You just logged onto your computer, and you realize it is taking longer to load than usual. It finally finishes booting up and you’re now logged into your computer, but then you realize your programs are coming up slow; your internet is taking forever to load, and maybe your mouse cursor is not even in focus. Well, it might be that you may have tried to open a lot of programs at one time, or it could be that you inherited a malware virus. (This post has been updated with current links)
What is Malware?
Malware is abbreviated for malicious software. This software is a program that was made to gain access to your computer without you knowing it. Once it is loaded on your computer the malware can cause a lot of problems with your computer, like making it run slow, causing frequent crashes, added annoying pop-up’s that are begging you to click on them, and so on.
The malware was originally created for pranks and experiments but has now ended up being a way for hackers to gain access to your computer and cause havoc with your system.
The most common way hackers like to infect your computer is using exploit kits; this is a software kit that is designed to run on web servers with the sole purpose of gaining access to your computer system where it will rummage around your files looking for software, browsers, and operating systems that haven’t been updated in months.
You can get these through a variety of ways like through adware, spyware or spam in emails along with visiting the infected website.
So if you’re wondering how to tell if you have a Malware virus on your system continue reading and I will go over some signs to watch out for, ways to get rid of Malware, and how to avoid getting the malware in the first place.
Here are some signs that show that your PC is infected:
Your Computer is Running Slower:
Malware is known for slowing down your internet speed and the speed of different programs on your computer. Lots of things can cause a computer to be slow. You could be using too many programs at the same time, or you may have a lack of memory, but if those two things are not the problem then you may be infected with malware.
If your computer has been slowing down for a while now check out my article on Why computers run slow where you can learn how to speed up your computer for Free.
You Have Constant Pop-Ups:
One of the most well-known signs of a malware infection is having pop-ups show up when you are browsing the internet, or right when you log on to your computer, boom there they are. These unwanted pop-ups on your computer are usually a form of spyware which is a malware that is indented to spy on your system and gather information.
The pop-ups are not too difficult to remove from your system with the right software which I will discuss later on here.
Your Computer Keeps Crashing:
If your computer is crashing on a normal basis, it may be a sign that you are infected. But if it started crashing just after you installed new hardware or downloaded some new software it might be an incompatibility issue with the software or hardware. If you have not done any of that then it is time to look into running some software to find out if there is malware on your system.
And get rid of it before it does too much damage to your files. As you know if your computer is crashing it is a warning that your computer is not acting properly and that you should look into it.
You have New Unknown Icons on your Desktop:
Now if you log on to your computer and notice that there are unwanted icons on your desktop that you did not put there, this is another sign that you may be infected with malware. You could have downloaded some new software from a site that turned out to be bad.
Which the software was loaded with the malware virus, which you had no idea of it at the time, well this is where the extra icons came from. So when downloading any software, you want to make sure it is a reputable site that you are downloading the software from.
Should this happen to you, you will want to go into your programs and features and uninstall the bad program or programs from your system. After doing that it would be a good idea to also run an anti-malware program to clean out any other things that might have been installed in the background.
You Received a Ransomware Note: A Real Bad Form of Malware:
Another obvious sign that your computer is infected with malware is when you get a pop-up message saying that your file has been encrypted, and you have to pay a ransom to get them back. This is a whole different form of Malware and needs to be looked at in detail, so to learn more of what this is and how to protect your files from it take a look at my article on Ransomware.
How do We Get Rid Of Malware
Now that you know how to tell if you have been infected with some malware it is time to get rid of it. Below are some steps to take to remove any and all malware from your system. This will be fairly painless 🙂
First step: Boot into Safe Mode:
It is a good idea to do any repairs to your system in Safe Mode. While you are in Safe Mode only the important programs will be loaded and hopefully, the malware does not load with them. (If it does no worries, it just takes longer) Entering into Safe Mode is going to make it easier and faster for the malware program to remove the unwanted files.
Now to get into Safe Mode you will want to enter into the command prompt, this is done by right-clicking on the windows icon in the lower left corner of your screen. Once you’re at the command prompt you want to type in “msconfig” and hit return.
This will give you a window with options, on the top menu bar select “boot” on this page select “Safe boot” which is right below Advance options. Click OK, you will be asked if you want to restart now or later, whichever you choose the next time you restart your computer it will restart in Safe Mode.
Once you have finished the repair you will want to do this procedure again and uncheck the “Safe boot” and restart your computer. This will work for Windows 7, 8.1, and 10.
Second step: Delete your temporary files:
Deleting Windows temporary files should speed up the process of removing the malware, so how do we do this, simply type in Disk Cleanup in the search bar of Windows and you will be brought to a Disk Cleanup box, select your drive and click OK. Once that has completed, move on to the third step.
Third step: Download a malware program:
Now it’s time to download a good malware program, I know you’re saying that I already have antivirus software running on my computer, why do I need another one? Well as good as they are at catching viruses, with millions of them floating around the internet it’s hard for them to be 100 percent efficient at all times. So what we need now is a software program that is intent on finding malware and one that you can run on-demand.
