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How to Remove Malware From Your Windows PC

Has a malware infection taken your PC hostage? Here's how to clean it out and restore your PC to a pristine state.

By Eric Geier
November 16, 2011 09:28 AM ET

PC World - Is your computer running slower than usual? Are you getting lots of pop-ups? Have you seen other weird problems crop up? If so, your PC might be infected with a virus, spyware, or other malware--even if you have an antivirus program installed on it. Though other problems, such as hardware issues, can produce similar symptoms, it's best to check for malware if you aren't sure. But you don't necessarily need to call tech support or the geek across the street to scan for malware--I'll show you how to do it yourself.

Step 1: Enter Safe Mode

Keep your PC disconnected from the Internet, and don't use it until you're ready to clean your PC. This can help prevent the malware from spreading and/or leaking your private data.

If you think your PC may have a malware infection, boot your PC into Microsoft's Safe Mode. In this mode, only the minimum required programs and services are loaded. If any malware is set to load automatically when Windows starts, entering in this mode may prevent it from doing so.

To boot into Windows Safe Mode, first shut down your PC. Locate the F8 key on your PC's keyboard; turn the PC on; and as soon as you see anything on the screen, press the F8 key repeatedly. This should bring up the Advanced Boot Options menu; there, select Safe Mode with Networking and press Enter.

You may find that your PC runs noticeably faster in Safe Mode. This could be a sign that your system has a malware infection, or it could mean that you have a lot of legitimate programs that normally start up alongside Windows.

Step 2: Delete Temporary Files

Now that you're in Safe Mode, you'll want to run a virus scan. But before you do that, delete your temporary files. Doing this may speed up the virus scanning, free up disk space, and even get rid of some malware. To use the Disk Cleanup utility included with Windows, select Start, All Programs (or just Programs), Accessories, System Tools, Disk Cleanup.

Step 3: Download Malware Scanners

Now you're ready to have a malware scanner do it's work--and fortunately, running a scanner is enough to remove most infections. If you already had an antivirus program active on your computer, you should use a different scanner for this malware check, since your current antivirus software may have not detected the malware. Remember, no antivirus program can detect 100 percent of the millions of malware types and variants.

There are two types of antivirus programs. You're probably more familiar with real-time antivirus programs, which constantly watch for malware. Another option is on-demand scanners, which search for malware infections when you open the program manually and run a scan. You should have only one real-time antivirus program installed at a time, but you can keep a few on-demand scanners handy to run scans with multiple programs, thereby ensuring that you're covered.

Originally published on www.pcworld.com. Click here to read the original story.
Reprinted with permission from PCWorld.com. Story copyright 2012 PC World Communications. All rights reserved.
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