Think computer VIRUS if you see any of these symptoms.

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computer virus removal

Is your computer running slower? Are your friends responding to email messages you didn’t send? Are you having printer problems? Do you get strange pop-up messages? Your computer is probably infected with a virus.

Removing the virus early will prevent data loss, protect you accounts, and keep your passwords safe.

 

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Whether it’s personal photos or critical business information, your personal data is the only thing of real value on your computer.

Our data recovery projects often include work or competitors considered to be “unrecoverable”. If you’re missing data from your hard drive, USB drive, or camera card, give us a try. There’s no charge for you to find out if your data is recoverable.

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Is my computer infected with a virus?

Hard drives, motherboards, power supplies, and memory can cause some virus-like symptoms. Compared to virus infections, these issues are rare. These days we look to malware infection first. If you are seeing any of these symptoms:

  • Your computer has started to slow down.
  • Your hard drive light stays on constantly.
  • The FBI says your computer is a criminal.
  • Your computer freezes.
  • You have a lot of popup ads.
  • Your email spam has increased.
  • Your friends want to know why you sent the infected email.
  • Your Windows updates fail.
  • Your virus software can’t update.

There’s a good chance your computer is infected. Don’t ignore these symptoms until your computer quits working. The more malicious software on your computer, the more damage it can do to your privacy, credit, bank accounts, personal information and photos. It will also spread to your friends and family using your connections.

Why am I the only one with a computer virus?

There is no absolute protection from viruses. If you spend any time on the Internet you will get malicious software on your computer. Anti-Virus programs help a lot. They don’t guaranty you’ll be 100% safe. Your best chance is to learn what to look for. With malware, a little knowledge can go a long way to catching a virus early enough to survive it.

Why didn’t my anti-virus software work?

Your virus software relies on a list of known viruses. This is why keeping it updated is so important. When your anti-virus software company becomes aware of a new virus they’ll add it to the list that you download to update your anti-virus protection. There are two problems with this system;

  1. There is a time when the virus is “in the wild”. This is the time between when it is created and when your virus software is updated. During this time you have very little or no protection from a new virus.
  2. Many people put off updating their anti-virus software because it’s inconvenient.

Keeping your anti-virus software and Windows updated will improve your chances. Updating your anti-virus program identifies the known viruses and stops them. Updating your Windows operating system patches any holes that can be used as a back door into your computer.

I’ve got a virus, now what?

Malware cleanup options

Your computer is infected. What should you do next? This depends on how you use your computer. Ask yourself a few questions; Is your factory-restore disk available? Have you saved the installation disks for any added hardware?

  • Do you have files on your computer that you must have?
  • Have you added additional software isn’t part of Windows?
  • Do you have the original software disks to re-install all your software?
  • Is your email on your computer or do you access it online?
  • Do you have backups of your important files?
  • Do you have other users on your computer?
  • Are you connected to a network?
  • Do you have a multi-purpose printer?

With these answers you can decide how to approach the cleanup. I’ll cover three options;

  1. Free – Do it yourself
  2. Economy malware cleanup
  3. Full Service malware cleanup
Is there a free Do-It-Yourself Malware Cleanup?

The Do-It-Yourself option is often peoples first choice. Why not, it doesn’t cost anything. This may be your best option if you;

  • Know how to install software.
  • Can access the BIOS at startup.
  • Have your Windows or factory-restore disk.
  • Have the original disks for all the software you’ve installed.
  • Have the installation disks for all your hardware.
  • Don’t have valuable files have been saved to your computer or
  • Backed up your files and know how to restore them.

Everything personal about your computer will be lost with this method. Think about what was on your computer before the crime and inventory what will be lost. If you can’t think of anything of value, then you’re free to proceed. The simplest Do-It-Yourself procedure is as easy as 1-2-3-4-5 and involves erasing everything on your computer and starting over with a clean slate. If you decide to try this, gather up everything you’ll need and get started; Step 1 – Collect your tools;

  • Windows or Factory-Restore disk (Windows)
  • Software disks – Office, Genealogy, Photoshop, Video, etc.
  • Hardware disks – Printer, modem, network, sound, etc.
  • Optional;
    • A second computer
    • External memory – USB stick or portable hard drive


Step 2
– Install a clean copy of Windows Put your Windows disk in your CD/DVD drive and restart your computer. If your computer doesn’t boot to your Windows disk you’ll have to make a minor change to your system BIOS. When your computer starts a setup option flashes by quickly. It will say something like; SETUP F12. If you’re really fast, hit the F12 key (or whatever setup is on your computer) and you’ll see you setup options. If you didn’t react fast enough, re-boot your computer and try again. Once you get into the BIOS Setup menu look for the first boot device and set it to your CD/DVD. This is where you need to be a little familiar with the BIOS system. Once this is completed your computer should boot to the Windows installation disk the next time around.