Here is a list of some of the top free scanners, starting with Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool, Kaspersky Virus Removal Tool, Malwarebytes, and BitDefender Free Edition. There are others out there but these are the ones I have used and any one of these will do the trick.
You can run more that one of the on-demand scanners just in case one doesn’t seem to catch the bug, you just don’t want to have more than one antivirus program running in the background, they will just conflict with each other.
If for any reason you are not able to connect to the internet on the infected PC, you can download the software on another Computer and save it to a USB drive and then install it on the infected computer. After you have the program installed on the computer disconnect it from the internet and get ready to run the malware scanner, which is the next step.
Fourth Step: Running Malwarebytes:
I choose Malwarebytes (Click here to see Review) to use as an example because it is the most popular malware scanner in use these days and one that I use all the time. Once you have the program downloaded and followed the installation process it’s time to run the scan.
Once your program opens you will notice a black menu bar on top with four choices to choose from, you want to click on the “Scan” button, from there select “Threat Scan” (this is recommended) and then click “Start Scan”.
It’s now time to take a break while the scanner does its thing; (if you need to you can continue using your PC) this could take up to 30 minutes, it’s all depending on how full your hard drive is. Once the program has finished it will show the results of what was found, if there are threats, make sure they are selected and click the “Remove Select” button. Now if it asks you to restart your system to complete the removal, then, by all means, do that.
If the scan didn’t come up with any malicious threats, and you still think that there is something on your computer you can run the custom settings, or even try one of the other programs that I mentioned above.
If none of that works and there still seems to be a problem you might want to re-install your Windows Operating System by typing in “Reset this PC” into the search bar. This will take you to the Reset this PC window where you are given three choices; you want the first one “Reset this PC”.
Now keep in mind you will not be able to keep any software or programs that you have installed on your PC, but you can keep all of your data files. Just follow the instructions carefully and be prepared to spend a few hours doing this.
Fifth Step: Fixing your browser:
One of the things malware likes to do is to change your setting on your browsers, causing them to be redirected to a different home page. What you want to do is to go into settings of your browser and make sure that your homepage is set to the page you want. If it does not then change it to the one you were using before this happened.
Things you can do to help prevent Malware:
- Make sure Software is Updated: By keeping your Operating system, software, browsers, and plug-ins updated with current security patches will help in preventing Malware. So if you get a notice from one of these asking to be updated, it is in your best interest to do it as soon as possible because, for the most part, they are updating for any security vulnerabilities in their software. Even with your cell phones, if there is an update for them you will want to load the new update as soon as possible.
- Click-to-Play Plugins: Browser plug-ins like Flash player or Java which are by default set to run automatically when you visit a web page are ways hackers can infect your computer. For more protection, you can go into the settings of your browser and change these to be disabled until you specifically tell them to play (click-to-play). This will stop them from playing automatically when you visit a site that has been infected with malicious advertising. (Malvertising is small pieces of code hidden inside of an ad that will redirect your computer to a criminal’s server which will then load the malware on your computer). Keep in mind you don’t want to go around clicking on everything.
- Uninstall Old Programs: If you have any old programs that you don’t use anymore it is a good idea to remove these because they more than likely have not been updated with current security properties. Therefore they are an easy target for a hacker to install the malware.
- Log out of Websites: After you’re done visiting your site (any site that you have an account to and have to log into) it is good practice to log out, especially if you are using a public computer or a public wireless connection. Just closing the browser window doesn’t always mean that the site you were on will be closed out.
- Emails: Hackers love to use emails to get their virus to your computer, cell phone, or tablet. Be diligent when reading an unknown email, if it looks at all suspicious, it probably is. Your bank or even the IRS will not try to contact you via email, so look at your emails carefully before you click on anything.
- Antivirus software is up-to-date: Whatever antivirus software you are using whether it’s a free version or paid, you want to make sure that it updates its database on regular basis. And it would be a good idea to have an anti-malware software, either one that you run weekly or one that runs in the background with your antivirus software, this will help catch the ones that slip through your antivirus software.
- Safe Browsing: Take care in where you are visiting on the internet, if a site looks shady, unknown, unfamiliar, or anything else, then stay away. Be careful of visiting sites recommended to you on Social Media sites, hackers love to entice you to visit them.
Knowing What Malware is Will Save you a lot of Headaches:
I hope you now have a better idea of what malware is, how it can affect your computer, and how to avoid them. Being educated on Malware is going to be your best defense in preventing hackers from gaining access to your computers and causing havoc with your systems.
Knowing all of this will help you in stopping malware from infecting your computer 90 percent of the time, there’s just no way to be completely safe from these attacks because hackers are constantly coming up with new malware viruses and implementing them before antivirus software companies can prevent them.
Do you Have any Question or Comments About Malware?
If you are still having problems or you have questions, please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below, I’m here to help, and I love hearing from my readers.
If you would like, take a moment and share with us your experience with malware or any problems you have encountered with your PC.
Looking forward to hearing from you.