I think I have a Virus – What Should I Do?

Before doing anything, make sure you actually have a virus. Did your anti-virus software alert you to something? Or is your computer acting differently than normal? If you have an alert from your anti-virus software, is it giving you any indication that the threat was quarantined or removed? Very often you might download an infected file, but your anti-virus software catches the threat, moves it to a secure location so it can’t impact any other files, then saves it there until you decide to delete it.

If your computer is just acting differently than normal, that may not be a virus-related issue. Signs that indicate you have a problem include your other operating system (Windows or otherwise) alerting you to the fact that your firewall has been turned off, or your anti-virus software no longer appearing in your system tray or Start menu. Viruses often turn off anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall software upon arrival.

Before you do anything else – back up your files! Do you know when the last time you backed up was? Don’t wait for a problem to arise before doing a backup. That’s equal to waiting until your car has a major problem before changing the oil.

When someone tells me their computer has a problem, I always ask when the last time they backed up was. There are only two possible answers that are good in this scenario:

  • I just backed up today/yesterday/this week
  • I don’t store any files on the computer

Any other answers mean you need to back up, and quickly.

If you’re confident that your files are in a safe place, now you can get to work.  First, if your anti-virus software is running, can you find the name of the virus, trojan, or worm? (Viruses, trojans, and worms are all different things. However, for the sake of this discussion, you can use the terms interchangeably). If your anti-virus software is not running, use a online anti-virus anti-virus scanner like Panda .

Once you have the name, search the Internet for it. Does a site like Symantec offer a Removal Tool? If so, read the directions and all documentation first. Then, download the removal tool, reboot into Safe Mode by pushing F8 before you see the “Windows” load screen, and run the Removal Tool.

If you can’t find the name of the virus, any information about it, or anything else – you may need to format your computer and reinstall Windows. It’s not very complicated, but make sure to contact a professional for help.