Fighting Off Viruses

cat2post3We all know malware is out there. Malware includes applications that spy on you, corrupt your data, destroy your hard drive or give control of your machine to someone thousands of miles away. No matter what form it takes, it’s bad business. And since there are a lot of examples of malware in the wild, it may only be a matter of time before you become the victim of a malware attack.

The most important advice we can give anyone who believes he or she has a computer with malware on it is this: Don’t panic. Also, don’t assume that you need to wipe your computer clean and start from scratch. Often you can remove malware without having to erase everything else. You may lose some data in the process, but you probably won’t lose everything.

First you need to determine if your computer has a virus at all. You might suspect your computer of having a virus if it seems to be sluggish. If your Web browser suddenly looks different or automatically goes to a site you don’t recognize, that’s a good indication that you’ve got some malware. If your computer is unstable and crashes fairly often, you may have a problem. And if you try to access files but receive a message saying they’re corrupted, that’s another sign.

If you do think your computer has a virus, you need to run antivirus software to weed it out. Some viruses disable antivirus software — they’re clever that way. If you don’t have any antivirus software, now’s a good time to purchase or download an application. A few malware variants will try to block you from downloading antivirus software. If that’s the case, you may need to download the software on another computer and transfer it to disk or a flash drive.

Detecting and Removing a Computer Virus

If one antivirus program is good, two is better, right? Wrong. Antivirus software tends to use up a large percentage of your computer’s processing power. Running more than one antivirus program will slow your computer to a crawl and possibly cause it to crash. And not all antivirus programs are compatible with one another, which can make your computer even more unstable.

Antivirus software is practically a requirement for anyone using the Windows operating system. While it’s true you can avoid computer viruses if you practice safe habits, the truth is that the people who write computer viruses are always looking for new ways to infect machines. There are several different antivirus programs on the market — some are free and some you have to purchase. Keep in mind that free versions often lack some of the nicer features you’ll find in commercial products.

Let’s start with the assumption that you’re able to run antivirus software — we’ll look into what to do if this isn’t the case a little later. Assuming your antivirus software is up to date, it should detect malware on your machine. Most antivirus programs have an alert page that will list each and every virus or other piece of malware it finds. You should write down the names of each malware application your software discovers.

Many antivirus programs will attempt to remove or isolate malware for you. You may have to select an option and confirm that you want the antivirus software to tackle the malware. For most users, this is the best option — it can be tricky removing malware on your own.

If the antivirus software says it has removed the malware successfully, you should shut down your computer, reboot and run the antivirus software again. This time, if the software comes back with a clean sweep, you’re good to go. If the antivirus software finds different malware, you may need to repeat the previous steps. If it finds the same malware as before, you might have to try something else.

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