Removing Virus and Malware Infections

Malware happens to almost everyone. It doesn’t matter how clean the browsing habits, how safe the user – the prevalence of cross-site scripting and general ill-will towards computer users does mean that viruses are prevalent.

Using an active monitoring utility (like Avast or Microsoft Security Essentials) will help substantially with preventing an infection. Still, it happens.

What causes malware and virus infections?

Here are a few common symptoms of a PC virus infection:

  • General slowness of input
  • Pop-ups
  • Redirects when running a web search
  • Tool bars or potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) installed
  • Slow boot times

Note that some of these could be indicative of other problems, too – like thermal throttling (see guide on system checkups) or bloat in the OS.

The Basics: Logs and Scanners

It’s exceedingly difficult to find every single component of a real infection – they tend to spread. If you’re unattached to your OS and have partitioned documents, games, and media onto a separate drive, bear in mind that it is sometimes faster to format & reinstall than resolve malware issues. You’d still have to clean that secondary partition or drive, but won’t have to deal with the nightmare of scrubbing Windows files.

But it’s always worth trying to save the OS first.

We’d first recommend installing Avast and running a boot-time scan. This will execute before the OS loads, thereby significantly increasing the likelihood of catching malware before it has a chance to ‘hide.’ Make sure virus definitions are updated prior to running this scan.

This scan will produce a log file. Locate that, save it, and prepare it for upload to support forums. Because viruses have very specific behaviors, it’s a good idea to recruit experts to give pointers on where else to look.

Begin web searches for any viruses or malware found during this scan. Learn more about the malware and what it does (and how to remove it).

Another good tool is MBAM, or Malwarebytes. MBAM is best used as a scanner, not an active shield. MBAM can be executed from safe mode for maximum efficacy. As above, save logs and begin searches for what’s found.

For potential rootkits, we’d recommend TDSS Killer to scan and clean the registry. This is where you’ve got to exercise caution, as registry changes – even if with good intentions – can break the system beyond easy repair. TDSS Killer will efficiently remove rootkits that could be hijacking keyboard input or other personal information.

Don’t Run Something Blind – Get Help!

Tools like ComboFix can be extremely powerful and can cause harm to the system if used without caution. Communicate with experts on forums for advice on when to use specific tools.

Tech Support Forum has experts who can help point efforts in the right direction, and likely know where to find hidden parts of malware. That would be the next step, short of a last-resort format and re-install of Windows. We generally try to avoid that, though. – Steve Burke, GamersNexus