Six Simple Malware Removal Tips Anyone Can Use

You think you just got a malware infection on your computer, but you’re not sure, and you aren’t sure what to do.  Take it to the Geek Squad or another qualified IT shop?  If only there were simple things you could try on your own.  The good news is there are, and we will show you some of them today.

  • So it seems you might have a malware issue.  These are my favorite easy things to try when cleaning malware off an infected system.  Best idea is to do them in order.  For the record, I always do the last step (Malwarebytes).  But I’m ok if you skip to the end and try that first.
  • Restart Windows – Yeah, I know, this is what every IT guy says, but sometimes it fixes the problem, and it is always a good place to start.  If the malware is memory-resident and lives on your RAM, a reboot deletes the contents of the RAM.  This also fixes a lot of pesky browser pop-ups telling you your computer is infected and urging you to call the support phone number.  If the computer will not reboot, press and hold the power button for 15 seconds to force the computer to turn off, or just pull the plug.  If the computer is a laptop you will need to remove the battery too.  This gets you a fresh clean start.
  • Task Manager  – Open the Task Manager by typing it into the search box on the start menu.  Go to the Performance tab.  If the CPU, Memory, Disk, or Network items are maxed out and running at the top of the graph, this could indicate a malware problem.  Close Task Manager.
  • Installed anti-malware scanner – Run whatever is installed on your computer for malware detection and removal.  Delete anything it finds.  Run a second time and delete anything it finds.  Often malware will successfully disable on-board anti-malware software, so this may not work.
  • System Restore – You can restore your computer to working condition using System Restore to go back in time to a day when your computer was stable.  This will fix any issue stemming from malware, new software installation, a bad Windows update, new device drivers, or any other changes to the software environment.  Find System Restore by typing it into the start menu search box.  Check the box to show all the restore points.  Choose one that is before you think you were infected.  Run, and if successful, see if your issue has disappeared.
  • Reset your web browsers – This one also works for fake tech support pop-ups and any other malware that uses pop-up windows or alerts.  This also will clean out malicious  browser plug-ins and fix search engine substitution and browser redirects, in most cases.
    • MS Edge
      • Open the “Settings” menu by clicking the three horizontal dots in the upper right corner of the Edge window and choose “Settings.”
      • Under Clear browsing data, click “Choose what to clear” and then click “Show more.” There are a lot of data types here. Select them all and click “Clear.” Restart your PC and re-open Edge for a clean slate.
    • Internet Explorer
      • Close Internet Explorer
      • Type “Internet Options” in the Start menu search box, then press Enter
      • Go to the Advanced tab
      • Click the Reset button at the bottom of the page.
    • Chrome
      • Open Chrome.
      • In the top right, click the Chrome menu. (the three dots . . .)
      • Click Settings.
      • At the bottom of the page, click Show advanced settings.
      • Under the section “Reset settings,” click Reset settings.
      • In the box that appears, click Reset.
    • Firefox
      • Click the icon that looks like three stacked lines at the top right of the browser window.
      • Select the question-mark icon at the bottom of the drop-down menu.
      • Select ‘Troubleshooting information’ in the slide-out menu.
      • Select the ‘Reset Firefox’ button at the top right of the new Web page.
  • Malwarebytes – Download, install, and run the free version of Malwarebytes.  Just the anti-malware scanner, not the version that also contains anti-virus.  Malwarebytes has the distinction of installing successfully on a machine that is already infected, and avoids compromise or disablement by the malware.  It’s heuristics are great at detecting zero-day malware variants by their behavior.  For me, this is always part of the process.  Let it run, and quarantine everything it finds.

There are some other steps that aren’t so simple, like removing the infected hard drive from the computer, attaching it as an external drive to another uninfected machine, and running your scans from the second computer.  When the operating system is not running, it is impossible for the malware to hide from the anti-malware engine.  But again, not simple.

If nothing seems to work, the next step is to take your computer to a professional for additional work.  There are plenty of competent local IT support shops in your area that will do the work locally, more quickly, and possibly for less money.  Ask your friends or business associates who they use.  Recommendations are a good way to find a good tech.  You do not need to take it to a big box retailer.  Usually they ship all the work out to a central repair depot, and this adds days to your repair time.  Sometimes you don’t need a squad, just one good tech.

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About the Author:

Cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. Serving small business owners in the St Paul, Minneapolis, and western Wisconsin area since 2001. Cybersecurity and hacking have been a passion of mine since I entered the computer and networking business in 2000. I hold several cybersecurity certifications including Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Advanced Security Pratitioner (CASP), and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). Other computer industry certifications include A+, Network+ and Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE). As Cybersecurity Analyst at The WyzCo Group, I help our clients experience high levels of security on their computers, networks, and websites. In addition to consulting on security products and services, we also conduct security audits, vulnerability assessments and full penetration tests. We also work with companies and organizations that need to certify compliance with regulations such as PCI-DSS (credit card processing), HIPAA/HITECH (medical records), and GLBA. We also provide Cybersecurity Awareness Training for clients and their employees. I am a frequent speakers at cybersecurity conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference, the (ISC)2 World Congress, and the ISSA International Conference, and many local community organizations, Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2008.

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