Da'gone Computer Viruses!
Ok, so you’ve managed to pickup a virus on your computer. Now what? How do you get rid of it? How do I really know that’s the problem on your computer? And what is a virus anyway?
Let’s get started.
What is a virus?
A virus is a manmade program or piece of code that causes an unexpected, usually negative, event. Viruses are often disguised games, screen pop-ups or images with clever marketing titles such as "Me, nude." The main goal of a virus is to infect your computer and duplicate itself by infecting other computers via email or file sharing. (That’s right. You can inadvertently send a virus to your contact list without even knowing it!)
Virus Removal Step 1
First remove any connection to the internet. That is, turn off your wireless connection and/or unplug the network wire from the computer. The reason for this is that sometimes a virus will want to connect to the internet in order to update itself or download even more nonsense with which to infect your computer.
Now, assuming you can boot your computer into Windows (i.e., get to your Windows desktop), the first thing you want to try is scanning your entire computer with your updated anti-virus (AV) application (You do keep your anti-virus updated, don’t you?). If your anti-virus is not updated, don’t panic. Usually the infection is something already known to your anti-virus software, and if it’s not, keep reading. The answers are on the way.
In the meantime, set the scanner to run and go for coffee. This may take awhile.
Virus Removal Step 2
After the scan finishes, open the scanner’s log to see if it indeed caught any new bad guys. If all goes well, you should see the offending culprits in the log.
Now let’s check if our scan really worked. Reboot your computer and see if that took care of the problem (Yeah, right!). If you boot your computer and you think there is still a problem (i.e. slow computer, pop-ups and the like), reboot your computer and go into “Safe Mode” (To get into the Windows “Safe Mode”, reboot and as the computer is booting press and tap your "F8 Key." You should then see the "Windows Advanced Options Menu.” Select “Safe Mode” by using your arrow keys and press your Enter key). Now, run the scan again and check the log. Anything? Reboot your computer normally back into Windows.
If the anti-virus application actually worked correctly, the computer should be virus free. That’s all good in theory, but in the real world it almost never happens. Why not? Well, there are no perfect solutions to the scourge of computer viruses. You can only try our best by using anti-virus software, keeping it updated and running scans. It‘s like using a sieve when filtering, that is, the smaller the holes in the sieve, the better the filtering. Yet, no sieve has holes that can filter absolutely everything. Eventually, something is bound to sneak through.
Therefore, in spite of your best efforts, a virus does get through, you must go to the next level of protection: defense.
Virus Removal Step 3
Let’s try an online scanner. How does this differ from what you have installed on your computer you may ask. Again, there are no perfect solutions. No anti-virus catches everything, not even the better rated ones. Online scanners give you the opportunity to use a product from another company that may catch what your product did not.
So, how does it work? First, reconnect your computer to the internet and head to one of the sites listed here. Simply follow the instructions on the web page. There are many more, but these are some examples that I use:
Virus Removal Step 4
More often than not, these online scanners do a great job of ridding your computer of bad guys. And when they don’t, it’s time to bring in the big guns. I hesitate a bit to share this information because, although it’s a great way to rid of viruses, this application MUST be used cautiously. It can actually destroy your operating system if not handled properly ( how’s that for a good scare ).
The biggest gun in my arsenal that I use when all else fails is called Combofix. Make sure to download it ONLY from the Bleeping Computer site. There are many fake versions of Combofix and these will definitely wreak havoc with your computer. And yes, it’s free!
After you start Combofix, you may get a message that tells you that your current anti-virus is resident and may interfere with the operation of Combofix. The best thing to do, is to turn off the resident part of the anti-virus until after Combofix has completed. Be prepared for Combofix to take awhile. DO NOT run ANY application or reboot/shut down your computer until it has COMPLETELY finished and the report shows on screen.
If using a tool like Combofix makes you nervous, GOOD, it should. Although, it is very good at cleaning up all kinds of viruses, if not used properly and carefully, it can ruin your Windows operating system.
To sum up
In general, computer viruses and the like are nothing to get excited about. Yes, you should get rid of them. But, you should also take caution to make sure they are truly gone so as not to continue to harm your computer and so they do not get passed on to others.
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