  • Follow the steps on your Windows disk to format your hard drive and install a clean copy of Windows. There are different options on different types of Windows disks. The options are pretty straight forward and should walk you through the procedure.
  • When Windows has completed the installation you will have a version of Windows on your computer that matches the era your Windows disk was created. Functional, just not up to date.

Step 3 – Install your hardware drivers • Go to Control Panel and select Device Manager. If none of your devices on the list have a warning symbol then you’re in luck. Your Windows disk contained all the drivers necessary for your hardware. If you see any warning symbols use your hardware install disks then check again. If there are still warnings then you will need to identify each piece of hardware and try to find its drivers online. Hopefully you won’t have to face this laborious task. Simply; locating unknown drivers can be a long and boring task. That’s why professional computer techs subscribe to a service that can provide these drivers. To them, its money well spent. Note: If you’re missing drivers that are needed to get online, you can use the optional equipment to solve the problem. Use Google, or go to your computer manufacturer’s website, and download the missing drivers to another computer. You can then use an external storage device such as a USB stick to transfer the drivers to your computer. Once you’ve installed the necessary network drivers, you’ll be able to get any other missing drivers without the second computer. Step 4 – Install your peripherals Peripherals are just a fancy way of saying stuff plugged into your computer like a printer, keyboard, mouse, scanner, camera, etc.

  • Printers can be a little quirky. You may have to unplug your printer from the computer until your installation disk tells you to plug it in. This is very common with Hewlett-Packard printers.
  • Wireless networking will require you to enter the security key to access your router before you can get online.

Step 5 – Everything must be updated Most of the software that you installed up to now is outdated. Now that your computer can get online, your next step is to update everything. Start with Windows and continue to update until no Windows updates are available. Then you can move on to updates of any other software you’ve added. If everything went smoothly you now have a clean, malware free computer. It is also unprotected. Before you go browsing online you must install virus protection, spyware protection, a firewall, and I like to add email protection. There are too many products available to review here and they’re always changing.

Is there a low cost Malware Cleanup option?

Yes, an economy virus cleanup is similar to the do-it-yourself version with a few extras performed by the technician. These extras should include;

  • Backup your personal files.
  • Scan all files for viruses.
  • Restore your files to their proper locations.
  • Install drivers for internal hardware such as video, sound, networking, etc.
  • Install a free version of Virus and Spyware software

This type of virus removal is known as the Economy version for a reason. The tech does less and you do more. At this level you’ll be required to do a few things yourself. When you get your computer back you may be required to;

  • Update your Windows operating system.
  • Update your hardware drivers.
  • Install your printer software.
  • Install any additional software that you use.
  • Setup your network / internet access.
  • Set up your email.

The two advantages of the Economy version are;

  • This is the cheapest option for those that can do some of the software tasks themselves. Expect to pay less for Economy malware removal.
  • This is the fastest virus cleanup option that most technicians offer. The Economy level of malware removal can often be completed within 24 hours.

If you know a little about computers, and would rather spend your time than your money, than the Economy malware option is for you.

What is included in a Full Service Malware Cleanup?

A Full Service malware cleanup is different from the Economy version in one major way; the technician will try to remove the malware and then repair the damage to your computer. There are 4 advantages to the Full Service malware cleanup;

  1. Your computer will look exactly like you’re used to. There will be little or no change to the setup you’re familiar with.
  2. If the core of your software hasn’t been damaged, you won’t have to re-install software. This is a lifesaver if you’ve misplaced, loaned, or lost software that you’ve grown to depend on.
  3. Your files, emails, and photos that haven’t been attacked by the malware will be just as you left them.
  4. You will have to do very little or nothing when your computer is returned to you. Occasionally a wireless network or printer will have to be re-installed because they need to be connected to your computer during setup.

As you can see, the Full Service malware cleanup is much more comprehensive than the Economy. Where the goal of the Economy version is to wipe everything clean and start over. The goal of the Full Service cleanup is to surgically remove the virus while trying to keep your computer alive. SPECIAL NOTE: The Full Service malware cleanup can sometimes fail during the final stages. If the malware has damaged too much a complete recovery may not be possible. Often this is seen in the final stages after everything else is completed and the software updates can’t be completed. Some technicians may consider your malware cleanup “close enough” at this point, we don’t. We’ll start over if your computer fails the final tests. This involves starting with the Economy cleanup and then adding everything possible to rebuild your computer to get as close as possible to where you were before the crime. I can think of only 2 disadvantages of the Full Service malware cleanup.

