How to rid a PC of viruses and malware

My parents have asked me to look at their neighbours PC – it has started ‘acting funny’ and “they think it might have a virus”, I was told.

“Uh oh”, I thought. Here we go again. If you are the local IT guru you know this feeling well. And, is it just me or is it becoming more frequent?

I have developed a routine for dealing with these PC’s now – inevitably the “it may have a virus” turns out to be 10’s if not 100’s of viruses, trojans, worms and spyware all combining together to grind the PC to a halt. So, what I do, is to re-install the OS – more often recently it is XP, turn off System Restore, install XP SP2, Microsoft Anti Spyware, Spybot, Adaware, and AVG.

The reason for disabling System Restore is that many of the more recent Viruses, etc. hide in the System Restore volume so that they are restored after a scan is run and are impossible to delete while System Restore is running.

Once all the above software is installed and has scanned and cleaned the PC, then, and only then, connect the PC to the Internet and do a Windows Update updating the PC with all available updates. Finally, connect to and install Trend Micro’s Housecall online Anti Virus scanner . Run this scan on the PC, disconnect from the Internet and scan once more with all the previous tools ensuring all scans come up clean again. If they don’t keep repeating until they do or consider formatting the PC.

Be sure to set the Windows Updates to update automatically through the Security Center (sic).

Install Firefox and Thunderbird and set them to be the default browser and default mail client respectively. removing desktop shortcuts for Internet Explorer.

Finally, on returning the PC, you need to inform the owner of all the changes that have been made to the PC and be sure to let him/her know that these measures will only keep the PC secure for 6-9 months maximum.

It is at this point that you need to tell them that if they want to stay uninfected going forward, they’d be far better off getting a Mac!

9 thoughts on “How to rid a PC of viruses and malware”

  1. I hear ya!
    I hate having to clean someones PC out simply because and lets face it, they havent a clue, even if they have ” IT Security Consultant” as their Job role.
    Most of the time most users are clueless when it comes to pcs.
    Ive taken my step and bought a new g4 powerbook.
    Respect The Mac.

  2. Actually, the approach you have could be a little bit more in depth. First off, you should have them kick you a little cash at the very least. If they brought their computer to a store like Circuit City or BestBuy they would get charded about 300 dollars for such services in total. I know because i do this for a living.

    As far as what software….

    I used to be a BIG fan of Norton. In fact, all Symantec products were on my good list. However, there have been some major advances by other companies. If the person can afford it, they should buy “Kaspersky” for their virus protection. It has BY FAR the largest virus definition database of them all. There is a free online scanner that takes a while to go through, but once it is done, it has found everything that can be found. That includes looking into the system restore volume without having to set it up to do that. However, the online scanner only finds the viruses and reports their location. It does not remove anything. But since it tells you where to find it, you can manually go in and delete one by one if you would like. However I reccommend buying their program and using that instead of McAfree or Smyantec stuff.

    For spyware protection, it still is Webroot’s Spysweeper. It really is a great program, gets updated all the time (both definition-wise and the actual software is updated frequently as well). If you STILL don’t feel comfortable using Spysweeper (even though that is all you really need) you can go download Microsoft’s Antispyware Beta for free from (the same place you get your updates). It is a fast scanner for those on the run.

    Now, if you dont have the money to afford Kaspersky, go to and download that. It is an open program developed by/for Linux but also works on pretty much every OS available except Mac’s of course. It has a very thorough scanner and a very large database of virus definitions. It also uses very little memory compared to other virus protection programs. All you have to do is manually set up the scan schedual and update schedual, unlike other programs that have it automatically update and scan. It’s not so bad after you take the 5min to set it up after installing. Plus its free and really good.

    As for removal, Hi-Jack This! is a good program, but make sure you know how to use it before you just jump into it. It searches for pretty much everything going on on your computer while it is running, and then reports everything. Then you select which is bullshit, and remove it. Be careful, because all kinds of important windows components and your anti virus/anti spyware programs will also show up. So think before you click. There is even a detailed info button you can click on so that you have a better idea of what you are looking at.

    As far as turning to Mac’s just because of viruses/spyware? That is awfully silly, dont you think? I mean, if you want to buy a new PC, go and buy one. Just make sure it is set up properly and is protected both hardware and software-wise. Also, keep in mind that just because someone knows something about computers, they dont know everything. Also, not all protection programs are created equally. There are a lot of free virus and free spyware programs out there, but most of them actually infect you with more viruses and spyware. So be careful. It just so happens that Adaware SE and Spybot both have spyware built into them. So dont use them. If you REALLY love those programs, and want to buy the full version, go ahead. The full versions do not have spyware built in. However, they do not cover a lot of spyware threads. Which means you could have taken that same $29.99 and bought spysweeper which covers way more and costs the same. Also be aware that updating your windows components is incredibly important. It is part of your operating system. Making sure the OS maintains integrity is a crucial part to your computer operating smoothly. If your computer is operating smoothly, you can get a longer life out of it, is works faster, and you are happier. In fact, the healthier your computer is, the less you should think about it. So if it is set up correctly by a professional, sometimes the updating and protection doesn’t seem as important as the stats on the computer because it is out of sight and out of mind. However, be assured, be reassured that it is one of the more important things.

    You wouldn’t by a Racecar and put unleaded gas in it would you? So don’t buy a computer and not have it set up properly.

    As a final note, many sales people in retail computer places do not know what they are talking about once you get past basic specs of a computer and basic ideas about computers. If you were to ask them why one processor is better than another, they would probably give a very generalized statement like “intel is more powerful than amd” or “64 bit processors make everything faster because it can do twice as much as normal ones” or even “dual-core computers are better”. However, this is not totally true, nor do most customers know what they are talking about either. Which makes the sales people sound like they know what they are talking about. But keep in mind that every person has different needs and should be planning ahead for the future with thier computer because they will have it for the next 5 or so years. Also, “smart friends” tend to have very biased opinions and never seem to know the whole story. They always feel like it is their obligation to save their friend some money, and think everything everyone else is saying is complete bullshit. Your smart friend won’t always be there to fix your computer. Hell, they may not even know how to fix it right if it does break, and they certainly dont get parts for free. So when it comes to service plans, buy them unless you REALLY REALLY REALLY know what you are doing. When it comes to virus/spyware protection, follow the advice i gave above.

    And don’t trust anyone’s opinion completely. People are wrong all the time. Except for me. I know everything. Haha

  3. For those of you using Norton and McAfee, stop now. They are both absolutely garbage.

    If you were using them when you got infected, then you should already know that. I have been using AVG for years now, and we recommend it to all of our clients nationwide. Do not use the free version however. It does not protect you against rootkits, spyware, or spam.

    Download AVG:

    Another helpfull tool for getting rid of tuff viruses is Avast. It has a great feature that allows you to do a preboot scan (before your windows boots up). It’s alot faster than the average scan, and is able to delete viruses easier as they are not yet running.

    Download AVAST:

    If all else fails, you can always visit us at and have one of our very qualified technicians help you out.

  4. EMSI Software makes some real good programs to help strengthen PC security.
    There’s a lot to be done in the field of computer security literacy – too many users believe they’re protected by Windows Security Center. They are absolutely confident that Microsoft equipped OS with everything that’s needed to ensure maximum protection against all types of malware.
    Thanks for PandaLabs stats, I suspected that in many cases a all-in-1 Internet Security Suite is not enough, but these figures are beyond my expectations.

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