What To Do If Your Computer Gets a Virus

by Ryan Hinson | Illustration by  Brenda Vienrich

GCFLearnFree Computer Virus ImageComputer viruses can be dangerous and should be taken seriously, but there are ways to remove them before serious damage is done. Here are the basic steps involved in virus scanning and removal:

Install antivirus software. If you don’t already have an antivirus program, install one. Be sure only one program is installed; having more than one running simultaneously can cause significant problems.

Run a System Scan. Once you’ve verified that your antivirus program is running, begin a scan. If you’re unsure how to do this, review the documentation for your antivirus program, which usually can be found on the developer’s website. You’ll want to run the most thorough type of scan available, which is usually called a full system scan. This may take several hours, but you should not need to remain at your computer during the scan.

Review threats and recommended action. The antivirus program will notify you of discovered threats and recommend various courses of action. Generally, the recommended action for each threat is the best choice. If the antivirus is unable to remove a threat, don’t ignore it. Investigate how to proceed by searching online or contacting a professional.

Look for malware. Your antivirus program may be bundled with an anti-malware program. If it isn’t, you may want to install an anti-malware program and run a scan. This can help find any malware your antivirus may have missed.

If all else fails… If you are unable to remove the virus—or if your programs or operating system are damaged beyond repair—it may be necessary to erase the hard drive and reinstall your operating system and programs.

At this point, you may want to consider hiring a technical support professional, but it is still possible to do this yourself. If you perform a full reformat of your hard drives during this process, it is almost guaranteed to eliminate even the most dangerous viruses, but all data on your drives will be lost. This is why it’s crucial to keep regular backups of your data before your computer develops any significant problems. If you restore data from backups after reformatting your hard drive, perform a virus scan on the restored data to ensure it’s not infected.

 

Hinson is an instructional designer with GCFLearnFree.org, a program of Goodwill Community Foundation (GCF) and Goodwill Industries of Eastern North Carolina Inc. (GIENC). For more information, visit www.GCFLearnFree.org/basic-computer-skills