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Remove malware from your computerWorried your computer is infected? Follow these steps to identify, remove, and protect yourself against spyware, adware, and the like.
That moment you've long dreaded has come: Your Windows computer's been infected by malware. It's not the end of the world, though, and there are some programs that fight for the good guys to help you cleaned that PC. Hi, I'm Seth Rosenblatt for CNET, and today I'll be showing you how to use some helpful programs for nursing your sick computer back to health. One of the first steps is to ensure that you've actually been infected. If you're seeing system slowdowns, make sure that your computer has enough RAM. You're not going anywhere if you try to run Photoshop on 1 gig of RAM, right? Also, run system-cleaning tools like those found in CCleaner. CCleaner is best known for clearing out temporary Internet files, cookies, and other browsing tracks, but it also can wipe similar system tracks from your hard drive. These include checkdisk file fragments, windows logs, and cleaning your Registry. After CCleaner, reboot your machine before attempting anything else. If you're certain that you've got an infection, breathe deep, remain calm, and leave the panicking for other people. First off, run an antivirus scan. If you don't have one installed, you may have just figured out why you got infected. Second, see if you can restore your system to a last-known clean state without losing any major data. Windows 7 users will find it in the Control Panel's Action Center. XP users will find it under Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and then click System Restore. By the way, if you haven't yet made a back up to restore your system from, now's a good time. *** But what if that doesn't work, or your last backup is from so long ago that the data loss would be catastrophic? You do have other options. Grab Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware and run its deep scan. If the malware won't let you, changing the name of the Malwarebytes installer to something innocuous might fool it. You can also boot into safe mode by hitting F8 when Windows is loading, and run the scan from there. After the scan, follow the instructions for removing any detected threats. *** If that doesn't do the trick, there are more options. One is to look through your start menu for any program that you don't recognize, and search for it on the Web to see if it's malicious or not. If it's a known threat, search for uninstallation instructions. However, this can be very time-consuming. It's more effective to use one of the free scanning tools. Kaspersky offers an excellent one that will help you identify what the infection is, and it takes about two hours to complete depending on your system. Symantec, the makers of Norton, have a new downloadable program called Power Eraser which scans and cleans your computer for free. Note that Power Eraser is effective in part because it's extremely aggressive, so be prepared to possibly lose some non-threatening programs. One of the best security tools is Trend Micro's HijackThis. It examines vulnerable or suspect parts of your system, such as browser helper objects and certain types of Registry keys, and generates a log of items. If you can't make sense of the logs, you can post them to forums like Bleeping Computer or Geeks To Go where more knowledgeable people can take a look. These gentle souls are volunteers, so don't expect immediate answers. If all else fails, you may have to do a clean re-install of your operating system and applications. Microsoft has information on how to do it safely, but keep in mind that it's really a last-ditch effort. Also, there are documented, effective ways to remove even the most obnoxious fake antivirus program. So it's not a fun process, but getting a malware infection is a problem that can be fixed. For CNET, I'm Seth Rosenblatt. And remember, don't click on anything I wouldn't click on.