We all hope that our laptops, phones, and other devices are virus-free and – more often than not – do not take any precautionary action.
It’s understandable: many people think that modern computers are safe and protected from malware. You may even know that Windows 10 (and 11) has anti-virus software built in, which is always on the lookout for new bugs on the internet.
However, no security software can give a definite guarantee that it will prevent 100% of viruses.
If you think your PC or laptop has a virus, here’s everything you need to know about finding some and removing any found.
Windows viruses vary greatly depending on what they do. For example, they can prevent Windows from starting, so how to deal with the infection will depend on whether Windows is still loaded. But whatever situation you’re in, we’re here to help you remove that virus and get your computer working again.
Not sure if it’s a virus? Here are a few things that indicate malware is active:
- Windows is running unusually slow
- You’re seeing pop-ups you’ve never seen before (this could be adware)
- Programs that launch without you recognising
- You cannot access your files (this could be ransomware)
Note: if your computer To be infected with ransomware and you can’t access any other documents or files, then it might be too late. However, the point of ransomware is that you have to pay a ransom to get your files back. Never pay the ransom. Chances are, you still won’t get the decryption key needed to access your encrypted files.
Instead, try to uncover the ransomware’s name from any ransom messages that appear and then search online for free decryption tools for that ransomware. Usually, antivirus software manufacturers offer these for free, and you can download them from their websites.
How to remove viruses from Windows
If you have anti-virus software installed, run a scan. Even if you don’t have any software installed, Windows includes Microsoft Defender. This will scan on a schedule, but you can also right-click a file or folder in File Explorer and select Scan with Microsoft Defender.
Of course, you can install some anti-virus software at this point. You’ll find our recommendations for the best paid antivirus as well as the best free antivirus apps.
If the scan finds something, follow any on-screen prompts to deal with the infection. The options are usually ‘remove’, ‘delete’, ‘repair’ or ‘quarantine’ and may involve restarting your computer to completely remove the threat(s). Here we are using Norton 360 Deluxe.
If the scan does not detect anything, follow these steps carefully and in order, and do not reboot your machine until you complete every step:
- Some malicious programs will actively try and prevent you from deleting them. To combat thisownload and run rkill
- Download and install the free version of Malwarebytes. Launch the program, then go to Settings > Security > Scan for rootkits. Return to the dashboard and click Scan Now
- Install and launch Malwarebytes ADWcleaner, then click Scan. This searches for and removes adware.
This will find and remove the virus. And now you can use your PC as usual.
How to remove viruses when Windows is not working
If Windows won’t load so you can scan for viruses, you’ll need to create a recovery tool that you can use to boot your computer. For that, of course, you’ll need access to a second PC or laptop, and a USB stick that can erase any existing content.
One way to do this is to download Norton Bootable Recovery Tool
While Norton says it’s ‘easy to use’, that’s not really true. It is provided as an ISO file, designed to ‘burn’ to a CD or DVD. Not only do PCs and laptops lack DVD drives these days, no one has a writable CD or DVD lying around.
That’s why it’s easier to get a spare USB flash drive and use Rufus for free tool to copy the recovery tool to the drive and make it bootable. Full instructions can be found on Norton’s website, but here’s an overview:
- Navigate (on a working computer) to the Norton Bootable Recovery Tool file you just downloaded
- Launch Rufus
- Plug in the USB drive (at least 1GB capacity) and wait for Rufus to detect the USB drive
- This progress will delete all files on the USB drive, so copy any files you want to keep
- In Rufus, under Format optionsoption Create a bootable disk usingand choose ISO image from the drop-down menu
- Click on the CD Drive icon and navigate to the location of the saved NBRT.iso file
- Click Begin. Then click ALRIGHT
- After the process is finished, click Close
- Now, insert your recovery disc or USB drive into the infected PC.
Press the power button to turn it on, but instead of letting it try to boot Windows, you need to get into the BIOS menu. A key on your keyboard – usually F2 but you’ll see an on-screen message telling you which key to press – will allow you to open the BIOS.
Search for Startup options then set plate or USB drive as the first drive. The exact procedure is different as every BIOS is different, but it should be pretty obvious.
Save your changes and exit the BIOS. Your PC will now boot from the USB flash drive.
You will see ‘Welcome to the NBRT page’. Select Start, then follow the prompts to start scanning.
Once completed, you will be presented with any findings and suggested next steps. Make sure to ‘fix’ only real threats as your actions cannot be undone.
When you’re happy with your choice, click Fix and OK when prompted to confirm. Click Reboot when the process is finished
How to prevent your Windows computer from getting infected with another virus
The best way to prevent future infections is to make sure your computer is running up-to-date antivirus software.
Best antivirus software will protect you from malicious email attachments, but you should be careful not to open them unless you are sure of what they contain and that they come from a reputable source.
You should only download software from trusted sources, one of which is the Microsoft Store built into Windows.
When you’re browsing the web, double-check the site’s address to make sure it’s a real transaction and not a fake meant to steal your credentials or trick you into downloading malware.
See more tips to stay safe from ransomware.
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