Realizing your PC, Mac, or laptop might be infected with a virus or malware (malicious software) is worrying, but with careful and decisive action, removing a virus is quicker and easier than you might think.

How do I detect a virus on a Windows PC?

It’s not always obvious when your computer is infected. Some of the warning signs indicating that your PC or laptop might have a virus, Trojan, worm, or some other kind of malware are:

  • A very slow-running computer
  • Pop-up messages that appear out of nowhere and are hard to remove
  • Unrecognized computer programs launching on their own
  • The sound of the hard drive in constant action

Any one of these symptoms might be caused by a virus or a different kind of malware. If you’re experiencing two or three of them at the same time, that’s a strong indication that you’ve got a virus. That said, a lot of modern malware, like spyware and cryptominers, go out of their way to stay as hidden as possible.

To catch those, you’ll need to download an antivirus program now. You can download AVG AntiVirus FREE and have it running in just a few minutes. Antivirus programs come packed with scanners and other tools for finding viruses and malware, even if your computer isn’t exhibiting any of the symptoms.

If your PC or laptop does have a virus, take the following actions. (You’ll find Mac info at the bottom of the page.)

#1 Remove the virus

These steps should work no matter what kind of malware you have on your system. This procedure is as effective for Trojans or adware as it is for a run-of-the-mill virus.

Step 1: Enter Safe Mode

  1. Hold the Shift key, then restart your computer by opening the Windows menu, clicking the power icon, and clicking Restart.
  2. Your computer will restart and display a menu with several advanced boot options. Choose Troubleshoot.
    Reboot your Windows PC and choose "Troubleshoot".
  3. Choose Advanced Options.
    After selecting "Troubleshoot", you need to select "Advanced Options".
  4. Click Startup Settings.
    Under "Advanced options", you need to select "Startup Settings".
  5. Click Restart.
    Here you can restart your computer in Safe Mode so you can remove the virus.
  6. Press 5 to restart in Safe Mode with Networking, but keep your PC disconnected from the internet.

Step 2: Delete temporary files

While you're in Safe Mode, delete your temporary files using the Disk Cleanup tool:

  1. Go to the Start menu and scroll down to Windows Administrative Tools. Click it and choose Disk Cleanup from the drop-down menu.
    Here's how to delete your temporary files once you're in Safe Mode.
  2. Scroll through the “Files to delete” list, and choose Temporary files. Click OK.
    Delete your temporary files to make it easier to detect the virus.Deleting these files might speed up the virus scanning you’re about to do. Deleting your temporary files may even get rid of your malware if it was programmed to start when your computer boots up.

Step 3: Download a Virus Scanner

There are two types of scanners that can detect and delete computer viruses and malware: real-time and on-demand:

  1. A real-time scanner like AVG AntiVirus FREE scans for viruses in the background while you’re using your computer.
  2. An on-demand operating system scanner such as Microsoft Safety Scanner must be activated manually each time you want to scan.

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Using both types of scanner might be necessary to remove the virus. If you don’t have a virus scanner installed, this is the time to reconnect to the internet and download one.

Even if you can’t connect to the internet, you might still be able to download Microsoft Safety Scanner because you started up your computer in Safe Mode with Networking.

Step 4: Run a Virus Scan

Run the on-demand scanner first, then your real-time scanner. One of them should be able to identify the virus and remove it, but running both scanners increases your odds of success.

If need be, remove a virus manually

Some malware must be removed manually. You should only attempt this if you are experienced with using the Windows Registry and know how to view and delete system and program files. If you’re not sure, contact an IT expert who specializes in removing viruses.

#2 Recover or reinstall any damaged files or software

Assuming the scan detected and removed the virus, you might need to reinstall any files or programs that were damaged.

This is where backups come in handy, and we strongly recommend you make them regularly, at least once a week. That makes it easy to restore deleted files on Windows and Mac devices. For best results, make sure to get an external hard drive.

#3 Improve your defenses

Keep your protection up to date

Update your antivirus software to help protect your laptop or PC against all types of malware. It’s critical to keep your cybersecurity tool current because new viruses are being created all the time. Even if you bought your antivirus a month ago, it might need updating now. Check out AVG’s antivirus solutions — they install quickly and update automatically for effortless protection.

Make backups

Make regular backups of your files and store them on an external hard drive, with a cloud service, or both. This can help prevent the loss of important information should you get another malware infection. If you haven't been making backups, now is a good time to start.

#4 Take proactive steps to prevent another infection

Here are some quick and easy things you can do to avoid downloading any more malware again:

Icon_01Install the latest software updates for Windows

Icon_02Install an antivirus program

Icon_03Back up your data regularly

Icon_04Avoid clicking on pop-up messages that claim to have detected a problem with your computer

Icon_05Be wary of opening emails from addresses you don’t recognize, especially if they contain a link or an attachment

Getting rid of a virus or malware on a Mac

Many Mac users think they can’t get viruses, spyware, worms, or other malware. This isn’t true, even though there are fewer viruses and malware targeting Macs than there are for Windows PCs and laptops. We've got an in-depth guide to Mac security, but we'll give you a quick rundown here.

Some well-known examples of malware for Mac computers include:

  • MacDefender
  • MacProtector
  • MacSecurity

These names give the impression of being antivirus products, but they are all malicious and designed to fool Mac users into submitting their credit card or Apple ID account details. Do not download them.

The two main risks Mac users face are false alert messages and previously installed malware. If you see any kind of message while browsing the internet along the lines of “a problem has been detected with your Mac,” this is highly likely to be an attempt to get you to download malware. Instead, make the following tips part of your daily Mac habits.

  • Ignore the message. If you did download anything from the site, quit Safari (or whichever browser you’re using), go to the Downloads folder, and drag any items in there to the Trash. Then empty the Trash. Avoid visiting 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 / software you think might be infected. Open your Activity Monitor and locate the app in question, or search for the malware named above. When you’ve identified the malware, click the Quit Process button, then quit the Activity Monitor. Then go into your Applications folder and drag the unwanted software into the Trash, and empty the Trash.
  • Finally, make sure all your software and apps are up to date. Also confirm that you’ve installed the latest OS fixes and updates directly from Apple.

As with a PC, it is a good idea to add protection. AVG AntiVirus for Mac is a free and comprehensive cybersecurity tool that detects and blocks viruses, spyware, ransomware and other malware in real time. It’s updated automatically to safeguard your Mac against the latest online threats. AVG AntiVirus for Mac also helps you protect your family and friends — by detecting any PC or mobile threats hiding on your system, we’ll prevent you from accidentally infecting anyone else.

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