Read this in-depth guide about how to remove a virus from various types of computers. We'll cover Windows PC and Mac and you'll find out how to spot a virus and get rid of it.


How to remove a virus from a computer

Modern computer users often use the terms virus and malware interchangeably. However, the two are not the same. The most important thing to remember in themalware vs virus discussion is that a virus is a type of malware.

Malware stands for malicious software. Other common types of malware include worms, Trojans, adware, ransomware, spyware, and rootkits. Different breeds of malware can impact your security and privacy in varying ways. However, you can follow some general steps whether you want to remove a virus or another kind of malware.

Read this in-depth guide for more on:

  • How to get rid of a virus on your computer

  • How to remove virus from computer using command prompt

  • How to remove malware from Mac

  • How to remove malware from chrome

How to get rid of a virus on your computer: Step-by-Step

1: Contact an IT professional 

Some malware, like a rootkit, bootkit, spyware, or ransomware, can be challenging to remove. If using anti-malware software and specialized removal tools doesn’t help, consider contacting a computer technician. A trained and experienced professional will know how to get rid of a virus on your computer and should have access to specialmalware detection and removal software.

2: Disconnect from your network

We suggest that you disconnect your system immediately from your network if you notice signs of a malware infection. Blocking the Internet can prevent some advanced malware from communicating withcommand & control (C&C). Without access to C&C, some types of malware are less dangerous.

3: Download antivirus 

Your computer’s baked-in security system may be adequate, but you should give it a helping hand by improving layered security. Whether you use Windows or Mac, we suggest you download advancedantivirus software that proactively defends you from known and emerging threats.

And yes, Macs get viruses too. In fact, Macs are outpacing malware incidence per endpoint as compared to Windows, according to our State of Malware report. One of the newest ones,DazzleSpy malware, attacks macOS by opening a backdoor.

4: Use a safe mode 

Safe Mode is a diagnostic mode of operation that only loads essential files and drivers. Running your computer in Safe Mode can prevent malware from interfering while you remove acomputer virus. Some malware infections are so destructive that Safe Mode is the only stable mode of operation. You’ll need to learnhow to boot Windows in Safe Mode first, of course.

5: Reboot your device 

Malware can exist in your hard drive and your computer memory. Some malware hides in the memory to evade detection while executing malicious processes. Rebooting your computer can offer temporary relief as it wipes the RAM. However, malware may return to the memory from your hard drive.

6: Run a virus scan 

Utilize afile virus checker to scan your computer for viruses or malware infections should you notice data corruption, performance issues, pop-ups, or malspam from your account. Even if you don’t notice any symptoms of a malware infection, use software thatdetects malware on computers periodically to stay secure. 

7: Clear cache 

Cache on your computer is typically harmless temporary storage. Learninghow to clear cache can improve computer performance. In rare cases, it may prevent a malware infection if your images, videos, and website data are infected.

8: Update your browser and passwords 

We recommend updating your web browser to patch vulnerabilities that can be exploited to attack your computer. Further protect your browser from ads, scams, trackers, in-browser cryptojackers, and web pages that contain malware withBrowser Guard. We also suggest that you update your passwords to prevent unauthorized users from breaching your login security to drop malware on your computer.

Spot the signs: How to tell if your computer has a virus or other type of malware

Learning how to tell if your computer has a virus can be tricky because ofhardware problems that look like malware problems. For example, a computer may slow down, crash, or overheat due to malware or malfunctioning computer hardware. Some pieces of hardware, like your webcam and microphone, may also behave strangely due to faulty hardware or a nasty piece of spyware.

However, there are some symptoms that are more likely due to a malware infection like a virus than faulty hardware:

  1. Some files, folders, and programs are inaccessible.

  2. New software on your computer that you did not download.

  3. The computer asks for a password for a file that doesn’t require one.

  4. Documents are saved as template files or files with strange extensions.

  5. New executables in your system folder.

  6. Antivirus software is either disabled or can’t be updated.

  7. The operating system is malfunctioning and can’t be updated.

  8. The computer is inexplicably consuming more resources such as processing power, memory, storage space, or Internet bandwidth.

