Computer viruses are 40 years old this week, which reminded me of an incident last year where a friend of mine took her laptop in for a "free" checkup. The scanning was free, but they promptly turned around and tried to get her to pay $130 to clean the viruses off her computer and another $70 to buy Norton. So I told her I'd take a look at it. A couple of days later I returned her computer, virus free. And it really only required an hour of my time to do.
While there are some very nasty viruses out there that require specialist skill to remove, 90%+ can be handled for free and it doesn't require any great technical knowledge. For the more vicious variety the important thing is to stop them getting installed in the first place.
There's no need to pay for anti-virus software since there are actually far superior options available for free. So here is my 4 step guide to removing viruses and stopping them from installing for free.
1) Install SuperAntiSpyware
Admittedly the name is a little silly, but Malwarebytes SuperAntiSpyware is a top notch virus and malware removal tool and it's my goto solution for infected machines. You can download the free edition from their site. Once you've installed it and downloaded the definition updates it's time to run some scans.
The real trick to removing viruses is repetition. Make sure you're disconnected from the internet and run a Quick scan. This may not be as comprehensive it's a good way to clear some of the more obvious stuff out of memory. Now reboot your computer and repeat with a full scan.
2) Install Microsoft Security Essentials
Microsoft Security Essentials (available here) is a resource light but very effective anti-malware tool. After installing it will automatically run when you boot up windows and it will update itself on a regular basis. It's constantly scanning your computer's memory and removing any recognized viruses.
3) Install Avast
Avast is another free anti-virus software. It too runs regular scans of your system (any time the screen saver is running) and it receives daily updates to it's virus definitions.
4) Rinse and Repeat
Once you've got your computer virus free those three programs should be enough to keep it that way in 90% of cases. That and common sense steps like not opening random email attachments (or anything you find for download on a porn site). Just keep them up to date and keep them running.
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