By John Carter

Hi Net Neighbors! Welcome to Tech Tuesday, where we take deep dives into the issues plaguing you. This week we conclude our Basic Computer Troubleshooting series with a common issue…

My Computer Has a Virus

We come to it at last, THE fear of the digital era. Some of you may be wondering why I have saved this for last. After all, aren’t all computer problems viruses? Well, as you have seen from the other entries in this series, viruses are not the only source of your digital woes.

In fact, the presence of this topic at the end of the Basic Computer Troubleshooting series is a calculated choice on my part. I wanted you to consider other options before jumping at the virus answer because it’s too easy. It has to be a virus, right? I mean, it can’t be the fact that my computer is fifteen years old, has never been cleaned, is running a hideously out of date operating system, and is on a dial-up modem. It can’t be any of that, it must be a virus. And in case you are thinking I am being hyperbolic, these, or variations of these, are things I have heard before.

By placing this at the end I have demonstrated a concept known as Occam’s Razor. Put simply, Occam’s Razor says the most logical solution tends to be the correct one. What is more logical, a group of your neighbors have gotten together and hacked your machine to make it shut down, or that the loud whirring sound your computer is making is due to a faulty cooling fan that is not properly cooling your processor causing it to shut down?

So the first thing I am going to ask you about your computer, especially if you tell me you have a virus, is, “What are the symptoms?”

What are your computer’s symptoms?

Could the problem be anything I have written about in these last few posts? If so, then try those solutions first then come back.

Tried it? Good! Welcome back.

The bad news is—assuming you did as I asked, and you legally have to because you pinkie promised—you probably have a virus or some malware.

Now for the good news, this is usually easily treatable.

Do you have an antivirus and antimalware program installed?

Now for some more good news, if you have a Windows 10 machine then you already have a decently reviewed antivirus in the form of Windows Defender. The program is usually updated on a weekly schedule alongside your other system updates. According to several review websites, Windows Defender is just as good at detecting and removing viruses as paid software. Plus, it doesn’t have annoying popups asking for money.

If you do not have Windows 10 or would prefer something better regarded by the tech community, then Avast antivirus ( is a good alternative. It does a decent job of securing your computer and has decent scores on most third-party testing sites.

The big problems with Avast are:

  1. It asks for money…a lot
  2. It has a lot of security pop ups that can be annoying or terrifying depending on your computer comfort
  3. If you are not paying attention it will install Google Chrome on your computer. Let’s address these in turn.

It wants my money?

Well the consequence of living in our modern society is that most things want your money. The good news is that you do not have to give Avast a single red cent. Those pop-ups asking for money are their way on trying to sell you more advanced features for a one-time or monthly fee. I would not worry about them. Just ignore them and move on with your life.

It’s saying my Wi-Fi is unsecured, what do I do?!

Many of the warnings Avast, and other similar programs, will give you are things your friends and family might have been saying for years; only Avast has an alarm bell. Things such as, “You are connecting to an unsecure Wi-Fi,” can sound terrifying. All it means though is the Wi-Fi you are connecting to does not require a password. These networks are not bad, they are just the sorts of places where you shouldn’t be accessing your personal information. Think of it this way.  A room of people isn’t bad, but you wouldn’t want to start screaming your credit card information. The same is true for unsecure Wi-Fi. If you’re unsure about a particular warning, then google it.

Why is it installing Google Chrome?

This is a common tactic many pieces of software employ. Honestly, it’s annoying and I do not like the practice. However, it is good if only as a benign reminder. Many pieces of malware can be installed by a reputable program simply because you are not paying attention. Instead of just clicking the next button until something installs, read the various screens that appear. By reading these you can prevent malware from downloading and ensure you get the best experience from your software.

Wait, you keep mentioning malware, what’s that?

Malware is the thing you should be worried about when you are fretting over viruses. In fact, as we discussed on a previous Tech Tuesday, viruses are malware. Trojans, Ransomware, Keyloggers, Spyware, these are all different sorts of malware and they are all something you should protect yourself against. The good news is that there are tools for that.