  9. Mysterious new home pages, wallpapers, toolbars, or extensions.

  10. Pop-up ads on your screen featuring ads demanding your attention through offers or threats.

  11. Someone else is controlling your computer.

  12. Loss of root-level access such as admin privileges or system settings.

Some kinds of malware display less subtle symptoms. For example, ransomware will lock your computer and flash a warning message on your screen demanding extortion money.

How to remove a virus from Windows PC

  1. Disconnect the system from the Internet to stop the malware from spreading across your network or communicating with its author.

  2. Restart the PC in Safe Mode with Networking to mitigate the risk of the virus disrupting the virus-removal process.

  3. Scan the computer with your antivirus software to detect any malicious threats.

  4. Quarantine or remove any detected threats.

  5. Run another scan with your antivirus software to catch any remnants of malicious software.

  6. Remove any detected threats.

  7. Restart the PC.

How to remove a virus from Mac

  1. Disconnect the system from the Internet to stop the malware from spreading across your network or communicating with its author.

  2. Quit any apps that are misbehaving.

  3. Look for known Mac viruses in your Activity Monitor and quit them too.

  4. Delete any suspicious apps you don’t recall installing.

  5. Scan the computer with anti-malware software to find any malicious threats.

  6. Quarantine or remove any detected threats.

  7. Run another scan to catch any remnants of malicious software.

  8. Remove any detected threats.

  9. Reset your browsers.

  10. Restart your Mac. 

  11. Check outhow to get rid of malware on an iPhone to protect other Apple ecosystem devices from potential cross-contamination.

How to remove a virus from Chrome

Google has retired the Chrome Cleanup Tool, which was a useful Chrome anti-malware tool baked into Google Chrome. However, there are other steps you can take to protect your Chrome from malware.

  1. Look for unwanted extensions in Chrome by clicking Settings > Extensions and examining your list of extensions. Remove suspicious extensions immediately.

  2. Reset your Chrome browser by clicking Settings > Reset settings > Reset settings to their original defaults

  3. Run Chrome Safety check by clicking Settings > Privacy and security and clicking Check now under Safety check.

  4. Use an anti-malware tool to remove any malware on your system downloaded via Chrome.

  5. Remove and reinstall Chrome as a final resort.

What if you can’t remove malware from your computer?

If you can’t remove malware from your computer using the system’s baked-in security system, we recommend downloading a third-party anti-malware tool likeMalwarebytes. Research shows that default security software in operating systems is often inadequate compared to the best third-party cybersecurity software.

You may need a specialized malware removal tool if nothing works. For instance, afree anti-spyware scanner & removal tool may be your best bet against privacy-invading malware such as stalkerware and keyloggers. Similarly, you may need a decryptor to remove ransomware.

Consider reaching out to a professional if you can’t remove malware from your computer. A technician may have the expertise and tools required to remove stubborn malicious software. You can also format your hard drive and reinstall your operating system if all else fails.

How to avoid computer viruses

Back-up your data 

A computer virus can delete important files such as your images or documents. We suggest that you backup up your data regularly to restore access to your important files after a virus attack. Remember to check your backups for viruses to avoid getting reinfected.

Uninstall old apps 

Go through your list of apps and remove software you don’t need or recognize. Some old apps may be hiding viruses or connecting malware on your system with command and control through your Internet connection. 

Make sure your cyber security software is up-to-date

Update your security software to the latest version to gain access to the latest antivirus technology. Updating your software can also patch vulnerabilities that malware may exploit to gain a foothold in your system.

Use antivirus, anti-malware and Internet Security software

Use a cybersecurity tool to safeguard your computer from viruses and other kinds of malware. You might be wondering what tool to use andwhat’s the difference between antivirus and anti-malware software. Historically, antivirus software has stopped established threats, while anti-malware has blocked emerging threats. However, today, the terms antivirus and anti-malware are used interchangeably to refer to cybersecurity software that blocks viruses and other types of malware from computers and mobile devices.

