How to Get Rid of a Computer Virus: 8 Solutions
The Russian hacking scandal during the 2016 US Election revealed much about the importance of having basic internet security protocols in place for all professional and personal computing. In what is called a spear-phishing attack, the 2016 hackers were able to access sensitive campaign information because a staffer clicked a misleading link in an illicit email from someone pretending to be from the email service provider claiming it was necessary to reset the password on the account. In an instant, hackers had access to the complete email account and more.
While these hackers did not need a computer virus in this case, one incorrect link is all it takes for a virus to be installed on your computer. A computer virus is a kind of software that, when opened, will reproduce itself inside your computer, altering the computer code in other programs that run on your computer. For example, one annoying virus from 1996 went through files randomly inserting the word “WAZOO” into text.
Viruses can infect your computers in all kinds of ways, but most often they come when hackers find bugs in computer software, exploit the vulnerabilities in your operating system (this is why you need to upgrade and update software), or through social engineering (like clicking a misleading link).
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to remove a virus from your computer. This list will tell you some ways on how to get rid of a computer virus, along with recommendations for how to avoid getting one in the first place:
1. Check and repair system files
Before you figure out how to get rid of a computer virus, you should determine if you actually have a virus. Some signs of an infected computer include the machine running very slow, seeing programs you don’t recognize running, hearing your hard drive working extra hard, and the appearance of annoying and hard to dismiss pop-up messages. If you are experiencing any of these problems, you probably have a virus.
One effective workaround when dealing with a computer virus is to use Microsoft’s System File Checker to check and repair corrupted system files. Checking may be able to find and repair the problem.
2. Call the company IT department
For work computers, if you suspect that a virus has infected your computer, it is important to contact your IT (Information Technology) department immediately. Most IT departments have a protocol for handling viruses. Moreover, company computers are often networked together, which means that the problem might only not be threatening your machine.
You may have an in-house IT department or you may be using a managed IT service provider for your company. Either way, contact them immediately. The sooner IT can intervene, the better.
3. Call your personal IT helper
If you paid for customer tech support from the store where you purchased your computer, you might want to try asking them for help first. Save this step for only if the task of removing the virus seems beyond your abilities. Beware also that many store provided tech support does not cover virus scanning and cleaning, which costs extra.
4. Restart in Safe Mode
If you are determined to fix the problem yourself, start by restarting the computer in safe mode. This will allow you to make changes to your computer in a “safe” way that keeps the virus from taking over.
To start in safe mode, restart your computer and press (or smash!) the F8 key the second you start to see something on your screen during start-up. This will open up a menu with Advanced Boot Options. Select ‘Safe Mode with Networking,’ then press Enter.
5. Clean up any temporary files
In Safe Mode, use the Disk Cleanup tool to remove all of the temporary files on your computer. You will this in the Advanced Boot Options by selecting Programs, then Accessories, then System Tools, then Disk Cleanup.
Look through the list marked Files to Delete list, and select Temporary Files. Once you’ve done this restart. This step might take care of any problems. To find out if this step worked, try scanning for viruses.
6. Scan for viruses
Most antivirus software companies want to sell you their software. To do this, many of them offer free online virus scanning. Sometimes they tell you everything that could be considered “wrong” with your computer so that they can sell you the solution. Think of virus scanning like a computer doctor diagnosing the problem. However, in that example, two different doctors might have different medical opinions. So, take any results with a grain of salt.
With that said, it is still useful to be able to identify some problem areas before proceeding. If you find an offending file, try removing it yourself in safe mode by finding in the temporary files, or locating the file on your hard drive.
7. Download and run antivirus software
Antivirus software can find and isolate the malicious files from a virus on your computer. Contrary to popular belief, you do not necessarily need to pay for antivirus software. There are a number of reliable free options available. To find the antivirus software that is right for you, consult the list of evaluations published by the respected German AV-TEST Institute to antivirus software.
It is important to remember that antivirus software does not make your computer immune to future infection. Antivirus software do not change the capacity of your programs to become infected. Many people use antivirus software that purports to block malicious files before they are downloaded.(This can be an annoying feature of software as it may prevent you from being able to download otherwise safe files that the software does not recognize.)
8. Restore or reinstall your operating system
One way to address the problems caused by a computer virus is to reinstall the operating system on your computer. You can do this in two ways. First, try restoring an image of the disk that has been backed up from an earlier time. This can remove usually removes any malicious files. If this fails, you need to undertake the longer process of reinstalling and reconfiguring your operating system from scratch.
Other virus tips & ways to avoid contracting a virus in the first place:
- Only open links or email attachments from people you know and trust.
- Make a habit of backing up all your important data to prevent data loss.