AVG Signal Blog Security Viruses How to Get Rid of a Virus & Other Malware on Your Computer

A virus or other malware infection can steal your personal data, damage your devices, and wreak all kinds of havoc. Whether you have a PC or Mac, you need to remove the virus immediately.

Unlike what many people think, Macs can get malware just like PCs. And while there are fewer viruses targeting Apple computers, other forms of Mac malware are on the rise.

This article contains:

    How to remove a virus from a PC

    Whether you have a virus or another kind of malware, the following steps will help you get rid of the virus immediately and repair your machine.

    1. Download antivirus software

    There are two main types of antivirus software that can detect and remove computer viruses and malware: real-time and on-demand. A real-time malware scanner scans for viruses in the background while you’re using your computer. An on-demand scanner, like Microsoft Defender, has to be turned on every time you want to check for malware.

    For full virus and malware protection, especially against new and emerging threats, install real-time malware scanning and removal software like AVG AntiVirus FREE, which offers stronger protection than the standard tools you get from PC manufacturers.

    2. Run a virus scan

    After installing your antivirus, you need to scan your computer for any malware by running a full virus scan. A comprehensive scanner like AVG’s will search your computer for any malicious code hiding in Windows. Simply open your antivirus app and select Scan or Smart Scan.

    3. Delete or quarantine infected files

    After scanning your PC, your antivirus software will let you know if any malware is found. Follow the steps to remove the virus or put any infected files to quarantine.

    AVG AntiVirus FREE will easily remove the virus and prevent any future malware infections. AVG AntiVirus FREE easily removes viruses and prevents future malware infections.

    4. Restart your computer

    After deleting the infected files, restart your computer and your malware infection will be gone.

    More virus removal options

    If the steps above don’t get rid of the infection, you’ll need to scan your computer more thoroughly in case you have malware, like a Trojan to adware, lodged deep in your system.

    Enter Safe Mode

    First, restart your computer in safe mode, which is Windows’s basic startup settings with only your necessary files, programs, and drivers running.

    To enter Safe Mode on Windows 10, hold down the Shift key while selecting Power > Restart. After your computer restarts, select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings > Enable Safe Mode.

    Delete temporary files

    Next, erase your temporary files to remove any malicious apps or programs you may have recently downloaded that might be causing your malware infection.

    Here’s how to delete temporary files in Windows 10 while you’re in Safe Mode.

    Start typing Disk Cleanup into the search field on the Windows taskbar and select it when it comes up. Then, scroll through the list of files to delete and check the box next to Temporary files. Then click OK.

    Delete your temporary files to make it easier to detect the virus.

    Removing temporary files will get rid of any malware that recently entered your system — and it will help you speed up your computer, too.

    Schedule a boot-time scan

    If you can’t get rid of the virus after deleting your temp files, then the malware could be programmed to start when your computer boots up. In that case, you need to run a boot-time virus scan.

    A boot-time scan is an advanced antivirus feature designed to root out system-level malware before the operating system and other programs boot up.

    To run a boot-time scan, open your antivirus app and in the scans tab or in the settings, you’ll see an option for a boot-time scan. You should also see options about what to do with any infected files found during the scan: fix, move to quarantine, or delete. Choose your preferred setting.

    After you’ve set up your boot-time scan, the next time you restart your PC, your antivirus will automatically scan your computer for any threats. Note that boot-time scans can take a while, so your next restart will likely take longer than normal.

    How to remove a virus from a Mac

    If your Mac has malware, you need to get rid of it straight away. These steps will help you remove malware on a Macbook, iMac, Mac mini, or any other type of Apple computer running the macOS (formerly known as OS X) operating system.

    To learn more about the Mac threatscape, check out our in-depth Mac security guide. Otherwise, if you’re noticing suspicious activity, here’s how to get rid of malware on your Mac:

    1. Install the latest macOS update

    Updated software often includes patches that plug security vulnerabilities in previous versions. The latest version of macOS will have the most up-to-date anti-malware protections.

    To update macOS, click the Apple icon in the top left of your screen, select About this Mac, and then click Software update. If an updated version of macOS is available, follow the steps to install it. After installation is complete, restart your computer and that could fix your malware problem.

    2. Use a specialized Mac antivirus tool

    The best way to make sure all malware is found and removed is to use antivirus software to scan your Macbook for viruses and malware. An anti-malware app will detect and repair malware infections on macOS, OS X, and other versions of Apple’s operating system. Here’s how to remove Mac malware with a specialized Mac virus scanner.

    To begin, download AVG AntiVirus FREE for Mac.

    After the download is complete, click on the installation file to install it. Then, open the app and run a Mac scan.

