• Norm McLaughlin

Malware & Virus Removal

Updated: Nov 14


computer virus removal
Help! I've Got a Virus!

In the years since Norm's Computer Services (originally Norm's Computer Repairs) was launched in 2016, I've assisted numerous clients whose computers have been infected with a virus or some other form of malware. In most cases the clients had no idea how their computer had come to be infected. Let’s take a look at what you can do when your computer has a virus.


How Do You Know When Your Computer’s Infected With a Virus?


There are various symptoms indicating the presence of a computer virus or some other form of malware in your computer. Following are a few of the most common ones I’ve come across.

  • Your computer is running very slowly

  • You have unexpected windows popping up

  • You're unable to connect to the internet

  • Your computer has started talking to you and giving you warnings

  • Your computer's behaving strangely in some other way

These aren’t the only symptoms of malware or a virus. In general though, if your computer is behaving unusually then you just might have a malware issue.


I remember once battling with a strange issue with an iMac. This particular computer could connect to secure sites on the internet (ones beginning with https), but not to insecure sites (http). I checked the network settings and configuration of the iMac. I logged in to the router, checked the configuration there, and I looked at the other devices on the local network in the household. Wherever I looked, everything was configured correctly. As a last resort, I ran a malware scan on the computer. Within a few minutes, infections had been detected and removed. It turned out that the unusual behaviour of the computer had been being caused by the presence of a virus.


How Does Your Computer Become Infected?


There are different means by which computers become infected with malware and viruses. In some cases you’ll know right away that you’ve been infected, whilst in other cases you may not notice any immediate symptoms. An example of the former is when you’ve clicked on an attachment in an email and received a chilling pop-up telling you that the files on your computer have been encrypted. Ransomware is one of the most crippling forms of malware as you may not be able to recover your files even after the virus has been removed from your computer.


In general, malware can be introduced to your computer primarily via email, as just described, or by visiting websites laden with viruses, or by installing malware-ridden software. In my experience with local clients, most malware is introduced when unnecessary software is installed inadvertently.


When downloading and installing software from the internet, particularly freeware, you will often be prompted to install additional software during the process. Most of us just keep clicking Next through the installation process without reading what’s displayed on the screen. Unfortunately, by doing this, you can end up with unwanted software you didn’t even realise you’d installed. I’ve come across numerous clients who had no idea that they’d installed certain software which had then led to the problems they were having.


How Do You Remove Viruses and Other Malware From Your Computer?


There are two main methods for the removal of malware and computer viruses. The first is to scan the computer using reputable anti-malware software which should be able to locate and remove any malware present. You may already have an antivirus product installed on your computer which, for whatever reason, has been unable to detect and remove the malware. For this reason, it may be necessary to use alternative products in order to remove the malware.


The second method for malware removal is to reinstall the computer’s operating system. This is a surefire way of eliminating any malware affecting the operating system.


Malware Removal Software


There are numerous anti-malware products available on the market, many of which are available on a free trial basis. My own preference when using this method is to run malware scans using three separate products together. By doing so you’re not relying on a single antivirus product to resolve your issues. Using three products in parallel means that you’re more likely to root out the issue. It’s also quite likely that one or more of the products will detect the same malware.


Following are the three products I use when scanning for malware.

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Malwarebytes: This by far my preferred product

and if you only use one malware scanner this would be the one I would choose. Malwarebytes is available free on a 7-day trial, or you can subscribe to it in order to take advantage of its ongoing real-time protection. It's currently priced at just $5 a month, or $59.99 a year for one computer.


For the purpose of a one-off malware removal, the free trial is adequate. Malwarebytes does an outstanding job and provides thorough malware and spyware removal.


When running a scan using Malwarebytes I would recommend going to the Security Settings and enabling the Scan for rootkits option, as well as the option to Use expert system algorithms to identify malicious files. Enabling these options will result in the most comprehensive scan possible.

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SUPERAntiSpyWare: This product identifies and removes malware, spyware and ransomware. Once again you can use the free edition for a one-off scan. The software specialises in unique and hard-to-find malware and can identify and remove instances of all sorts of malicious threats, including malware, spyware, adware, trojans, worms, ransomware and lots more.


If you'd like to have ongoing, real-time protection from SUPERAntiSpyWare, the Pro X edition is priced at $39.95 (USD) a year for one PC.

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Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit: This product is described by its makers as cutting edge technology for detecting and removing the nastiest malicious rootkits. A rootkit is malicious software that is extremely difficult to spot and very difficult to remove. It’s for this reason that I also like to run a specialised anti-rootkit scanner, even though this functionality is also included in the other two products.




As far as the practicalities go, I would normally install each of these products on the computer in question, and update them with the latest versions of their databases, then boot into safe mode in order to actually run the scans. This means that there will be less processes and services running in the background which could potentially interfere with the functioning of the scanners.


After booting into safe mode it’s a good idea to run a disk cleanup prior to running the scans. This will reduce the time required for the scans, and may even free your computer of some malware right away. For a really thorough removal procedure you can also run RKill prior to launching the scans. RKill is a program developed at BleepingComputer.com which attempts to terminate known malware processes so that your malware scanners can then run and clean your computer of infections.


You can run the three scans in parallel, or one after the other. Once all three scans have finished you can then boot the computer back into its normal mode and check to see if it now appears to be operating normally. If desired, you can run one or more of the scans again, either in the normal mode or in safe mode. If running a scan in the normal mode, just make sure that any installed anti-virus software is disabled for the duration of the scan, otherwise it may interfere with the cleanup.


Malware Removal by Reinstallation of Windows


The most failsafe way to remove any malware or viruses from your computer is to erase your hard drive and reinstall Microsoft Windows. This will result in a 100% clean installation of Windows. You may, however, want to keep some or all of your existing files. If this is the case, you can either back them up to external media or cloud storage prior to erasing your hard drive, or just reinstall Windows without erasing the drive. If you do need to preserve your files then you should run a malware scan after restoring them to your system, just in case any of the files themselves were infected. You can use Malwarebytes on its own to accomplish this.


Conclusion


Whichever method you’ve chosen to remove the malware from your computer, it should now be functioning normally. Upon completion of the process, you can either uninstall the anti-malware products used, or you can choose to upgrade to the full version of Malwarebytes or SUPERAntiSpyWare. The full versions will give you ongoing, real-time protection. Personally, I prefer to rely on the built-in protection in Windows 10 provided by Microsoft Defender Antivirus, and to use one-off scanners as and when required.


If you're looking for assistance with computer virus removal in Brisbane, Logan City or the Redlands, please don't hesitate to get in touch. I also offer a range of other computer services in Brisbane and aim to provide some of the best computer services available locally. I cover a wide range of suburbs and I come to you with no call-out fee. Whatever's going on with your computer, Norm's Computer Services is on hand to help you out.

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