Does your PC behave unusually and problems are popping up out of the blue? Does your PC run more sluggish than normal? Are you receiving a bombardment with random advertisements and pop-ups? If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, your system may be contaminated with harmful malware, regardless of having an antivirus software. While some other common issues, like hardware problems, can be the culprit that is creating these irritating symptoms, the first precautionary measure would be to investigate your system for any harmful infectious and viruses. The following is step by step guidance on how you can locate and eliminate that pesky malware before further damage is inflicted.
1. Boot Your PC in Safe Mode
First and foremost, you must to remove internet connection from your system until you’re prepared to start cleansing your computer. This step further prevents any malicious software from damaging or exposing your personal files and information.
If you have any suspicion that malware has infected your computer, it is recommended start up your computer in Safe Mode. When your PC is in this state, just the minimum software and drivers needed to run your PC are used. This step is crucial as it allows elimination of infected files without much difficulty since said files should be inactive and disabled. If any destructive files are set to engage whenever Windows starts, booting up in Safe Mode might counter that effect – prevent infliction of damage and further infection.
Starting up your computer in Safe Mode was not a difficult task in previous versions of Windows. Unfortunately, Microsoft had decided to complicate the process for their users in the most recent Microsoft operating system, Windows 10.
How to enable Safe Mode for Windows 10 Start Up:
- Click the Windows Start Button at the bottom right and click the On/Off Switch. Next, while pressing the Shift button at the same time, choose Restart.
- When you get to the list of options, choosing Troubleshoot > Advanced Options, > Startup Settings.
- Then, click Restart on the bottom right, it will reboot your computer again. (I know… too much work for Windows 10… Thanks Microsoft.)
- Finally, there will be an ordered list of numbers with boot up selections; choose the 4th option, Safe Mode. Keep in mind if you need internet connection, you should opt for the 5th option, that provides Networking (Internet) along with Safe Mode.
Your computer should have a significant performance boost in this mode. It could mean either of the following:
- It’s possible that this indicates that your computer is infected with a virus or malware
- Or, your computer has numerous genuine software that are in your normal Windows startup sequence. Check out this post (#4) on how to disable programs from your boot sequence if you have that problem.
Those that have their computer equipped with an SSD most likely have a faster boot time either way.
2. Remove Temp Files with Disk Cleanup
While using Safe Mode, you would ultimately consider doing scan for viruses or malware. However, you should rid of your useless temporary files beforehand. With your unnecessary temp files gone, the malware scanning process will be sped up, you will have more storage room, and you may remove some of the easily detectable malware. Disk Cleanup can be accessed by clicking the Windows Start button then typing “Disk Cleanup” at the bottom inside the search box. Afterwards, your computer should automatically start cleaning out your temporary, extraneous files.
3. Take Control of your Internet Browser
Malware and other infections can hurt your computer’s programs and spread to your other files. Malware has some generic characteristics such as changing your internet browser’s set startup page to corrupt the computer, prevent from opening new pages or tabs, spam annoying ads, and mostly irritate you.
Instead of using your internet browser haphazardly, you should inspect your browser’s startup page and internet settings and locate anything that looks fishy. Those that use Firefox, Chrome, and Edge can check their settings by opening their preferred browser, and choosing the settings menu that either looks like “3-dots” or “3-lines” located at the top right.
- For Chrome users, find “Settings” and look for anything that looks unusual such as your Startup page or your preferred search engine
- For Firefox users, find “Options” and investigate your set Home Page
- For Edge users, find “Settings” and check out your specified pages that Microsoft Edge opens with and if your new tabs are looking different
For my Internet Explorer users:
- Right-click the Windows Start button and select Control Panel > Network and Internet > Internet Options
- Investigate your set home page and ensure that it isn’t an unusual, sketchy site
Keep in mind that you’re still doing all of this while your system isn’t connected to the internet to ensure that the malware doesn’t spread.
4. File Recovery for a Corrupted Windows
Sometimes virus scanner’s lack the capabilities to rid of powerful malware that packs a harder punch. You may find that your Windows Operating System doesn’t function normally. The fix for this is often time consuming and annoying, but you’re most likely going to have to wipe your storage and install a fresh copy of Windows. Assuming that you are still able to use your computer and it still has some functionality, the first step to reinstalling Windows is backing up or copying all your files. This is usually the most tedious process, but also straightforward. Depending on how much storage your hard drive or SSD has, you can either copy your files onto a USB flash drive for a smaller storage capacity, or an external hard drive for more data. In today’s technology-evolving world, it is recommended to go with the latter option so that there isn’t any worry about insufficient storage space. If neither appeal to you, you can always consider cloud storage as a cost-effective alternative.
Either way, the bottom line is that you back up your storage before you install the fresh copy of Windows. It is also important that copy your drivers because you won’t have internet after your fresh install to download the drivers again. If you’re having trouble getting Windows to boot up or it prevent from accessing your data, you can utilize programs like Recuva Pro or boot up software to get a hold of your data.
When you have all your file and programs backed up, install your fresh copy of Windows by using the CD that should have come together when you purchased your computer, or going to the Microsoft website and grabbing the Windows disc image that comes in an ISO File.
You can also opt to factory reset your system, depending on the computer you have because some do not have the feature. Factory restarts are usually enabled when your hit a specific key during the startup sequence, then follow the instructions that your computer provides on how to proceed with the factory reset. If there aren’t any directions to follow, you can find more information to proceed by searching your computer brand and model on Google, or your PC manual if you have one.
5. Computer Maintenance
An anti-virus software is essential to keeping your computer clean and protected. Some programs have subscription based payments but you can get sufficient security by taking advantage of some free anti-virus software out there. AVG or Avast are some of the best free anti-virus software on the market currently.
