How to Get Rid of a Virus & Other Malware on Your Computer

Written by Oliver Buxton |
Updated on June 17, 2024

Does your computer have a virus or malware? Stamp it out fast before it spreads with the help of malware removal software. Learn how to remove viruses from your Windows PC, Mac, or laptop computer. Or install free virus removal software to remove malware automatically.

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    Signs of a computer virus


    To see if your computer has a virus or other malware, look for abnormal behavior, suspicious files or downloads, or frequent crashes. These red flags could indicate the injection of malicious code into your computer to corrupt or erase files and steal sensitive data. While not always caused by malware, being alert to these virus signs will help you detect an infection on both Macs and PCs.


    Here are some other signs of a virus infection on your computer:

    While computer viruses are a specific type of malicious software that infects a computer and hijacks its resources to self-replicate and spread, any of these symptoms might be caused by a different kind of malware, like spyware or a cryptominer.


    If you’re experiencing multiple signs at the same time, that’s a strong indication that you’ve got a virus or that your computer has been hacked. Running a scan with AVG AntiVirus FREE helps you find and remove harmful software in a matter of seconds.

    Get rid of a virus from a PC


    Whether you have a virus or another kind of malware on your laptop or desktop computer, use a virus and malware removal tool and follow these steps to scan for viruses and help get rid of malware on your PC:


    1. Download and install antivirus software


    There are two main types of antivirus software that can detect and remove computer viruses and malware:

    real-time malware scanner scans for viruses in the background while you’re using your computer.
    An on-demand scanner 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. AVG offers stronger protection than the standard tools you get from PC manufacturers, whether you’re on a laptop or a desktop computer.

    2. Run a virus scan


    After installing your antivirus software, you need to check your computer for any malware by running a full virus scan. A comprehensive scanner will search your computer for any malicious code hiding in Windows, and it will help you get rid of it. Open your antivirus app and select Run Smart Scan. If you have AVG AntiVirus FREE, you can easily set it up to scan your laptop for malware automatically.

    3. Delete or quarantine infected files


    After scanning your PC, your antivirus software will let you know if any malware is found and provide details about the nature of the threat and where it was discovered.


    Follow the on-screen instructions to remove the virus, or put infected files into quarantine where they can’t continue to spread or cause further damage.

    A screenshot of AVG AntiVirus quarantining and removing malicious files from a Windows PC.
    AVG AntiVirus FREE easily removes viruses and prevents future malware infections.

    4. Restart your computer


    After deleting the infected files from quarantine, restart your computer. Upon rebooting, your desktop or laptop’s malware infection should be gone.


    Not only does AVG AntiVirus FREE make removing a PC virus infection quick, easy, and stress-free, but its powerful anti-malware shields continue to silently work in the background, helping to keep you protected by constantly scanning to detect and block potential threats before they can impact your device.

    How to delete viruses from a computer without antivirus


    If the steps above don’t get rid of the infection, you may have a type of malware —  like a Trojan, adware, or rootkit — that’s designed to hide deep in your system. This will require manually scanning your computer more thoroughly to isolate and clear out any lingering traces of malicious code.

    Enter Safe Mode


    Restarting your computer in Safe Mode launches only your essential startup files, programs, and drivers.

    To enter Safe Mode on Windows 10 or Windows 11:


    1. Hold down the Shift key while selecting Power > Restart

    2. Select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings after your computer restarts.

    3. Click Restart again. After your laptop or desktop restarts, select 4 (or F4) to enter Safe Mode.

    Entering Safe Mode via the Startup Settings menu in Windows 10.

    Delete temporary files


    Next, erase your temporary files to remove any malicious apps or programs may have downloaded — this helps speed up your computer, too.


    Here’s how to delete temporary files in Windows 10 or Windows 11 while in Safe Mode:


    1. Start typing Disk Cleanup into the Windows taskbar search field and select it when it comes up.

    2. Select the drive you want to remove temporary files from.

    3. Check the box next to Temporary files and then click OK.

    Deleting temporary files in Safe Mode to help remove viruses on your PC.

    Schedule a boot-time scan

    Schedule a boot-time scan

    Still can’t get rid of the virus? You might have system-level malware that starts when your computer boots up. In that case, it’s time to run a boot-time virus scan.


