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What to do if you think you have a computer virus

Hackers design malware for a variety of reasons, which can include everything from disrupting your system to stealing your information. The following explains what you should do if you get a notification saying that you have some type of infection or if your system is just working slower than usual and you think that a virus may be to blame.

If you don’t have antivirus protection, or if your protection is out of date

If you have noticed that your computer is running slower than usual, there is a good chance that a virus is causing the problem. This is all the more likely if either you have no protection or if you have not updated your protection in some time.

If your antivirus protection is out of date, you should update it immediately. If you don’t have an antivirus program on your computer, download one and run a scan as soon as possible. Check out our list of free antivirus options here In most cases, the software will identify and remove the problem, repairing any damage that has been done. If the software is unsuccessful in eliminating the problem, read the next section for additional steps you can take.

If the antivirus fails to remove a virus

If you think that the problem you are experiencing is caused by a virus but that your antivirus software isn’t detecting it, the best thing to do is to try another antivirus program. You can take a look at the programs that we think are the best here.

If the software you choose alerts you to a problem, use its scanning tool to eliminate the threat. If the program you have is not capable of handling the problem, uninstall it ant try another one.

Dealing with more serious problems

While some types of malware can be removed relatively easily, other types can pose greater challenges. Sometimes, viruses and other threats download new ones once they are in your system. This can require a more advanced approach to resolving the problem.

Once you have an antivirus program that is up to date, the next thing you can do if you continue to experience problems is to boot your computer in Safe Mode. This stops third party software from loading, which stops it from interfering with your antivirus. As your computer is booting, press the F8 key, choose Safe Mode, and press Enter. Once your computer has booted up, run the antivirus software again. Then restart your computer. In most cases, the problem will be resolved. (N.B. If you don’t see an option to start in Safe Mode after you press F8, restart again. This time, tap F8 repeatedly as soon as your computer begins to boot up.) While your antivirus may run without internet access, if you do need it in Safe Mode, choose the Safe Mode with Networking option during the boot up process.

Should this not work, the next option is to try booting from your antivirus rescue CD or USB stick. When you boot into one of these options, your antivirus has the opportunity to work in a clean environment. The virus remains dormant throughout the process, making it even easier for your antivirus to remove the threats.

As a last resort when none of the above options help, or if the damage that the virus or other malware did to your system is beyond repair, you can typically revert your computer to its factory state. Check the user’s manual that came with your computer to find out which button you need to press during the reboot process to access this option. You may have also received a Windows installer disc that makes it easy for you to reinstall the operating system. This option is absolutely a last resort, as it will wipe out all of the files you have stored on your computer. Be sure to back up anything that you want to keep before you execute this option.

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