Cleaning your computer out and making sure everything is upkept is especially important when you’re looking to prevent malware or find and eliminate existing malware. Programs such as CCleaner help keep your system clean and provides excellent real-time maintenance tools. Check out our review of CCleaner here. The bottom line is that you should use any of the tools necessary to maintain your PC and in turn, prevent any malware from infecting your system.
Any backups that you have made before ridding of the harmful software should be processed through a virus scanner. The reason for this is so that you eliminate any traces of the malware and reduce the chance of your system getting infected again. Another option would be to just erase your previous backups and initiate a new one that does not contain malware or viruses.
Once you’ve made sure that any viruses and malware is eliminated, you want to check any places on your computer or websites that hold important information, including bank accounts, phone numbers, passwords, etc. Investigate your social media accounts and make sure they haven’t been infiltrated and tampered with. The best thing to do is make alterations to your passwords to everything as malware is powerful and cannot be underestimated when it comes to sensitive information. One can never to be safe.
Always maintain Window programs and make sure you always have the newest version of the software. There is a setting on your computer that allows Windows Updates to install new updates as soon as they come out ensure your computer stays up to date. Some may opt for an alternative option where the Window Update is downloaded but the user chooses whether it gets installed or not.
6. Run Anti-Malware Software
Anti-Malware Programs are powerful software that are more than capable of removing infections files and other programs from your system. In some cases, this is all you really need to rid of generic malware infections. Despite the fact that you already have an anti-virus software running (if you still don’t have one, you might not even need one at this point because some anti-malware programs include the capabilities of most anti-viruses) you want to use this tool in conjunction with your current anti-virus. Your problem in the first place was that your current anti-virus could not catch and eliminate the infection on your PC in time, so this is what I consider to be the big guns. There is not a single anti-virus software out there that is capable of identifying the countless variations of malware out there, so equip yourself with a powerful anti-malware software.
The most common types of anti-virus programs out there include:
- On-Demand Anti-Virus – The program examines your whole system or a specific program for any viruses or suspicious activity. You can either set it up to where it runs whenever you open a program, or manually with just a click of a button any time you want a scan
- Real-Time Anti-Virus – These bad boys operate behind the scenes and are always on the lookout for any lingering infections. These are my personal favorite as I prefer more of a “set it and forget it” toolset.
You can really have numerous on-demand anti-virus programs because some programs are able to catch what other programs miss and vice versa. However, you shouldn’t have too much for the sake of computer performance, on demand scans can be heavily resource demanding and slow for your PC. When it comes to your real-time anti-virus scanner, pick and choose your favorite one as it is not necessary to have multiple.
For computer infections, the necessary course of action would be to initially utilize your on-demand programs, immediately followed by a real-time complete system scan. Following these steps should provide you with the location of the infection and possibly elimination by the end of the scans. Our preferred anti-virus is Malwarebytes Premium 3.0 because it serves as both on-demand and real-time scanners. We run free on-demand programs such as Bitdefender or Avast alongside Malwarebytes for good measure.
7. Grab Yourself A Copy of Malwarebytes
This is our anti-malware program of choice because it serves as both an on-demand and real-time scanner. In this step-by-step example, we’ll use it’s on-demand features only. Also, we also love the other features that Malwarebytes offers in its premium package, such as advanced detection methods, anti-ransomware features, and more. If you’re interested in learning more, check out our review.
Start off by reconnecting yourself to the internet, if you haven’t already, so that you can follow along. Grab the free trial of Malwarebytes here , or if you have the premium version, skip the installation process and follow along. If you’re unable to reach the web or download Malwarebytes from your computer, grab it from separate computer and transfer it via USB to your PC. Now, once you’re finished installing the program, go ahead and disable your computer’s internet connection so that you can proceed with the scan. Do not scan until all connection to the internet has been turned off.
After you have downloaded Malwarebytes, go through the program’s installation process by following along the wizard. When you open the program, ensure that “Threat Scan” is selected then hit “Start Scan”. Make sure that you don’t continue until the program checks for any present updates.
It is advised to start with the threat scan before any of the other options since it adequately locates most, if not all, the malware within the first scan. Hyper Scans can last around 5 to 25 minutes depending on the specs of your computer and how fast it can run. Custom Scans, on the other hand, are around the ball park of 35 to sometimes more than 60 minutes, again dependent on your system. Malwarebytes provides a visual of the number of files that have been scanned through and the number threats it has detected.
Sometimes if the malware is extremely harmful, it will shut down Malwarebytes and won’t be able to be opened again. In this case, you most likely are dealing with malware that can disable scanners, and the best course of action against this malware is to reinstall Windows. You’re much better off this way because finding a rootkit (the assumed infection on your computer) is difficult without scanners. Again, if you haven’t already, backup your files and reinstall a fresh copy of Windows as it saves you both time and energy.
When Malwarebytes has finished your system scan, you will be able to see your diagnosis. If everything looks fine and dandy, but you aren’t convinced of the analysis, go ahead and run the custom scan along with your supplementary free on-demand programs. If the program located any malware, you would be able to see it in the results. When you do, hit “Remove Selected” to eliminate any of the eliminations found. This should be followed by a system restart to conclude the elimination routine.
The Bottom Line
Following the steps above demonstrate one of the numerous ways to rid of malware on your computer. To prevent yourself from going through another computer infection and enjoy your optimized system considering taking the subsequent actions:
- Keep your anti-malware up-to-date
- Regularly update your Windows OS and other programs such as Adobe
- Stay away from “bad neighborhood” websites
- Refrain from clicking any suspicious links
- Regularly scan your system
- Keep clean backups at all times
Be aware and be safe when surfing the internet. As long as Malware evolves, so does cybersecurity tools. Safety and speed go hand in hand when it comes to your computer.
A safe computer tends to be a fast computer!