You Have a Virus – Now What?

virus removal

If you are reading this, then the worst has happened.  Not the apocalypse, not Godzilla…no, something much worse, your computer is infected with MALWARE and you need a virus removal.

What is Malware?

First, let’s go over a few basics to help avoid some common mistakes.  All malicious computer programs are generically referred to as “malware”.  This is short for “malicious software”.  There are many varieties of malware that you’ve undoubtedly heard about including computer viruses, spyware, adware, trojans, worms, etc.  These are more specific labels that give clues about the intent and/or method of infection.  Many people aren’t aware of all the different categories of malware and it is very common that these terms are used interchangeably; if you want to sound smart to a computer tech, just call it malware 😉

Virus Removal

So now that we have clarification, let’s muddy the waters.  The generally accepted term for removing malware is a “virus removal”.  This refers to the process of removing the malware and repairing any damage it may have caused.

WARNING: Attempting virus removal without the help of a professional is at your own risk.  In some cases, your computer may become unbootable and you may lose all or some of your data.

Okay, so your first line of defense in a virus removal is to try to get your computer into safe mode ( this guide is for Microsoft Windows users ).  The easiest way to enter safe mode is to:

  1. Turn your computer all the way off
  2. Power it back on, and immediately begin tapping the F8 key at the top of your keyboard
  3. If you did everything correctly, you should see a list of options including “Safe Mode with networking”; choose this option.  ( Windows 8 users must follow a different set of procedures outlined here )Once in safe mode, look for signs of the virus BEFORE you attempt the removal process.  If you see pop-ups, weird messages, strange errors, or anything that looks like the virus ( aka malware ), then you need to stop and call your computer repair person.  If you have a clear desktop, you may begin using your antivirus software to remove the threat.  My favorite free tool is Malwarebytes, available at

When All Else Fails, Call a Computer Repair Professional

Sometimes the standard set of tools just isn’t enough and you need the help of a computer professional.  There is no shame in it – if everyone knew how to fix computers, I wouldn’t have a job, right?  So, part of winning the battle is knowing when it’s time to stop, pick up the phone and call a professional to remove the virus and hopefully save your data.

In many cases for a virus removal, your safest bet is at least place a phone call to a reputable local computer repair company.  The good ones will give you some free tips and be able to quickly tell you exactly what you’re dealing with.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Your best defense against malware is prevention.  Follow these tips to avoid infection and safeguard your private information:

  1. You’ll never win anything free online randomly.  Avoid clicking on any ads or pop-ups especially those that claim you have won something.  Most likely they will infect your computer with some type of malware including those that steal your private information.  To close pop-ups/windows without clicking on them, hold down the ALT key and tap the F4 key
  2. When on the Internet or when reading email, never click on anything you aren’t familiar with
  3. Neither Microsoft, HP, Dell, nor any other company, will ever call or email you and say “We’ve detected errors on your system, let us help you fix them.”  Only scammers make those calls or send those emails.
  4. Programs that you have never seen before claiming “You have been infected” or “You have X number of errors…” are in fact the malware and should not be given ANY of your personal information.  If you see these messages on your computer, begin virus removal or call a professional.

One final important note – if a computer tech says, “It looks like the virus is so bad that we have to reinstall Windows, that’s code for, “I don’t have the experience to fix this, let me do it the easy way.”  In VERY FEW instances, does virus removal require a clean installation of Windows.   If you are told you need this service, shop around a bit and at a minimum, get it in writing that your data will be preserved.  It’s shocking how many times I’ve heard “They re- installed Windows and now some of my data is gone forever!”  Many times that data is baby pictures of their child or grandchild that can’t be replaced.

Be safe out there folks!  There are literally tens of thousands of different computer viruses (malware) out there and their creators use every trick in the book to dupe honest people into clicking them.

Smart Computing provides virus removal, computer networking services, computer repair services and IT support services to residential and small to medium-sized business clients throughout the Fox Valley including Appleton, Oshkosh, Neenah, Menasha, Fond du Lac and surrounding communities.

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