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Here’s how the pros freeze and remove computer viruses.
Most people know when their computer has been invaded by rogue software. That’s because malware, spyware, adware, worms, trojans and viruses often, but not always, disrupt and distract with pop-ups, slowdowns, blocked or diverted programs.
So you’ve been invaded. Now what?
Admit defeat. You and all the protective software on your computer are no match for an active invader. The key to eventually rousting the invader is not spirited jousting but turning back the clock.
Go Back in Time — Really
The rogue program that’s driving you to distraction is operating “in the here and now.” The key to sidestepping the program, and eventually removing it entirely, is to restore your system to a point in time before the rogue invasion. Do a time shift!
Sounds magical, but every Windows system since Windows ME, including Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8, include by default a facility called System Restore. With a minimum of effort and no expert assistance, you can restore your system to a time — a few days, a week or even a month ago — before the invasion.
Using System Restore
In Windows ME or XP, click Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools ; System Restore and follow the instructions to “Restore my system to an earlier time.” In Windows Vista, 7, or 8, click Start then type “system restore” in the Search box. If System Restore doesn’t start in Windows — it may have been crippled by the malware — you can start it after a reboot but before Windows opens. For instructions, Google “system restore from command prompt windows ??,” replacing the question marks with your version of Windows, e.g., XP or 7, etc.
Once in System Restore, you’ll be given a choice of recent restore points — dates and times when your system took a snapshot of its settings. Select one well before the problem started, but as recent as possible. No matter which restore point you choose, you won’t lose anything you created such as documents, emails, photos or videos, but you will need to reinstall any software installed after the restore date and any system or program updates.
The System Restore process will take anywhere from a few minutes to as much as half an hour, depending on the size of your system and your computer’s speed and memory. When it’s done, your computer will reboot into Windows and operate as it did on the restore point date — but without interference from the rogue invader.
Inactive, In Hiding
System Restore renders the invader inactive, but it won’t be gone. To get rid of it for good, you’ll want to run full scans of your system using a combination of tools. We recommend starting with your existing antivirus program followed by Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool (free). Follow-up with Malwarebytes (consider the paid version if you experience frequent malware intrusions), then Spybot Search & Destroy (free). Run the full set. Today’s malware often consists of a cluster of rogue programs. And it’s not unusual for an individual tool to find one problem but miss another.
Avoiding the Next Encounter
With the intruder vanquished, you’re probably wondering how to steer clear of malware in the future. The best defense is a competent real-time anti-virus program. We like Microsoft Security Essentials (free), which was folded into Windows Defender in Windows 8. It’s well integrated into the system, frequently updated, has a small footprint, no nagging to buy other products, a good track record, and requires nothing of you. Next, keep your system and programs current using automatic updates for Windows and Secunia PSI (free) for your other programs. And finally, practice safe browsing. Give Internet Explorer a pass and make friends with Google’s Chrome (fastest and safest) or Firefox, a close second (both are free).
Lou Bruno is the founder of the Bryant Hills Group, which offers Internet Marketing, Computer Systems, Real Estate and Business Management services.