    Running a Mac scan in AVG AntiVirus FREE to remove a virus.

    If malicious software is found, follow the on-screen instructions to delete the Mac malware.

    Completeing malware removal with AVG AntiVirus FREE for Mac.

    And that’s it. Your Mac malware problem is fixed, and AVG AntiVirus FREE’s non-stop protection against new and emerging threats will keep your computer protected against viruses and malware in the future.

    3. Uninstall suspicious apps

    If you have the latest OS installed and are using dedicated antivirus and your malware problem persists, you should look more closely at certain apps and programs.

    If the virus infection started around the time you downloaded new software, that new software may be responsible for the problem. Although the Apple App Store vets apps, malware can sneak through. And if you downloaded anything directly from a developer’s website, it could also contain malware.

    Here’s how to get rid of suspicious apps on your Mac to root out a malware infection.

    Open Finder > Applications and find any suspicious apps (apps with strange names or programs you don’t remember downloading yourself). Right-click on the suspicious app and choose Move to Trash.

    Removing suspicious apps to help remove malware from Mac.

    Now click on Go in the top navigation menu and choose Go to Folder. Find the folder associated with the app you just deleted and drag it to your Trash.

    Removing digital leftovers from possibly malicious apps in macOS.

    Finally, right-click on your Trash and select Empty Trash to make sure the suspicious file is completely removed from your computer.

    4. Remove harmful browser extensions

    Browser extensions are a common malware vector. If your web browser’s settings have changed and you’re seeing things like a different homepage, new toolbars, or tons of ads, you may have a browser hijacker or adware infection. Removing these unwanted browser extensions can help get rid of a malware infection.

    Remove browser extensions from Safari

    To get rid of malware in Safari browser extensions, open the Safari menu and choose Preferences.

    Opening up Preferences in Safari.

    Choose Extensions in the top navigation and look for any browser extensions that you don’t remember installing.

    Removing browser extensions in Safari to assist with Mac malware removal.

    Choose the extensions you don’t need — and which may be malicious — and click Uninstall.

    And check out our guide to managing your Safari pop-up settings, which can help you minimize the risk of inadvertently getting malware from a risky ad or pop-up.

    Remove browser extensions from Google Chrome

    If you use Google Chrome on your Mac, here’s how to remove browser extensions in Chrome in case they’re concealing malware.

    Open Chrome and click the three vertical dots in the upper right of the browser window. Select More Tools > Extensions.

    Opening up More Tools and Extensions in Google Chrome.

    Choose any extensions that may contain malware or that you don’t need and click Remove.

    Removing extensions in Google Chrome to help remove malicious software.

    To avoid malicious browser extensions altogether, use a browser with built-in security and privacy that will block malicious extensions automatically.

    What is a computer virus?

    A computer virus is a type of malicious software that infects a computer and borrows its resources to self-replicate and spread. Computer viruses inject their own code into programs or files and can take a variety of malicious actions, including corrupting or erasing files and stealing sensitive data.

    How do computer viruses spread?

    Computer viruses spread by self-replication. Once inside your computer, they make copies of themselves and spread via infected email attachments, poisoned macros, or malicious links. A virus might email itself out to all your contacts, who then unwittingly send it on to all their contacts, and then their contacts’ contacts, causing exponential spread.

    Email is one of the most popular malware delivery methods, which is why email security is critical. Viruses and other malware can also spread through file sharing and software bundles. When you download an app from an unreputable source outside Apple’s App Store or Google Play, it can come packaged with malicious software or bloatware.

    Malware also spreads through vulnerabilities in outdated software. Many software updates are released to plug security holes. If you don’t update your software regularly, dangerous hackers can exploit the vulnerabilities in old software to gain access to a system and spread malware.

    How to tell if your computer has a virus

    To see if your computer has a virus or other malware, look for abnormal behavior, suspicious files or downloads, as well as the following signs of virus infection:

    • A very slow computer

    • Unfamiliar programs or apps

    • Different settings that you didn’t change

    • Corrupted or erased files

    • The sound of your hard drive in constant action

    • An incessantly loud computer fan

    • An overheating computer

    • Frequent crashes, freezes, or other unusual behavior

    Any one of these symptoms might be caused by a virus or a different kind of malware like spyware or a crytominer. If you’re experiencing two or three of them at the same time, that’s a strong indication that you’ve got a virus or may even have had your computer hacked.

    How to avoid viruses and malware in the future

    Malware prevention is always easier than malware removal. Here are some quick and easy things you can do to avoid downloading malware:

    • Install the latest software updates
      Software updates include security fixes. Update your software regularly to stay protected against the latest virus and malware strains.

