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What to do if you suspect your computer has a virus

Aug 13, 2012, 9:11 a.m.
Don't wait until you suspect your computer has a virus before taking action. The best defense against computer viruses is prevention.

If your computer is running slow or acting strangely, you may have scratched your head and wondered, "Does my computer have a virus?" Fortunately, it's a pretty easy process to check for a computer virus and you don't have to be a computer genius to do so. Here's how to find out if your computer's been infected.

  1. Update your virus protection software. Outdated software may not be able to effectively scan for viruses or take care of any that are found.
  2. Update your software's virus definitions. New viruses are released every day, and each one of them does something a little different than the next. It's not enough to have updated software if it's only able to recognize viruses that may have been released six months ago.
  3. Now that everything is updated, it's time to run a virus scan. Make sure you run the scan on all files and folders on your computer. This scan can take anywhere from several minutes to an hour to run. Be patient, and allow the program to finish before using your computer again.
  4. If your virus protection software didn't detect a virus and your computer continues to perform poorly, you might want to seek the help of a computer repair shop. They can perform more comprehensive diagnostics to tell you if it's a virus or a technical problem that'll require maintenance or parts to correct.
  5. If your virus protection software did detect a virus, follow the instructions in your software to safely eliminate or quarantine the virus. If you have a quarantined virus, you may require the help of a computer repair shop to get rid of it. However, quarantining the virus should protect your computer from the virus long enough for you to get help removing it permanently.

Read signs your computer may have a virus

Sometimes, getting a computer virus can be worse than falling physically ill ourselves. At least with a physical virus, you can let it run its course -- not so for a computer virus, which can only do more damage the longer it's left untreated. Don't wait until you suspect your computer has a virus before taking action. The best defense against computer viruses is prevention. Don't open email attachments if you don't know who they're from, don't download from websites you don't know and trust, and keep your virus protection software updated and run scans regularly.

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