What To Do If You Get A Computer Virus

We all know the risks of computer viruses, but what do you do if you think you have one?

First, follow Douglas Adams’ advice: Don’t Panic! Run your antivirus and anti-spyware software to see if they can remove the infection. Windows users might try the free online virus scanners from McAfee and Trend Micro. Malwarebytes is a good Windows resource for removing spyware and other kinds of virus-like intruders. Mac users should try the free programs Avast for Mac or ClamX AV.

Some viruses are easily removed, but others embed themselves deep within your computer. The worst-case scenario is having to format and reinstall your computer from scratch, which is why backups are a must.

There are some commonly-held misconceptions about how to prevent computer viruses.

  • Adding “aaaa@aaaa” to your address book doesn’t work. It was a trick from years ago that only applied to one particular virus… for about five minutes, until the virus-writers wrote a workaround. These days it’s the equivalent of fighting a wildfire with a squirt gun.
  • Booting into Safe Mode also doesn’t work. Safe Mode is used to diagnose computer problems by starting Windows into a minimal version where only the basics are loaded. Most of your software won’t function and the virus will remain in the background, chewing on your system.
  • Fake antivirus software and computer cleaners will only add to your woes. Ads for these run rampant across the Internet, especially when you’re searching for legitimate tools like the ones I mentioned above.
  • Fake security bulletins claim to be magic cure-alls, but they’re far from it. They are scams out to trick you into clicking on malicious links and further infecting your computer.
  • Fake pop-up Web windows pretend to scan your computer, but they are also scams trying to trick you into clicking them.

Your best protection is prevention. Maintain good backups and stay tuned to Tech Tips for the latest computer news. Through November 1st, 2009, new subscribers to the free email version of Tech Tips will receive a special tip sheet on Four Easy Ways To Protect Your Computer. Just click here to sign up.

In November I’ll teach you about Do-It-Yourself Tech Support. If you have any computer questions, let me know.

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