    • Get an antivirus program
      Using an antivirus app will protect you against malware and viruses before they infect your computer. The best antivirus software also includes protection against malicious websites, phishing scams, unsafe downloads, and more.

    • Back up your data regularly
      Many malware strains, especially ransomware, can compromise your data. If you have a backup of all your data, you’ll be able to factory reset your computer without losing anything. Learn more with our complete guide to Mac ransomware.

    • Be wary of pop-ups
      Avoid clicking on pop-up messages, especially those that claim to have detected a problem with your computer. Pop-ups designed to scare you into downloading unsafe security apps are often just malware in disguise.

    • Watch out for strange emails
      Practice safe email practices, and don’t open emails from unknown or untrusted addresses. If you do happen to open one, do not click on any links and don’t open any attachments.

    • Use strong antivirus software
      A strong antivirus is your best defense in the fight against online threats. AVG AntiVirus FREE features powerful built-in technology to block dangerous downloads and malicious websites. And with round-the-clock software monitoring, you’ll stay protected against any suspicious activity.

    How to avoid Mac malware

    Mac malware is on the rise, but some Mac users are still far too cavalier about their online security. So here are some tips to avoid Mac viruses and malware.

    • Look out for fake Mac antivirus apps.
      Some Mac malware poses as antivirus apps, hitting your computer with scary messages about a problem with your Mac and prompting you to run a virus scan.

      If you click, you’ll actually download malware instead. This type of scareware might be called MacDefender, MacProtector, MacSecurity, or something similar.

      Don’t fall for this message. If you download something malicious from a website, quit your browser, go to your Downloads folder, and drag any items in there to the Trash. Then empty the Trash. And don’t visit the website again because it’s possible that it has been hacked.

    • Quit the infected app.
      If you think malware has already been installed on your Mac — especially if you’re seeing pop-up messages asking for your Apple ID or credit card details — quit the app or shut down the software that you think might be infected.

      Open your Activity Monitor and find the app in question — or search for the malware from the list of names above. When you’ve identified the malware, click the Quit Process button, and then quit the Activity Monitor. Finally, go into your Applications folder, drag the unwanted software into the Trash, and empty the Trash.

    • Keep all your software and apps updated.
      Make sure that your Mac is running the latest operating system and that you’ve installed any updates directly from Apple.

    • Use specialized Mac antivirus software.
      Just like with a PC, it is a good idea to equip your Mac with strong protection against malware. AVG AntiVirus for Mac is a free and comprehensive cybersecurity tool with real-time protection against malware and other security risks. And it’s updated automatically to safeguard your Mac against the latest online threats.

    Can’t I just use Windows Defender?

    PC users may be wondering if they can simply use Windows Defender, Microsoft’s built-in antivirus program, to stop malware. Although it’s improved in recent years, Windows Defender doesn’t offer as much protection as dedicated antivirus programs.

    Windows Defender, now called Microsoft Defender, has good malware prevention scores in independent tests, but it sometimes struggles with malware detection. In a 2021 test from AV-Comparatives, Windows Defender’s virus detection rate was much lower than most third-party security solutions.

    Defender also lacks adequate protection against phishing attacks, Wi-Fi threats, and unsafe websites (unless you use Microsoft Edge). Plus, Windows’s own updates have a history of introducing bugs that hamstring Defender’s protection abilities.

    Without dedicated antivirus software on your machine, Windows Defender will provide some protection for your PC. But to defend against the latest, most cutting-edge threats — those like zero-day attacks — we recommend AVG AntiVirus FREE, a comprehensive security suite that scores higher in AV Comparatives tests and provides more advanced features.

    Are my other devices safe?

    Any connected device is vulnerable to malicious software. While a traditional computer virus is unlikely to spread to mobile devices, Android phones and tablets are susceptible to mobile spyware, Android ransomware, and other phone hacking tricks.

    iOS devices are a bit more resistant to malware than Androids. That mainly has to do with Apple’s defenses, such as app sandboxing and security updates on all devices — but your iPhone isn’t immune to threats. Phishing scams, unsafe Wi-Fi networks, and identity theft can all plague iOS users. For more, check out our guide to the best security apps for your iPhone.

    If your phone has been acting strangely and you think there’s an infection, learn how to remove a virus and malware from your phone, or get an app that will do it for you:

    Get rid of viruses and malware the easy way

    Whether you want to learn how to remove a virus from a PC or get rid of malware on Mac, the easiest way is to use a robust antivirus program from a reputable developer. AVG AntiVirus FREE works around the clock to give you 24/7 protection while also having a light system load that won’t slow you down.

    Remove all traces of malicious software and stay safe against future infections and emerging threats. Download AVG today and join the world’s largest threat detection network.

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    Jonathan Lemonnier & Joseph Regan