How to Get Rid of a Virus from Your Computer
As the world becomes more interconnected, we increasingly run the risk of making ourselves vulnerable to attacks from hackers and viruses.
Getting a virus on your Mac or PC is stressful and worrying, but it’s also common and (usually) curable.
In this guide to removing malware from your hardware, we’ll look at:
- What are computer viruses and how they work
- How your computer can become infected
- How to scan for viruses
- How to remove viruses from your computer
- What happens when you reset your computer?
- Getting rid of a virus on a Mac
What are computer viruses and how they work
As we discussed in our guide to malware, a computer virus works in a similar way to a biological one - by infecting an unwilling host and contaminating it. And, like a biological virus, it can live within its host undetected, and (in some cases) mutate or spread.
A virus can lock your phone, PC or Mac; hijack your operating system (OS); or corrupt data. They are often created to blackmail the user, to source information or - in some cases - to piggyback on an OS to use its resources (increasingly common in the age of bitcoin).
A Trojan horse is malware disguised as something useful or harmless. It might take the form of software, be hidden in a file (an illegally downloaded movie, for instance) or - ironically - security software.
Spyware, as the name suggests, spies on your device. It might be trying to source sensitive information or security data, such as passwords. From there, the hacker can use this to access financial or personal information.
Malware is the catch-all expression encompassing viruses, spyware and ransomware (the latter holds your OS or data to ransom).
Rogue security software
This form of malware tells users there is a virus on their device, then sells them fake security software to tackle this. Unsurprisingly, this fake security software often contains malware.
How your computer can become infected with a virus
Like any virus, prevention is more effective than a cure. So, here are ways that malware and viruses end up on your device. Try to avoid the following:
1. Downloading infected software
This is an incredibly common way for malware to reach devices. If you’re downloading a program, software, game or anything else, make sure it’s from a reliable source. You can also run potential downloads through security software (such as spyware scanners) prior to accessing.
2. Accepting prompts without reading
In this case, users sometimes click on prompts (in pop-ups) that contain an unsupported or potentially infected link or window. If you don’t understand a prompt, avoid clicking it.
3. Opening email attachments
One of the oldest, and still most common, forms of spreading malware is via email. Thankfully, email has become smarter in recent years, filtering suspicious and spam messages. Still, be wary of attachments and links from uninvited, unexpected senders - even if they claim to represent the government or financial institutions.
4. Clicking on unknown links
Creating a website is relatively easy, especially for software hackers. What’s even more concerning is how new websites can mimic other, reputable ones. So be careful when visiting new links, especially if you don’t know the source that recommended it.
Not sure if your computer has a virus? Here’s how to check.
Here are the tell-tale signs that your device might have been subject to a malware attack…
- Device slowing down
- Apps crashing
- Computer freezing
- Excess popups
- Suspicious sounds (an unexpected fan whirring might be suggesting the hard drive is working harder than usual)
- Folders or settings locking you out
- Computer crashing frequently
- Battery draining faster than normal
If any or all of these symptoms appear, we recommend an urgent diagnostics check on your device. Here are the recommended steps…
How to scan for viruses on your computer
Running a virus scan is relatively straightforward. Thankfully, security software tends to be user-friendly.
- Download reliable antivirus software
- Follow the prompts to install and run the software
- Run the virus scan periodically
Unfortunately, if you’re too late in running a scan, you might fall victim to a virus.
If you detect a virus, here’s what to do…
How to remove viruses from your PC
- Disconnect from the internet
- Enter Safe Mode
- Delete temporary files
- Download antivirus (if you don’t have it already)
- Run a scan (see above)
Will resetting my PC help remove the virus?
Simply clicking “Reset” from your shut-down menu won’t remove the virus. It might also mean losing important data and files. So, back up these files if you want to keep them. You can do so by saving them to an external device like a USB or external hard drive or saving them on a cloud drive (like Google Drive).
Then, go to “Settings” and choose “Remove everything and reinstall Windows” if on PC. If you’re using a Mac it’s a little more complicated, but still doable. Follow these steps:
- Restart your Mac
- While restarting, hold down the action button (the “Apple” button) and “R” key simultaneously
- Instead of your usual login screen, you should see a screen called “macOS Utilities”
- Click on “Disk Utility”, then “Continue”
- Click on the startup disk symbol
- Then choose “Erase”
- You might then see “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” next
- Then click on “Erase”
Once it’s completed, you can return to the way things were by going to the “Disk Utility” menu and choosing the option to quit.
Getting rid of a virus on your Mac
Here is how to get rid of a virus on your Mac:
- Delete browser extensions: you can do this by choosing “Safari Extensions” from the top menu of Safari
- You’ll see a list of extensions. If any look unfamiliar, click “Uninstall”
- Next, go to your Applications folder
- If you see any suspicious-looking applications (ie, unfamiliar to you) delete them by dragging them into trash, then emptying your trash basket
- Repeat this step in your Mac’s library folder
We hope our guide will help you enjoy your digital life without fear of any viruses. Now you know more on how to stay safe online, dig deeper into what we call “The Internet of Us”.
Meanwhile, Clario develops cutting-edge antivirus software. We’ll soon be releasing our revolutionary cybersecurity software. We’re eager to help and support you, so stay tuned for more updates!
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