Fighting back against computer viruses

If you see a message like this it may be a virus - but don't panic
If you see a message like this it may be a virus - but don't panic
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ONE of the many reasons for our mass migration from personal computers to even-more-personal tablets is that they’re less prone to being infected by viruses.

iPads in particular, which can run only software that’s been approved by Apple, are proving relatively resilient to attack. I say “relatively”, because the worst thing you can do with so-called computer malware is to tempt fate.

I was guilty of this myself recently, commending the free program Microsoft Security Essentials to protect your PC on the basis that it’s the easiest in its class to install and the least trouble to run.

Security Essentials had served me well for a year or more, until a virus – the very thing it was supposed to prevent – shut it down and rendered it inaccessible.

Yet infection by a virus is not a cause to panic and certainly not to spend money. Here’s how I went about cleaning it up; cut this out and put in a drawer in case you need it later. Step one is to install a different anti-virus program. I chose the popular AVG Free Suite, which takes 10 minutes to download and install. Let it scan your computer and remove any bugs it finds. At the same time, download and run the free anti-spyware program Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and let it also perform a scan.

Next, start the computer in “safe mode” and run both scans again. Do this by pressing F12 as the PC starts. With luck, the virus should now be gone, but any changes it made to your system will remain. These may include (as in my case) making the PC invisible to others on the network and shutting down the Windows Firewall, which prevents unauthorised access. You can search online for solutions to each of these but it’s like herding cats. Far easier and quicker – though it will take all evening – just to re-install Windows.

This does not involve losing any of your data or settings – so long as you follow the instructions for an “upgrade install”. You will need the original install disk that came with your PC, though. By all means pay someone in a repair shop to do this, but don’t hand money to any online service.

A few years from now, Windows PCs will be confined to the office, alongside the water cooler and the photocopier, and we’ll wonder why we ever let such troublesome beasts into our homes.