Check for mal­ware

Make sure your PC is free of ran­somware and other in­fec­tions, and if it’s not, dis­cover how to deal with them

Windows 7 Help & Advice - - WINDOWS 10 -

Step one of the de­clut­ter­ing process is to make sure your PC is in­fec­tion-free. Start by open­ing your anti-virus tool to search for mal­ware in­fec­tions such as worms, Tro­jans, rootk­its and spy­ware. Make sure its def­i­ni­tions are up to date, then al­low it to per­form a full scan. If in­fec­tions are found, fol­low the in­struc­tions to ei­ther quar­an­tine or at­tempt re­moval of the mal­ware – you’ll al­most cer­tainly be prompted to re­boot when you’re done, in which case run a full scan again to ver­ify the in­fec­tion has gone.

Some in­fec­tions can be stub­born – if af­ter two or three at­tempts the in­fec­tion is still present, re­boot into Safe mode. Those run­ning Win­dows 7 should tap [F8] when the com­puter starts to boot; Win­dows 8.1 and 10 users need to nav­i­gate to Start > Set­tings > ‘Up­date & se­cu­rity’ > Re­cov­ery, then click ‘Restart now’. Un­der ‘Ad­vanced start-up’, nav­i­gate to Trou­bleshoot > Ad­vanced Op­tions > Start-up Set­tings. Click Restart and press [5] to select ‘En­able Safe Mode with Net­work­ing’.

Once in Safe mode, try up­dat­ing and run­ning the scan again – most, but not all, mal­ware should be suf­fi­ciently crip­pled in Safe mode to al­low its com­plete re­moval. If the in­fec­tion is still there, or you’re locked out of Safe mode, the step-by-step guide on the op­po­site page re­veals fur­ther tools and tips to try.

Widen your scan

Even if your main anti-virus tool comes up clean, don’t as­sume you’re out of the woods. Let’s per­form some ad­di­tional scans with other tools to make sure. Mal­ware­bytes Anti-Mal­ware (www.mal­ware­ is our favourite se­cu­rity app for de­liv­er­ing a sec­ond opin­ion – it searches for a wider range of threats than most anti-mal­ware tools, in­clud­ing po­ten­tially un­wanted pro­grams that may come with spy­ware or other pri­vacy is­sues. You’ll need to down­load and in­stall the free ver­sion, but once in place you can up­date it and run a full scan as with your main se­cu­rity tool – it’ll even run in Safe mode.

If you want to go fur­ther, use the Em­sisoft Emer­gency Kit – as fea­tured in the step-by-step guide – to per­form scans us­ing two sep­a­rate anti-virus en­gines. Other por­ta­ble tools worth adding to your se­cu­rity tool­kit in­clude ClamWin Por­ta­ble (in­stall this through and VIPRE Res­cue Disk (see the step-by-step guide). Both may find and re­move more stub­born in­fec­tions. If you’re con­vinced you’ve been at­tacked by a rootkit, then open Mal­ware­bytes and go to Set­tings > Pro­tec­tion to flick the ‘Scan for rootk­its’ op­tion to On.

Re­cover from ran­somware

If you en­counter ran­somware, don’t panic. This is dou­bly true if you have a backup some­where – what­ever else hap­pens, you can wipe your PC’s stor­age drive and re­in­stall Win­dows and live with a small loss of data.

In cases where you’re locked out from your data, make a note of any de­mands (Bit­coin wal­let ad­dress, file list of en­crypted data and so on), which may give you ac­cess to your data later if the crim­i­nals are caught and the pri­vate keys used to scram­ble your files are re­leased. Next, per­form scans with all the anti-mal­ware tools at your dis­posal to dispatch the un­der­ly­ing in­fec­tion. Only when it’s re­moved should you visit https://no­ran­som.kasper­ to see if your in­fec­tion is cov­ered by one of the six free ran­somware de­cryp­tion tools on of­fer. Other ven­dors worth check­ing out in­clude AVG ( ran­somware-de­cryp­tion-tools). If you find your­self locked out of your PC by ran­somware, try Trend Mi­cro’s free Ran­somware Screen Un­locker Tool (­dran­somware), which can be run in Safe mode or pre­pared on an­other PC if you can’t even get that far.

Af­ter you’ve cleaned your PC, you may find cer­tain func­tions haven’t been re­stored. Bro­ken net­work con­nec­tions can of­ten be fixed with the help of NetA­dapter Re­pair All In One (https://source­­dapter/). If Safe mode still won’t work, or you’re locked out of key parts of your sys­tem, then run the Win­dows Re­pair Tool (www.tweak­ Not only does it give your PC the once-over, it’ll re­set Reg­istry and file per­mis­sions, and per­form other much-needed re­pairs.

“Most, if not all, mal­ware should be suf­fi­ciently crip­pled in Safe mode to al­low com­plete re­moval”

The pre­mium ver­sion of Mal­ware­bytes of­fers real-time pro­tec­tion.

Tweak­’s Win­dows Re­pair tool can quickly undo dam­age left be­hind by mal­ware.

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