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How to Remove Computer Viruses Like a Pro

Last Updated on February 15, 2021 by hilary bird

High-speed Internet isn’t just a luxury anymore, for most it is an indispensable way of life. And while having fast access to quality Internet service at low prices can definitely enhance your life, it also opens your computer up to attack. If your computer isn’t performing like it used to — it’s slow, glitchy, or filled with pop-ups — you might have a virus. No one wants to hear that news, but getting rid of a computer virus is easier than you think. With the simple steps outlined below, you can get rid of the problem on your own.

It’s Easier to Remove a Computer Virus Than You Thought

Step One: Don’t ignore the problem. Even if the virus seems to only be affecting one part of your computer, the offending program will likely still be working to get at your personal and financial information behind the scenes. If you don’t remove the virus, you’re at risk of identity theft or devastating data losses.

Step Two: Stop the damage. As soon as you suspect that your computer is infected, stop the virus from wreaking more havoc by putting your computer in safe mode. Safe mode limits program and data accessibility to allow users to diagnose issues, and it can even keep some viruses from launching after a reboot. Here’s how to put your computer into safe mode.

Accessing Safe Mode on Windows 10

  • Click the “Power” tab on the Start menu.
  • Hold the Shift key and click “Restart.”
  • On the screen that loads, select the “Troubleshoot” option, and then click “Advanced Options.”
  • On the new screen, there should be a “Startup Settings” tab. Click that, and then click “Restart” in the lower right corner.
  • When the computer restarts, you should be shown a black screen with white text, including options like “Safe Mode” and “Safe Mode with Command Prompt.” Select “Safe Mode with Networking.”
  • From there, the computer should finish booting in safe mode. When you log in, be sure to use an account that has administrative rights.


Accessing Safe Mode on Mac OS

  • Restart your computer.
  • As soon as the startup noise plays, hold the Shift key until the Apple® logo appears.
  • Once the logo is on the screen, the computer will finish booting into safe mode on its own. Make sure you log in with an admin account.

Step Three: Delete temporary files. This will help speed up virus scanning and can even get rid of some downloaded files.

Deleting Files on Windows 10

  • Go to the Start menu.
  • Type “disk cleanup” into the search bar and choose the Disk Cleanup application when it appears.
  • In the “Files to delete” box, check “Temporary files,” and then click “Okay.”

Deleting Files on Mac OS

  • Apple® computers regularly clear out unneeded temporary files, so users shouldn’t need to manually remove that temp data. Adware apps that don’t get cleared off automatically can be moved to the recycle bin and deleted in safe mode.

Step Four: Run a scan (or two). Whether you have a PC or a Mac®, you can use antivirus security software to run a complete scan of your hard drive. This will identify any viruses or malware infecting your computer and help you get rid of them. All you need to do is open up your antivirus program — whether that’s McAfee®, Norton™, or the standard software that came with your computer — locate the “Scan” button, and wait for the program to examine your computer. When the scan is complete, the software should have located any malicious programs.

After you’ve run a scan with your antivirus software, download an on-demand malware scanner, like Malwarebytes, to detect any malware your installed security software missed. Follow the directions to download and install the scanner, then run the “quick scan” option. This cursory scan should take between five and 20 minutes, while a full scan can take up to an hour.

Step Five: Remove infections. After each scan, you should get a report of the infections that were identified. If the results don’t automatically appear, look for some sort of “Scan Results” tab. Each program works differently, but in most cases the biggest threats detected should automatically be selected for removal. Just to be safe, you’ll want to review the entire list of found programs and select any additional items that you want taken off your machine. Once you’ve chosen the programs to remove, click on the “Remove” button and the security software will get rid of the dangerous files.

Step Six: Keep it clean. Once you’ve successfully cleaned up your computer, keep it free of viruses and malware. Scan your computer and update software regularly, as updates usually include security patches and improvements designed to target new viruses and other malicious software. It’s also a good idea to regularly change passwords to sensitive accounts to reduce the risk of future attacks.

If you’re having a hard time handling a virus on your own, don’t hesitate to reach out to a specialist for help — there are plenty of third-party PC repair companies, and Apple® offers fairly comprehensive support for Mac® computers.

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