A virus, malware, or spyware infection is the most common false diagnosis in the computer repair world. We work with customers on a daily basis who are stuck on self-diagnosing their computer. We can always help with our Free Diagnostic - but I would also like to help everyone out with some information on diagnosing whether or not your machine has a virus:
Here’s how to tell your computer does not have a virus:
1. If your computer does not turn on, which means there are no lights and the fan is not going – then you do not have a virus. (Well you could but that is not causing the computer to not turn on). Viruses work within your operating system. Only very special programs written for very specific applications can attack the machine. In 10 years I have never seen one, and I am hesitant to believe anyone you know has gotten one. If your computer does not turn on, it has a physical problem.
2. If you have a Windows-based computer and it says START-UP DISK NOT FOUND – you do not have a virus, you have a bad hard drive (very fixable).
3. If you have an Apple computer and it shows a blinking folder icon on startup – you do not have a virus, you have a bad hard drive (very fixable).
4. If your computer turns on – there are lights and fans – but no display on the screen at any point – you do not have a virus.
5. If your computer is running slow, but you do not see popups, you probably do not have a virus.
Well then when do I have a Virus? Great Question:
1. If your computer turns on, starts up, and you can get into Windows before seeing a foreign program that won’t go away – you probably have a virus.
2. If you have your internet settings correct but web pages won’t load – there is probably a virus interfering with how your computer talks to the internet.
3. If the FBI, NSA, DEA, ICE, or any other government authority supposedly wants to talk to you on a giant white popup window – you have a virus.
4. If there is a persistent program that pops up that says it is scanning or cleaning your system – you probably have a virus.
5. If you type on site into the internet, but your computer takes you somewhere else, you probably have a virus.
Well how did I get this Virus? Good question, but a difficult one to answer:
1. 50% people clicked an ad on the internet. “Adobe Flash” popped up saying it needed to be installed and you clicked it. That wasn’t really Flash.
2. The second most common way is email attachments associated with chain letters. You can get these just by clicking the email. I’d recommend you access these chain letters on a tablet with no risk of being infected, or just unsubscribe from them.
3. The final route is installing software and not paying attention. Many programs come attached to other useful programs – like browsers – that are installed alongside. Contrary to the excuses we hear, these programs are required by law to notify you of additional installation options. Pay attention and take it slow when installing software. Uncheck any pesky checkmarks for addons you do not need.
“I think that my ex-wife, ex-husband, bitter boyfriend, bitter girlfriend, old partner, disgruntled child, creepy IT guy, or neighborhood jerk hacked me.” In 10 years of doing this I have seen no conclusive proof of this happening. Consider this:
1. If someone else has your email account and password, or your remote connection account through a service like LogMeIn or GoToMyPc they may use these services maliciously. This is not being hacked, this is just being negligent in not changing passwords or login information.
2. Trying to find or hire a “hacker” online is about as likely as finding someone to do any other illegal activity online – it isn’t going to happen. People that do illegal things do not post their services for hire online, and if they do, it is probably illegal.
3. Trying to find a specific person on the internet to go after with no information other than their name would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack the size of California.
Well how do I avoid these viruses and other junk programs?
1. Exercise caution on the internet. Its better to never click a popup. Modern browsers like Chrome and Firefox should update Flash automatically. The browser itself should update automatically. You should be good to go without ever clicking a popup.
2. Don’t open e-mail with attachments unless you know in advance you will be receiving an attachment – such as from work.
3. Use an Ad blocker in your browser that works – Ad Block Plus for Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer works great. Ad blockers prevent most malicious Windows. These blocks are installed under extensions or add-ons in your browser.
What if I already have a virus?
Unfortunately viruses do not go away, and programs like Norton or AVG are almost never effective at removing them after the fact. Viruses usually use one gimmick or another to gain higher privileges on your computer. This means they have permission to do as much or more than you do. Anti-virus programs operate on the same, or often times lower, permissions. In effect they are only as powerful, or less powerful than the virus, and can not remove it.
There are a few options to remove a virus that has already taken hold:
1. Buy a new computer. Our Virus removal is only $90, but if the computer is 5 years old or more, this may be your best option!
2. Format the hard drive – we charge $90 for this, but sometimes people want a clean slate. Our Format service gets rid of the virus (and anything else) and basically starts your computer over from scratch.
3. Bring it in to us. We do a Free Diagnostic, even if you are lost after the info above, we can tell you what is wrong with your computer. Then you can make a decision: to fix or not to fix.
4. Our Virus Removal service involves manual work. Knowing where to look for virus files, and knowing how to get rid of them effectively is a skill set that comes from years of experience.Since anti-virus and scanning programs are largely ineffective once the virus has taken hold, they usually require “doing it the old fashioned way.” That’s what we are here for!