    Here’s how to run a boot-time scan to check for a computer virus:


    1. Open your antivirus app and find the option for a boot-time scan in Settings or the Scans tab.

    2. Choose what to do with any infected files found during the scan — fix them, quarantine them, or delete them.

    3. Restart your PC, and your antivirus will automatically scan for any boot-up threats.

    Being able to set up a boot-time scan and access other advanced anti-malware tools is another great reason to get award-winning antivirus software like AVG AntiVirus FREE — but that’s just the start. Thanks to advanced features such as anti-phishing technology and a firewall to defend against network hackers, you can get comprehensive protection against an array of malicious online threats.

    Removing a virus from a Mac


    If your Mac has malware, it’s important to get rid of it fast before your security and privacy can be compromised further. The following 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.


    Here’s how to get rid of malware on your Mac laptop or desktop:


    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.

    Step 1

    Click the Apple icon in the top left of your screen.

    Step 2

    Select About This Mac from the drop-down menu.

    Step 3

    Click More info and choose Software Update.

    If an updated version of macOS is available, follow the on-screen instructions to install it. Then restart your computer to reboot it with the new OS. Your machine will now be much better isolated against malware breaches, and your original infection may even be neutralized.


    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 help 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:

    Here’s how to remove Mac malware with a specialized Mac virus scanner:


    • Download AVG AntiVirus FREE for Mac.

    • Click the file to begin installation and follow the on-screen instructions.

    • Open the app and click Run Smart Scan.

    • Follow the on-screen instructions to get rid of any malicious software found on your 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 continue to help defend your computer against viruses and malware in the future.

    3. Uninstall suspicious apps


    If your malware problem persists even after you’ve installed the latest OS and dedicated antivirus software on your Mac laptop or desktop, it’s time to look more closely at certain apps and programs. If the virus infection started around the time you downloaded new software, try deleting recent or suspicious apps to remove viruses masquerading as legitimate programs.

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


    • Open the Go menu, select Applications, and search for suspicious apps.

    • Right-click on the suspicious app and choose Move to Bin.

    • Right-click on the Bin and select Empty Bin to permanently delete the files.

    Removing unwanted apps from your Mac.

    4. Remove harmful browser extensions


    Browser extensions are a common malware vector. If your web browser’s settings have changed and you see 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 and clear viruses from your computer.


    Macs have a reputation for excellent device security, but they can still get viruses and other forms of malware. That’s why you shouldn’t leave it to MacOS to detect and block threats — by then it could be too late. With dedicated, Apple-approved protection like AVG AntiVirus FREE for Mac you can transform your MacBook or iMac into a digital fortress with powerful, round-the-clock protection.

    How to prevent viruses and malware in the future


    Malware prevention is always better than having to deal with malware removal. Here are some quick and easy things you can do to avoid downloading malware on your laptop:

    Install the latest software updates

    Software updates include critical security patches against known vulnerabilities. Update your software regularly to stay protected against the latest virus and malware strains.

    Back up your data regularly

    Many malware strains, especially Mac ransomware and other forms of ransomware, can compromise your data. Recent backups let you reset your computer without losing anything.

    Be wary of pop-ups and fake apps

    Avoid clicking pop-up messages, especially pop-ups designed to scare you into downloading malicious security apps posing as legitimate programs in order to hack your system.

    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, don’t click any links and don’t open any attachments.

    Use strong antivirus software

    The best antivirus tools, like AVG AntiVirus FREE, can thwart malware and viruses before they infect your computer, while defending against malicious websites, phishing scams, and unsafe downloads.

    Use specialized Mac antivirus software

    Use AVG AntiVirus for Mac — a free and comprehensive cybersecurity tool with real-time protection that’s updated automatically to combat 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 and the Microsoft Defender security suite have had good malware prevention scores in independent tests, but it can struggle to detect new and emerging threats. In a 2024 test from AV-Comparatives, Windows Defender’s overall virus detection rate was much lower than most third-party security solutions.


    Defender may also lack 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 level of protection for your PC. But to defend against the wide array of new and emerging threats, 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 device connected to an infected computer 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 thought to be a bit more resistant to malware than Androids thanks to 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 affect iOS users, which is why an extra layer of defense like AVG Mobile Security is so important. For more information, check out our guide to the best security apps for your iPhone.

    Lacking the same ultra-tight system infrastructure that gives iOS devices their formidable reputation for security, Android phones tend to be a more attractive target for mobile hackers.


    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 a dedicated mobile security app like AVG AntiVirus for Android to do it for you.

    Get rid of viruses and malware the easy way

    If you want 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 provides proactive threat protection, helps remove malicious software from your laptop or desktop computer at the click of a button, and keeps you safer against future infections and emerging threats. Join the world’s largest threat detection network today.

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    Get free malware protection for Android with AVG AntiVirus

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