Adware, viruses, trojans, spyware, ransomware and rootkits are everywhere these days, and keeping our PCs free of malware is a constant struggle.
Regardless of how diligent we are at preventing malware infections they can still manage to make their way onto our hard drives and into our computers’ memory banks.
Once a PC is infected, ridding it of every scrap of malware can be extremely difficult. But it can be done. This post explains how, step-by-step.
The best way to be absolutely certain that you have completely cleaned your PC of malware is to wipe your hard drive and re-install Windows from scratch. The second best way is to restore everything from a known good system image backup that you created at an earlier time.
Sometimes neither of those options are feasible however, so we have to remove the malware with a little elbow grease (and a considerable block of time). Here is the procedure that I recommend:
1 – Boot your PC into Safe Mode with Networking. This post will explain how to do that. (It’s best to always make sure you are in Safe Mode when attempting to eradicate malware.)
2 – If possible (and it might not be), update your existing antivirus software and run a full scan, then remove any malware that it finds.
If you’re unable to update your existing antivirus program, remove it from the system and install the free version of Avast Antivirus, then run a scan with that (Avast is great, and I recommend it above all others).
3 – Load your favorite web browser and download the free version of Malwarebytes from this page. Install it and run a full scan, then remove any malware that it finds.
4 – Download and run Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit from this page.
5 – Download the free version of Spybot Search & Destroy from this page (scroll to the bottom of the page for the Download link). Run a full scan and remove any malware that it finds.
6 – Download and install the free Sophos Rootkit Removal tool from this page and run it. This tool does a very thorough job of detecting and removing rootkits (a particularly nasty type of malware).
7 – Load the Control Panel and click on the Uninstall a program link (in some versions of Windows it is labeled as Add or Remove Programs). Remove any toolbars that you do not remember installing at some point. With very few exceptions, toolbars are almost always malware. The same goes for pretty much anything with the word Search in the name. Remove those too while you’re at it.
8 – Download Autoruns from this page. Save the zipped folder to your Desktop, extract all the files, then click on autoruns.exe to run the program. Uncheck the box beside every process that you don’t want loading every time the PC is booted up.
If you are unsure about a process, right-click on it and click Search Online in order to find out what the process is and whether you should remove it or not. When you’re done, click File>Exit.
Note: Unchecking the box beside an Autoruns entry does not remove it from the hard drive. It simply keeps it from loading automatically every time the system starts up. You can always reverse the process by running Autoruns again and rechecking the box.
9 – This step is optional, but strongly recommended. At this point I would uninstall your PC’s existing antivirus software, then download and install the FREE version of Avast Antivirus.
I personally use Avast and I really like it a lot. It is considered by many security experts to be the best free antivirus program available today, and after using it for quite some time I can say that I agree with them.
Please understand that following the 8-step procedure above is not a quick process. In fact, if done correctly it could easily take the better part of a day. That being said, you can be doing other things with your PC while the various scans are running.
Bottom line: It’s extremely important that you make sure you rid your PC of every scrap of malware that happens to be on it. This procedure will help you do just that.
Bonus tip #1: This post explains how to quickly identify and avoid fraudulent emails (a primary means of delivering malware).
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