How to Get Rid of a Virus in Windows Vista - dummies

How to Get Rid of a Virus in Windows Vista

By Woody Leonhard

So you think you have a virus on your computer? If you take the time to follow this procedure, you should be able to get rid of most viruses in Windows Vista.

You can lose a lot of time — not to mention sleep — over viruses. Some of the worries are justified. Many are not. Usually, viruses aren’t anywhere near as bad as most people think. That being said, you don’t want them hanging around. Of course, you need to protect yourself by running a good antivirus program and setting up a firewall, but if one still gets in, you need to know how to fight off the infection, right?

So how do you know whether you’re infected? A few telltale signs might indicate that your PC is infected:

  • Someone tells you that you sent him an e-mail message with an attachment — and you didn’t send it. Many forms of malware will hijack your e-mail system and spread themselves by sending duplicates to everyone in your contact list.

  • If you suddenly see files with two filename extensions scattered around on your computer. Filenames like kournikova.jpg.vbs (a VBScript file masquerading as a JPG image file) or somedoc.txt.exe (a Windows program that wants to appear to be a text file) should send you running for your antivirus software.

  • Your antivirus software suddenly stops working. If the icon for your antivirus product disappears from the notification area (near the clock), something killed it — and chances are very good that the culprit was a virus.

  • Your Internet connection slows to a crawl.

If your PC shows any of these symptoms, it might be infected. Follow these steps to zap the nasty bug:

  1. Update your antivirus software with the latest signature file from the manufacturer’s Web site; then run a full scan of your system.

    If you don’t have an antivirus package installed, try downloading one of the many free antivirus programs. AVG Free is one of the best around.

  2. If your antivirus software doesn’t identify the problem, hold your nose and run a free Windows Live OneCare safety scan.

    Make sure you have an hour or two to spare. The free Protection Scan can take a long time, but it’s the most up-to-date scan anywhere.

  3. If you still haven’t nailed it, check your antivirus software manufacturer’s “alert” page and see whether it notes any known pieces of malware that aren’t yet identified.

    The links will get you to most major antivirus software manufacturers. Note that some sites may have news posted hours before other sites — but it’s impossible to tell in advance which will get the story first.

  4. Check to see if you’re the victim of a hoax.

    Many of the hoaxes floating around these days sound mighty convincing. Save yourself a lot of embarrassment by ensuring that you’re not being pulled by the leg.

  5. If you still can’t find the source of the problem, follow the instructions on your antivirus software manufacturer’s home page to submit a new virus.

    If you’re the first to report a new virus, you’re so cutting edge.

  6. Do not — repeat, do not — send messages to all your friends advising them of the new virus.

    Messages about a new virus can outnumber infected messages generated by the virus itself — in some cases causing more havoc than the virus itself. Try not to become part of the problem.