You sit down to log onto your computer and it takes an eternity to boot. When it finally does, not only is your PC running slow but you notice some unfamiliar icons on your desktop. Or maybe when you open your browser you notice that the available screen area has shrunk due to additional search bars that you never installed.
If any of that sounds familiar, then your PC may be infected with a virus, spyware, or other type of malware. That’s the bad news. The good news is that scanning for, detecting, and ultimately removing malware is relatively easy to do and requires only a few steps:
Step 1: Download a Malware Scanner
There are a number of malware scanners available, but you need to make sure that you get an on-demand scanner. Some freely available on-demand malware scanners include:
- BitDefender (free edition)
- Kapersky Virus Removal Tool
- Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool
Once you download your malware scanner, install it and let it update so that it has all of the latest virus and malware definitions.
Step 2: Enter Safe Mode
Disconnect your PC from the internet and remove any CDs or DVDs and be sure to unplug any USB drives. Depending on what version of Windows you have, you will need to do one of the following to enter Safe Mode:
Windows 8 and Earlier
- Shut down your PC
- When you restart it, immediately begin pressing the F8 key repeatedly. This will bring up the Advanced Boot Options menu
- Select Safe Mode with Networking and press Enter
- Click the Start button and then click the Power button
- Hold down the Shift key and click Reboot
- On the menu that appears select Troubleshooting > Advanced Options > Startup Settings
- Click the Restart button
- On the menu that appears, select Safe Mode with Networking
When you enter Safe Mode, your PC will only load those programs and services that are absolutely necessary.
Step 3. Before you Run a Malware Scan
Before you run your malware scan there are a couple of things that you should do:
- Back up your important files, including documents, photos, videos, etc… Don’t back up program files, however, since they can often be hiding spots for malware infections.
- Delete your PC’s temporary files. You can find instructions on how to do that here.
Step 4. Run a Malware Scan
Open the malware scanner you installed in Step 1 and start scanning. While the scan is running, you will be able to see how many files have been scanned and how many (if any) have been identified as either infected by malware or as malware itself. Once the scan is complete, your malware scanner will let you know if any infected files have been found. Clicking the Remove Selected button (the actual name may differ depending on the scanner) to get rid of the infected files.
After any malware and/or infected files have been removed from your PC, restart your computer and let it boot up normally. You should confirm the results of your scan by running another full scan with a different malware scanner. Updating your OS, browser, and other applications is also a good idea, as is updating all of your passwords.