My Computer’s Infected!

man-at-laptop-holding-head-image-from-shutterstockMy Computer’s Infected! a reader asks…

Hi Chris, I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t thought about computer protection much, and never checked to see if my Windows 7 computer was protected. Now I’m screwed. My computer is infected with something that’s causing it to do crazy things and I can’t really use it for anything I want to do. What should I do now?

thumbdrive-image-from-shutterstockGet thee to a clean computer (your friend’s, neighbors or anyone that works ok) with a cheap thumbdrive. Download Malwarebytes Anti-malware onto the thumbdrive. Take that home, install and run it on your computer. Be sure to check the Settings > Detection and Protection to make sure you’re scanning for rootkits. Remove anything it finds, restart your computer, and run another scan. Rinse and repeat until the program declares your computer clean.

The above sounds simple enough, but there are some caveats:

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  • malwarebytes-main-screenshotYou may have to start your computer in ‘Safe Mode‘ if it’s really unusable – meaning you can’t even install and run Malwarebytes. To start in Safe Mode, start with the computer turned off, press the power button and start tapping the F8 key repeatedly until a screen comes up that has an option for Safe Mode. Choose that (with your keyboard’s up-down arrow keys) and start the computer. Safe Mode only loads the most critical items to run Windows, so you should get at least some improvement in functionality while you clean up your computer.
  • Make sure the thumbdrive you use is clean – has never been used on your computer. You might as well buy a fresh one to be safe, you can get one almost anywhere and they’re really cheap these days.
  • Computer viruses (like human ones) can destroy critical parts of your operating system or installed software, rendering your computer less capable or even non-functional. Unlike a human body, your computer’s hard drive can be wiped clean and Windows 7 (and your programs) installed fresh on it. I can’t guarantee that your personal data will be untouched either, and if you didn’t back that up somewhere, it may be gone forever.

Once you’ve cleaned your computer of malware using Malwarebytes, you should go through the list of installed programs and uninstall any that you don’t need or recognize.

  1. win7-programs-and-features-uninstall-a-program-screenshotClick start, then type “Uninstall a program” and press your Enter key. That opens up Windows’ Control Panel Programs & Features window.
  2. Scroll through the list, click on anything you want to remove and click the uninstall link at the top.
  3. Repeat till you’ve gotten rid of programs you don’t need or want.

I should note that for the above process, you should also remove any protection program (other than Malwarebytes) as well, since it obviously didn’t do you much good. Restart your computer once again. Now get yourself a good protection program – I recommend Bitdefender Internet Security. Buy, download (if you purchase online), and install it on your computer. I also suggest you upgrade Malwarebytes to Premium (if you didn’t already).

Those two programs working together will protect your computer as well as they can, but not against yourself. So lastly, take a hard look at my safe computing practices. No protection program can keep your computer safe if you do unsafe things on your computer.

2 Comments

  1. I appreciate your detailing this process in an easy to follow – you can try this at home – style. Thank you Chris!

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