may have left behind.
Preventing Future Infections
Once you finally finish the arduous task of restoring your computer and removing all the infected files, it's important to ensure the machine stays virus and malware free. The easiest way to do this is to purchase a Premium version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and a good AV suite such as BullGuard, Avira or Kaspersky. Installing these applications will make updates automatic and keep dangerous files off your computer - as the paid versions usually do an excellent job of detecting malicious files before they can do harm.
If you choose to go the freeware route, you can also make sure your PC stays clean by remembering to scan and update every day. Also, make sure you do manual scans of any files or applications you download before installing them on your computer. Also, never open email attachments or photos from people you don't know personally. Finally, avoid downloading unneeded files or photos from websites you don't trust fully or are unfamiliar with.