Avoid suspicious emails and sites 

Never open suspicious emails, especially if they carry attachments. Either delete them immediately or scan them for viruses. Likewise, avoid potentially unsafe websites. Malicious websites can usemalvertising or drive-by-downloads to infect unsuspecting users with malware like viruses.

Keep your passwords strong and protected 

While unlikely, a threat actor could breach your login security and infect your system with a virus. For example, they may log into your computer and download a virus. Check outhow to create a strong password that protects your security and keeps malware at bay.

Download safe software 

Software downloaded from unsafe websites, links, and emails can hide malware. Malicious software can spread from file-sharing websites that host pirated software. Mac users should only download apps from the Mac App Store, where each app is reviewed before it’s accepted.

Use a VPN

Using a VPN (virtual private network) helps you keep your data safe and private. The VPN app or software sends your traffic to a requested website through a secured tunnel, hiding your IP address. Read more about what is a VPN and get yours here – Privacy VPN

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How does a virus get on your computer?

Your computer can get a virus by engaging with an infection vector such as an infected USB drive, email attachment, pirated software, malicious website, etc. A computer can also get a virus through a social engineering attack like a phishing email that deceives you into downloading malware.

How to remove virus from a computer using command prompt

We don't recommend removing a virus using the command prompt unless you're an experienced computer user or it's the last resort. Run your computer inSafe Mode and try the following steps:

  1. Type cmd in the search bar.
  2. Run Command Prompt as an administrator.
  3. Type attrib -s -h -r /s /d *.* and press the Enter key.
  4. Type dir and press the Enter key to see all the files in the drive.
  5. Identify files that are viruses by examining their extensions.
  6. Use the del command to delete suspicious files.
  7. Restart your computer.

How do you check if my computer has a virus?

The best way to check for a computer virus is to run a virus scan. Please also look for the four symptoms of a computer virus listed below.

What are the 4 symptoms of a computer virus?

  1. Modifications to your file or folders, such as name changes or deletion.
  2. System slow-downs due to the corruption of essential files.
  3. ABlue Screen of Death (BSOD) or other types of error message.
  4. Computer crashes, such as unexpected shutdowns.

Can you get rid of a virus on your computer?

Most computer viruses are legacy threats that can be easily removed by antivirus software with access to the latest virus signatures. Your antivirus program will scan your system, detect any viruses, and offer to quarantine or delete the files. Removing viruses before they can harm your system is critical. Viruses can be quite destructive, corrupting data and infecting legitimate files.

Can you completely remove malware?

Most types of malware can be completely removed with the assistance of good anti-malware software that can scan and remove malicious software. We suggest that it's best to be proactive, though. Take precautionary steps to mitigate the risk of a malware infection. Read more here: can malware go undetected.

Can malware survive if I reset my PC?

The answer to this question depends on the nature of the malware and the type of reset. Malware is more likely to survive a PC reset that only refreshes the system but keeps your personal files. It's highly unlikely to survive a PC reset that formats your hard drive, though.

However, there are some types of malware, like rootkits, firmware malware, or BIOS malware, that can survive a hard drive format.

What is the most difficult malware to remove?

Although there are many different nasty types of malware in the wild, a rootkit is usually the most challenging to remove because it gains root-level access to a system while trying to stay undetected. Root access, also known as administrator-level access, allows rootkits to operate on a deeper level than other malware.

How to avoid computer viruses

  1. Install antivirus software on your system. Download the latest antivirus updates.
  2. Download the latest updates for your operating system, including security patches.
  3. Update your web browser to the latest version.
  4. Avoid opening untrustworthy websites and unknown links.
  5. Avoid opening pop-ups, as they may infect your system with a virus.
  6. Watch out forphishing emails as they may be or lead you to a virus infection vector.
  7. Never open unknown or suspicious attachments, even out of curiosity, to avoidmacro viruses.
  8. Please steer clear of unknown files, including pirated software, as they can carry viruses and other malware.
  9. Protect your network by enabling your firewall.