Depending on whether you pay for your anti-virus software, it might come with malware detection built in. Working under the assumption you aren’t though, a decent product is Malwarebytes ( Like Avast, it is free and does a great job of protecting you from most forms of malware. An important thing to remember is, the free version does not run automatically. You will have to run it on some schedule.

What sort of schedule, you might be asking, well that is an easy one to answer. You check based on your internet use. If you are using the internet every day, then check once a week. If you are only using the internet one to two days a week, then you can push the check back to every other week. The core of this is, the more you are potentially exposed to malware the more you should check.

Um, I just tried to go to the site you mentioned and I can’t get there…

Wait one second, how did you go to the site? Did you google the product names, or did you type in the addresses I listed earlier? If you did the first, try typing the address. If you did the second and typed it correctly then you may have a larger problem.

That doesn’t sound good.

Because it’s not. I have encountered this before, when a computer is so compromised it will allow you to go anywhere other than the places with protection. Thankfully, there are ways around this. They do, however, require some extra work on your part and, possibly, a little money. Let’s start with the money. To get your computer secure you will need a usb drive. You don’t need a big one, 16gb is more than enough. Depending on where you shop, and if you don’t already have one, a drive is going to cost you 5-25 dollars. So not a lot of money, but still some.

Once you have your drive in hand, you’re going to need a second computer. Now I know what you are thinking, if you had a second computer you wouldn’t need to worry about fixing the first. Here’s the thing, your library has computers you can use for free. Just go to a branch and use one of the computers there to download the installation files for Avast and Malwarebytes. And yes, you do want both. Then, with files in hand, you can install them in your faulty machine and clean it up. This normally works because the malware is programmed to avoid antivirus websites but not the USB port.

Heh, I have a phone. I don’t have to worry about this stuff!

Well, don’t you look proud of yourself? Sorry to say this though, you’re not as safe as you think. That’s right, phones are just as susceptible to viruses as computers, perhaps more so. There are many apps out there whose sole purpose is to get a virus onto your phone. Those pictures you downloaded, they might have a virus too. My recommendation is to download the Avast and Malwarebytes apps from your phone’s app store and run them. They will help keep you safe.

Of course, if you have an iPhone you don’t really have to worry about this for the moment.

I don’t go to those sites, why should I worry?

By ‘those’ sites do you mean Yahoo, your local news’ site, or basically anywhere on the internet? Because if those are the sites you mean, then I have some bad news for you. You’ve been somewhere you could get infected. Anywhere on the internet where there are pictures has the potential for infection. Pictures can have viruses stored inside them, invisible to the naked eye but present all the same. When your computer loads the picture, which includes looking at it, the virus can infect your machine. From the initial infection, the virus can execute commands to download and install more sophisticated pieces of software.

So you should always be vigilant, always protect yourself.

Hey, someone from Microsoft called saying I had a virus. What do I do?!

First of all, follow the most important rule of Tech…Don’t Panic! Secondly, that person wasn’t from Microsoft, or Apple, or whoever they said they were with. How do I know that you may ask? Well allow me to answer a question with a question. Are you paying them to call you? These companies are profit-driven institutions and are not going to call you out of the goodness of their hearts.

Now, if you have called them and they are calling you back then that is another story altogether. One we will not get into here.

But if someone calls saying you have a virus…DON’T BELIEVE THEM. They are trying to con you, either out of money or to have access to your computer. Normally though, they want both. Access and money. Many of these people who call will actually fix something in your computer, they might clean up some issues you didn’t even know you had. They do this so it seems as if they were legitimate, but the real goal was getting into your computer. Once in, it is very hard to get them out.

Anything else?

On this particular topic? Maybe. But I think I have scared you enough for one day. If you are reading this and have gone through the other Basic Computer Troubleshooting posts then congratulations on making it to the end! That’s right, this is the last post in this series. It is not, however, the last Tech Tuesday by far.

Until then, have fun, find adventure, and stay safe.

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