Malware & How to Remove it
When you experience major issues with your computer knowing how to get rid of malware safely and thoroughly is one of the most important things you can do.
But how can you find out which systems are impacted ? Can you trust your regular malware scanner? Is it fine to try to troubleshoot on your own? Or is it safer to get professional help?
In this article, we’ll take a thorough look at malware, including a basic exploration of malicious software and how it can work to manipulate or take control of your PC’s operating system. We’ll also explore the basics of how you can know if your computer is infected, plus information on how Disk Cleanup can be part of a good preventive maintenance routine.
What Is Malware?
Malware is any software designed to act against you or your device. That means the term malware can refer to almost any intentionally damaging software. While it may sound familiar to most users, you may still have a few questions about it. For instance, have you ever wondered what the big differences are between malware and a regular old computer virus?
Virus vs Malware
It turns out that your typical computer virus is actually just one kind of malware. Specifically, viruses are a type of malicious, self-replicating code.
Since malware is any software designed to act against you or your device malware can be any of the following:
4. Standard computer virus
Whatever vulnerability it may want to exploit, malware is designed to take advantage of how we use the internet and our personal technology. This malicious software usually targets your information and your routine, posing a challenge to both online commerce and a whole swathe of professional applications.
Now that you know a bit more background about what malware is, let’s talk about some of the signs you may be dealing with it.
Signs and Symptoms of Malware
One of the main ways that users tend to notice the effect of malware is through a reduction in responsiveness and system speed. Because malware encompasses such a large variety of software-based attacks, it can impact your experience and your devices in just as many ways, though.
Is it Malware or do I Not Have Enough Memory Installed?
Sometimes lag and slow speeds can mean that you’re working with too little RAM. However, in many situations, a slow device can be a sign that malicious software is operating in the background.
When malware strikes, you won’t have as many resources available for routine tasks, and more challenging ones can become totally impossible. If you have a lot of trouble loading your browser or using basic functions within your operating software, you’re probably dealing with some form of malware. Keep in mind, though, that it could also be a more serious hardware or software failure. Keep an eye out for inconsistencies in your available storage space. Are you running out of hard-drive space when downloading attachments or trying to install new software? An inexplicable drop in your available storage space can be another tip to watch out for. If your hard-drive doesn’t have as much space as your expectations or as the hardware specs suggest, it may be a sign that something is hiding just out of sight.
Other Common Malware Indicators
Most users come across malware through a variety of different online sources. As a result, many of the signs of infection are most visible as you browse the web. You may notice changes to your browser settings, such as those you set months ago as well as any new apps. You may also spot what seems like new features, such as search bars or new programs, designed to mimic your regular interface. You may find that some of your social accounts are posting spam or sending out fake emails, often through firsthand reports from your contacts. We all get spam in our inbox, and unfortunately, there is a risk that malware can be used to co-opt your accounts as a new source. Many of these problems can also manifest in lost storage space or responsiveness.
How to Handle Malware On Your Own With Windows Disk Cleanup
Fortunately, you have some options built into your Windows system tools for getting rid of malware. Disk Cleanup is a very simple, albeit effective, utility that primarily removes old and unnecessary files. Many users add it to their routine to clear up extra space on a crowded drive, but it has the potential to catch some low-level malware too.
This can be a good option to explore when you have small issues or just want to improve your security or hard-drive maintenance. To make sure you know how to handle things, here’s how to access the Disk Cleanup utility in just a few easy steps:
1. Click the Start button in the lower left corner of your screen
2. Scroll down and click on Windows System
3. Click on Windows Administrative Tools in the dropdown
This should open a new window with a selection of shortcuts to different Administrative Tools. Look for the Disk Cleanup shortcut here and double click it
A new window should appear with the prompt “Select the drive you want to clean up”
Make your choice with the dropdown menu and then click okay to begin a quick scan of the drive
Select what you want to delete from the drive and click okay
If this is your first time performing a cleanup, you stand a good chance of clearing up a lot of new space on your drive. It may even be enough to help you get a handle on your malware problem, but read on for more information on independent anti-malware software you can download and start using fast.
5 Malware Removal Options
Are you wondering how to check for malware? For more persistent problems, you’ll want to take a look at some anti-malware scanning and removal options. There are many free options available online, often packaged with boosted features when you pay to subscribe.
1. SpyBot Search & Destroy
4. Avast Antivirus
All of these options offer free versions so that you can deal with your malware problem as quickly as possible regardless of budget.
Consider Reinstalling Windows From Scratch
Reinstalling Windows may be a last resort for most users, but it can be performed safely and relatively easily. Because you’re essentially resetting your system, this is often a very effective way to clearing out malware that seems too difficult to dislodge otherwise.
Your Windows interface should contain more specific guidance regarding reset and recovery operations, so we’ll just provide a quick step-by-step of how to access your options.
1. Click the Start button
2. Click the gear-shaped Settings button near the bottom-left of the Start menu
3. Select Update & Security from the new window
4. In the left toolbar, click the Recovery tab for a comprehensive guide to your recovery options
Other Ways to Boost Your Device’s Security
If you download a new malware scanner or start using Disk Cleanup more regularly, you are already taking some big steps toward a better security profile for your PC. It’s important to make sure your device is properly updated, especially one that’s older, and good maintenance can make a difference. Actively addressing browser security and staying aware during your browsing are also great ways to boost your security potential.
When to Seek Professional Help
Issues with malware can easily get out of hand, particularly if you don’t have the time or resources in place to address small issues as they arise. Or if you are fixing malware downloaded by a coworker or loved one, you may not know about the problem until it gets serious. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when a problem just needs a little more effort versus when to throw in the towel, but you can often save yourself more trouble down the line by asking for help. When things seem out of control, it can be helpful to consult technical support or your preferred professional repair service. Most of the malware scanner and removal services profiled here are responsive to user input and concerns, too, but sometimes there’s no substitute for the confidence of an in-person repair option.
Key Takeaways About Malware Removal and Prevention
With good habits and a basic routine for your computer’s security, you can avoid most of the worst problems associated with malware. Consider setting up a regularly scheduled malware check at the very least. You can opt for every week to be extra safe or just when it’s convenient if you don’t want to stick to a schedule - even occasionally is a lot better than not at all.
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