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 reinstall Windows from scratch.
The second best way is to restore everything from a known good system image backup that you created at a point in time before your PC became infected with the malware.
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’s the step-by-step procedure that I recommend:
1 – Boot your PC into Safe Mode with the Network option enabled. This post explains how to do that in Windows 10 and Windows 11.
Why Safe Mode with Networking enabled? Because whenever possible (and sometimes it won’t be) it’s best to make sure your PC is in Safe Mode while attempting to eradicate malware (and you’ll need networking enabled in order to complete the steps that follow).
2 – Download Geek Uninstaller and use it to completely remove any programs that you do not remember installing at some point.
3 – If possible (and again, it might not be), update your existing antivirus software and run a thorough scan to remove any malware that it finds.
If you’re unable to update your existing antivirus program just uninstall it and replace it with another free antivirus app, then run a scan with it.
If you’re unable to uninstall your current antivirus app read this.
4 – Download the free version of Malwarebytes from this page, then install it and run a thorough scan so it can remove any malware that it finds.
5 – Download Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit from this page and run it, then follow that up by downloading the free Sophos Rootkit Removal tool from this page and running it as well.
When used in tandem, these tools do a very thorough job of detecting and removing rootkits (a particularly nasty type of malware).
7 – Download Autoruns from this page. Save the zipped folder to your Desktop, extract all the files, and then click on autoruns.exe to run the program.
Once Autoruns is up and running, uncheck the box beside every process that you don’t want to load every time the PC is booted up.
If you’re 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.
8 – Run a scan with at least two of these “second opinion” on-demand anti-malware tools.
Important: Be aware 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.
But that being said, you can be doing other things 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, for several important reasons.
The procedure detailed above will help you do just that.
Bonus tip: This post explains how to quickly identify and avoid dangerous emails. This is absolutely crucial because much of the malware out there today is distributed via malicious email messages!