  1. Time; we usually allocate up to a week to complete the Full Service malware cleanup process.
  2. Price; your cost for a Full Service malware cleanup will be more.

The Full Service malware cleanup is a great value if you have the time. Your computer will be returned to you as close to its pre-crime state as possible. If the malware hasn’t destroyed or encrypted your individual files, everything will be pretty much like it was before the damage.

Do I need any additional virus services?

Malware removal is not a one-size-fits-all service. You be offered some options. These can include;

  • Premium Anti-Virus software
  • Additional users and their data
  • Automatic Spyware protection
  • Backup of your data to external storage

These services cost a little more. If you can afford them, you won’t be disappointed. The better protection may save you from future malware cleanups. Saving you money in the long run and providing additional disaster protection.

What can I do to protect yourself?

Malware infects your computer in a many ways. Some you can protect yourself from and some you can’t. What you can do;

  • Keep your software updated.
  • Subscribe to email newsletters that will keep you informed about what’s happening with malware and computer crime. These newsletters will warn you, so that you will make the right choice when the time comes.
  • Install a plugin like Ad Block Plus on your favorite internet browser. Malicious software can come through those animated ads on your favorite web site. The ads on websites are inserted by other companies. Sometimes malicious software slips in with the ad networks programming scripts. An ad blocker plugin will stop most ads from displaying including any malicious ads.
  • Beware of emails that have an attachment. Dangerous emails will try to seem important; “your receipt is attached”, “we cannot process your order”, etc. When you click on the “important” attachment you’re installing malware on your computer. Some virus programs will not protect you from your own deliberate actions. Beware of what you click on.
  • Be suspicious, your best protection is the suspicious mind. Criminals will always be developing new ways to take advantage of the unsuspecting. Be vigilant; look for irregularities, look at what you’re clicking on, check the email headers. If you don’t know, Google anything suspicious with the phrase in quotation marks so your search results will show exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll find a lot of other people online have encountered the same problems you’re having. If in doubt at least look through a few of the search results to see others opinions before proceeding. Forums often provide you with the best opinions.
  • Criminals are now using the telephone to trick you into letting them into your computer. If you get a call from a “Microsoft” technician informing you that your computer is infected with malware and he can go online and fix it for you, hang up. Microsoft is not going to call you about viruses. The caller is just trying to scam you into allowing them access to your computer. If you let them you’ll surely pay for it later.
  • Read everything when installing or updating software. Well known software companies are including trial anti-virus software when updating. Do not allow this if you have anti-virus software on your computer. With anti-virus software, more isn’t better. One anti-virus program can protect you. Two or more and interfere with each other and leave you defenseless.
Is there Malware I can’t protect myself from?

Yes;

  • When a criminal releases a new virus there is a delay before your virus software manufacturer knows about the virus. Your virus software cannot protect you from any virus that isn’t on its list. During this time the virus is known as being “in the wild” and you have very little protection against it. Virus software works from a list of known viruses and patterns. This list is revised every time you update your virus software. If you delay these updates for any reason you’re increasing your chance of getting infected. Update often.
  • Shared networks can make you vulnerable to viruses coming from other computers on your network. If you maintain your virus protection, and another family member with full access to your computer doesn’t, then they can infect you with malware. Limiting your network sharing will limit your exposure to other computers problems.
Why are Viruses and Malware so confusing?

If you’ve found malware to be confusing, you’re not alone. It was designed to be. The malware criminal relies on the average user’s lack of technical knowledge. They hope you’ll think your virus software is taking care of everything when it isn’t. In this era of multimillion dollar cybercrime the criminal can afford to pay for the best programmers. Cyber criminals operate on a technological level above 95% of computer users. You’ll never be able to keep up with them technologically. All we can do is stay vigilant, get familiar with the tools available to us, and educate ourselves. Like the age-old shell game, cyber criminals will use misdirection and misinformation to further their crimes. Knowledge is your best defense. Law enforcement is unable to protect you from the majority of cyber criminals. This isn’t their fault. They are facing too many criminals that are better equipped than they are. They can operate from anywhere in the world. Many are in safe haven countries that will not allow US law enforcement to enter. Except in the extreme cases, you’re pretty much on your own. Doing everything right will not necessarily protect you. It’s not you. It’s the criminal system perpetrating these crimes. To be prepared you’ll have to find a a computer service center that will mentor you. Asking questions will keep you on the right path.

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