How To Get Rid of a Virus on a PC
Viruses can affect your computer and cause serious harm when left untreated. You can take steps to protect and, when needed, rid your PC of viruses.
If you’ve ever had a virus on your computer, you know it’s anything but a fun experience. Depending on the virus, you could deal with minor annoyance or total loss of control. Not only is your computer running slowly, but you also have to worry about the safety of your personal information.
Viruses can infect many systems, but in this guide, we’ll focus only on PCs with the Windows operating system (OS). If you don’t know how to get rid of a virus on a PC, we’re here to help.
Some of these methods might not work for every virus, but they should help get most of them off your computer. If all else fails, there is one sure way to remove every virus from your PC, but it comes with a cost; we’ll get to it later.
What Is Virus and How To Deal With It?
A virus is malware designed to self-replicate and spread to other computers. It achieves this by infecting files or by embedding itself in shared programs. Once a virus has infected your computer, it can do any number of things, such as delete files, steal personal information or render your computer unusable.
There are a few different ways to remove a virus from your PC. You can use an antivirus program to scan your computer for viruses and remove them, use a bootable CD or USB drive to clean your computer, or manually delete the virus files.
Antivirus software is the most straightforward way to get rid of a virus on a computer. Many different antivirus programs are available, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Some popular antivirus programs are Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Norton AntiVirus, and Avast Antivirus.
Some viruses disable or block access to antivirus programs. If you already have antivirus software on your computer and can access it, update it and run a full scan. If it fails to find anything or if the problem persists after the scan, download, install, and run a different antivirus.
Most antivirus programs will schedule regular scans of your computer to ensure it stays virus-free. Some also provide active protection that constantly monitors your system for suspicious behaviors.
Antivirus Rescue Disk
If you cannot download or run antivirus software, you may wonder how to remove the virus from your computer using a different method.
Luckily, the antivirus companies also thought of that, and some offer a free antivirus rescue disk.
This rescue disk is typically an external drive or a CD that contains all the files and programs you need to remove a virus from your PC. Once you boot from the rescue disk, it will launch antivirus software that will scan your computer for viruses and remove them.
The advantage of using a rescue disk is that it removes viruses that prevent you from downloading or running antivirus software. Its disadvantage, however, is that it only eliminates viruses already on your computer without preventing new infections.
You’ll need a device that isn’t infected with a virus, a blank CD or USB drive, and an internet connection to create a rescue disk. Most antivirus companies offer instructions on how to do this.
The next step is to boot from the device and follow the instructions to scan and remove viruses from your computer.
Manual Virus Removal
If you were unsuccessful in removing the virus on your own but can’t get professional help just yet, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of options. There’s always a chance you can remove the virus manually.
The manual approach is only recommended for experienced users, as it’s easy to delete the wrong file and cause more problems.
To remove a virus manually, you’ll first need to identify the virus. You can use a program like Autoruns to see all the programs set to run when your computer starts up, a list that should include an infected file.
Once you’ve identified the virus, you can then try to delete the files manually. If you’re unsure which files are safe to delete, you can try Googling the name of the suspicious file and seeing if there are any guides on removing it.
Safe Mode can be helpful when manually removing viruses. Only the bare minimum of services are started when the operating system is in Safe Mode, which may leave the virus dormant, allowing you to safely remove it.
Microsoft provides simple and easy-to-follow instructions if you are unsure how to start Safe Mode on your Windows OS.
If you’re still using Windows 7 or 8, you should immediately upgrade since both operating systems are discontinued. Microsoft doesn’t provide any support, including security updates, making them vulnerable.
If you can’t get rid of a virus any other way, the last resort is to format your hard drive and reinstall Windows. Formatting will delete all the files on your hard drive, including the virus. It is a sure way to remove the virus, but it comes with a cost. Be sure to back up your important files before doing this, as you won't be able to recover them later.
All backup files should be placed on a separate media device because there is a good chance you will transfer the virus as well. Run all possible security tests and antiviruses before moving data back to your virus-free system.
If you still get infected through backup files, you should seek expert help or give up on getting those files back and do a complete system and external media device wipe.
To reinstall the Windows OS, you must create a bootable USB with Windows on it. Microsoft has a helpful instructional guide on how to do it. Just remember to format your infected hard or solid-state drive before reinstalling Windows.
When all other attempts to remove a virus from your PC fail, it’s time to seek professional help. Depending on the severity of the infection, expert virus removal can be expensive, but it is the most efficient option.
Companies that deal with PC security have a team of experts experienced in removing all types of viruses at their disposal. They’ll usually have the latest tools and software to remove the virus quickly and effectively.
When choosing a company to remove a virus, be sure to do your research. There are many scammers in this field, so you want to be sure you’re using a reputable company. You can check online reviews or ask people you know for recommendations.
How To Prevent Further Virus Attacks
Once you get rid of a computer virus, it’s essential to take steps to prevent further attacks. The best way to do this is to install an antivirus program and keep it up-to-date.
Many antivirus programs are available, so you’ll need to choose the right one. Some factors to consider are price, features, and ease of use. Remember that even top-tier antivirus software comes with a free plan that provides the best possible protection but limits the number of features available to you.
Once you’ve chosen an antivirus program, be sure to keep it up-to-date. Antivirus programs are only effective if they have the latest virus definitions, so be sure to install updates when they’re available.
The same goes for your OS and other software on your PC. Be sure to install all available updates, as they often contain security fixes that can help protect you from new viruses.
You should also be careful about the websites you visit and the emails you open. Many viruses are spread through email attachments or by visiting malicious websites. If you're unsure about a website, it’s best to avoid it. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. It’s always better to prevent an infection than figure out how to get rid of a computer virus.
Multiple tell-tale signs can alert you to the presence of a virus on your computer:
- Unable to start antivirus, or it’s stuck in disable mode
- Random apps or web browsers keep opening
- Extra toolbar on your web browser
- Unknown pop-ups keep appearing
- Slower the usual performance
- The PC keeps crashing or freezing
Viruses can go dormant, but they don’t independently go away. You’ll have to get rid of viruses on your computer by eliminating them.
The easiest way to remove a virus is to use antivirus software, but this is not always possible, and you may need to take more severe actions. You can check our “How To Get Rid of a Virus on a PC” guide for further assistance.
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