This guide explains hot to remove computer viruses including adware, spyware, and malware. It explains how to prevent reinfection, and how to do regular tuneups and maintenance in order to keep your computer running smoothly.
This guide is only for people using Windows:
- Such as Windows XP
- Windows Vista
- Windows 7
- Windows 8
- Windows 8.1
- or Windows 10.
This entire process should be completely free. At no point in this process should you pay any money or agree to any trials. All of these tools have a free option. They also have a paid option which usually comes with a free trial. Many of them will try to trick you into agreeing to a free trial of the paid version instead of using their free version. Be very careful never to select a free trial. Always stick with the free version.
These are the same tools professional technicians use while charging hundreds of dollars in labor. There is no actual cost for removing adware, spyware, or malware. Virus removal itself is always a free process. You pay for the time of the person doing it. If you can follow these steps and do it yourself, your time is worth those hundreds of dollars!
Also: If you don’t follow my directions here, you can mess up your computer or end up accidentally paying money for something that should be free. If you follow my directions, there should be no cost and no potential for damage. But I obviously do not accept responsibility for any damage to your computer or loss of information. If you feel unsure about a step in the process, send me an email! I’m happy to help. You can reach me at email@example.com
Step 1: Remove Viruses
Within the realm of virus removal tools, there are several categories. The biggest one is probably spyware which watches your activity and sells your information to third parties, then there is adware which shows you popups and ads. Third there is true malware which is the most insidious because it will often install other things like adware and spyware, or even more malware. Malware also includes things like Ransomware or Cryptolocker which encrypts your computer and holds it for ransom. We will need to use several tools together in order to effectively target all of these categories of viruses.
First, install and run THE FREE VERSION of Spybot Search and Destroy. When you click on “Download” under the words “Free Version,” you will go to another page where you will need to again look for the “Free Edition” button and NOT the free trial of a paid version. Install and run this program and let it remove anything it wants to remove.
Second, install and run THE FREE VERSION of Spybot Search and Destroy. When you click on “Download” under the words “Free Version,” you will go to another page where you will need to again look for the “Free Edition” button and NOT the free trial of a paid version. Install and run this program and let it remove anything it wants to remove.
Third, install and run THE FREE VERSION of SUPERAntiSpyware. This page uses the same tactics to try to get you to agree to a free trial of a paid version. Do not do that! Find the completely free version and download, install, and run that version only.
Fourth, we will install and run THE FREE VERSION of MalwareBytes. This is a very powerful and popular tool which focuses on heavier malware more than things like adware and spyware. Run it and let it remove anything it wants to remove.
At this point, we need to check in with our progress. If all three of these programs found and removed infections, we need to continue to heavier virus removal. If not, we can skip ahead to the next step, “Preventing Reinfection.”
This step is not necessary unless all three of the previous tools found infections. It is important to run those tools first, because they will almost always deal with all the issues. If all three of the previous tools found problems, then we need to use this heavier tool.
Note: this tool can sometimes cause issues with drivers and internet connectivity. Use it at your own risk.
The nuclear option in virus removal is called Combofix. It is also a free tool which is very effective at removing all kinds of viruses, but it can very occasionally cause other problems with the computer which may need to be fixed afterwards. These are typically small things that often correct themselves. Personally, I use this all the time and I know most of my technical friends do too, but it is important to say that using it comes with some risk.
Step 2: Preventing Reinfection
The best way to eliminate viruses from your life is to prevent them in the first place.
Things To Avoid:
Only use Chrome or Firefox to browse the web. Never use other browsers. They are slower and less safe. Internet explorer, Safari, and Edge have all been compromised regularly and they have a reputation for letting infections into your computer without even asking your permission. Using a safe browser makes it much easier to have better habits that will prevent infections.
Never download anything. This may sound extreme, but it is practical. As a student, I often need to view documents from professors. But there is almost always an option to preview the file without downloading it. Look for these kinds of options and avoid downloading anything under any circumstances.
If you must download something, check it before opening it. I love the free tool VirusTotal. Bookmark it! This is a simple website which lets you check any file for viruses. They will check the file with over a hundred different antivirus programs and then give you the results in just a few seconds. Any time I have to download something, I always use this tool to check it before opening it.
Avoid Disreputable Antivirus Programs. Norton and McAfee are the obvious examples. These old-fashioned programs cause far more problems than they solve. They are not effective at removing viruses, and they clutter up your computer with unnecessary resource-wasting garbage. Kaspersky Antivirus is a front for Russian spies. This is not a good tool to use, and has been banned by the US Government as it was recently used by the Russian government to steal classified documents. Read all about it in the news.
If you have a pattern of behavior that contributes to regular virus infections, then it is critical to have some kind of antivirus running all the time checking anything that is going on on the computer to make sure there are no infections. This is called a “Runtime” antivirus because it runs all the time. Personally, I do not use any runtime antivirus, and I never have any problems. But that is because I know how to avoid them. If you do have problems, you need a runtime antivirus to protect you.
The free tools we installed above are not runtime antiviruses. They run only when you click on them, not all the time.
If you have Windows 10, the antivirus which is built in is probably more than adequate to keep you safe from infections. If you’re not sure what version of Windows you have, you can hold down the Windows Key on your keyboard, and press the “Pause Break” key at the same time. A popup will appear that explains what version of windows you have.
If you don’t have Windows 10, you should probably use a runtime antivirus. This should always be free. You should never pay for any antivirus tools. Often times, that will just lead to them trying to sell you more things, and not giving you any better protection than you get for free. You can read reviews of the top free antivirus programs here.
Critical: you can not use more than one runtime antivirus at the same time. If you have Windows 10, stick with what it comes with. If not, pick one of the top rated free runtime antiviruses listed below. I recommend Avast.
Here are the current top three free runtime antiviruses according to PC Magazine:
Just like with before, make sure to only agree to the completely free version and not the free trial of the paid version. AVG will still keep trying to sell you the paid version forever. For that reason, I don’t recommend them, though they are the second most popular option.
Backup Your Important Data
Use a free service like Google Drive or Dropbox. They will make a folder on your computer where you can put all your important documents like photos and tax information. They automatically back it all up for you for free, and give you access to your data from their website. These tools will often also alert you if you get a serious infection on your computer which puts your important documents at risk.
In the future, if your computer crashes or is infected by severe malware, you will not lose your important documents. I can not stress this point enough.
Step 3: Regular Tuneups
This is the easy step. We should probably all be doing this once or twice a month, and always after any virus removal. This too should always be completely free and none of these tools should be paid for. Always click the free option and never the free trial of the paid option.
First, install and run CCleaner. It will remove any temp files, extra cookies, etc from your computer and help it to run faster and have more free space.
Second is THE FREE VERSION of Spybot Search and Destroy. We already installed this in the first step, but in case you did not, install it now. When you click on “Download” under the words “Free Version,” you will go to another page where you will need to again look for the “Free Edition” button and NOT the free trial of a paid version. Install and run this program and let it remove anything it wants to remove.
Last is THE FREE VERSION of MalwareBytes. This too was in the first step so you may have already installed it. Run it and let it remove anything it wants to remove.
Now your computer should be running smoothly and virus free!
If you have any questions, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m happy to help.