Malware infection. You might think it will never happen to you. Until it does and you don’t know exactly what to do. How do you actually remove malware? Maybe you’ll ask your tech-savvy friend how to remove malware or you’ll try to clean the PC by yourself. Or perhaps you’ll address this issue on a security forum where other people encountered the same problem.

Warning signs: You’ve noticed your PC has started to slow down, it crashes often, pop-ups appear randomly in your browser, or that unusual apps start automatically.

All these signs can tell that your computer is infected with malware.

So, a malware infection has taken your computer hostage.

What do you do now?

In this article, I’ll walk you through all the steps you need to follow so you can easily clean up and restore your PC to a functional state.

Step 1. Back up all your documents and files before you start removing the malware infection.

Regardless of your malware infection, the first thing to do is backup all your important files and documents. You can do that by saving your essential data on the external source such as DVD/CDs, free cloud storage services, USB sticks or external drives. Use this guide to better back up your online data.

By performing a backup process, you can save your essential data on an external source to keep it safe. You can do this manually or automatically and we recommend using software backup tools.

Step 2. Enter your PC in Safe Mode with Networking

Here’s what you should do:

  • Unplug DVDs, CDs or other USB drives from your PC and then shut it down.
  • Restart by pressing F8 key over and over again until it takes you to the Safe Mode with Networking.
  • This will make your system boot up only critical processes and prevent certain malware infections from starting up.

Safe Mode Windows

If you are using Windows 8 and/or Windows 10, here’s how you can start your PC in Safe Mode. For older versions of Windows, such as Windows 7 or XP, follow these steps.

Step 3. Delete your temporary files.

To make the scanning process smoother and simpler, you should delete all unessential temporary files from your computer.

You can do this by right-clicking on a Windows drive, such as C:/ or D:/ – > Properties -> Disk Cleanup. From the Menu, choose which files you want to delete and remove.

Step 4. How to remove malware with an anti-malware tool.

In order to clean up your PC, you’ll need some specialized software to find and clean up the malicious items. Here’s a list of all the software you can use.

Thor Premium Home is completely free for the first 30 days and you can cancel your subscription anytime you want. This is a powerful anti-malware solution which will both remove malware and stop any other possible future infections.

Thor Premium Home how to remove malware
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Once Thor Premium Home starts, it will enable automatic, real-time scanning and all the infected files can be removed using Thor Vigilance Home, the next-gen AV tool included in the Thor Premium Home package. You can also choose to perform scans by yourself and delete the infections.

how to remove malware with Thor Premium Home

It’s that easy. Now, your computer is clean and kept away from any type of malware, viruses, ransomware, phishing attacks, and many other online threats.

SUPERAntispyware malware tool has a free edition that can detect different forms of malicious software, adware, and spyware, and efficiently scan and remove unwanted files from your PC. You can control the scanning options by choosing which files you want the tool to analyze. Scans will be performed manually, but the full control over scans makes it a good choice for users.

Kaspersky TDSSKiller is a free malware removal tool for Windows. It was designed to remove the rootkits which are malicious malware that boots up at the same time as your PC and hide the activity of other malicious software. Rootkits can gain access to administrator rights on an infected computer and provide deeper access to other types of malware. Online attackers can maintain the infection for a long time and are difficult to find and remove.

Malwarebytes anti-malware tool can detect, scan and remove malicious software found on your PC.  It is free for a limited period of time and has a 14 day free trial with full features such as malware removal, ransomware protection, rooter killer and even a repair function for any damaged files. Use the “Start Scan” button to help you remove and kill any malware found with a manual scan. We recommend running this program at least once a week to check things you might have missed or when you notice your PC runs slowly or acts strangely.

ADWCleaner is a free software tool specialized in removing adware, browser hijackers and other potentially unwanted malicious programs that have infected your browser. The product was acquired by Malwarebytes in 2016 and includes features like toolbar removal functionality, light footprint.

If you’ve been using Junkware removal tool for a while, you should know that Malwarebytes has chosen to discontinue development for this free software. However, Malwarebytes “will continue to provide service and support for JRT until End of Life (EOL) on April 26, 2018.” As an alternative, you can use the free ADWCleaner tool that includes all major JRT features.

Here’s a list of malware removal online tools you can use to protect your computer:

Product name Suitable for: Availability Price
Hitman PRO Beginners Windows OS Free 30-day trial
RKill  Beginners Windows XP/ Vista/ Win 7/ Win 8/ Windows 10 Free
Avira PC Cleaner Beginners Windows Free
Microsoft Safety Scanner Beginners Windows 7 / Vista / XP Free
TrendMicro HouseCall Beginners MacOSX / Windows Free
Emisoft Emergency Kit Beginners Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10 Free
Spybot Search & Destroy Beginners Windows Free
CCleaner * Beginners Windows Free
McAfee Rootkit Remover Beginners Windows Free
IBM X-Force Exchange Malware Analysis Advanced Cloud-based Free 30-day trial

Note: CCleaner was recently compromised by cybercriminals, but the tool is safe now.

Let’s move on to one more quick step, just to be sure malware didn’t mess up your browser’s settings.

Step 5. Reset your browser settings

In many cases, malware will change your browser settings in order to re-infect your computer, show advertisements, or facilitate any other malicious downloads. This is why you need to review some of your browser settings.

Here’s how to fix browser shortcuts the malware might have altered

First of all, access your browser, Right-click on your browser, then go to Properties. 

Browser shortcut

Under the Shortcut tab, you’ll see the Target field.

Browser target

What can actually happen is that the malware might have altered the target field and included a malicious URL in it. So what happens is that now your browser will start up on this page each time you boot it up.

Normally, the browser target should look something like this:

Chrome: “C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe”

In our example case, the browser was targeted to go to a suspicious website, aimed at downloading malware on your PC.

Chrome properties

You can fix that by simply remove the URL that comes after .exe”.

Browser hijackers will change the homepage. 

Instead of changing the “Target” field in the “Shortcut” tab, some malware might just modify your browser homepage.

For the Chrome browser:

Go to the Settings in the top right corner of the browser. Once there, go to the On startup section. The first two options don’t have any homepage whatsoever, so you can go ahead and select either one of those.

Chrome settings in browser

If however, you want to have your own homepage, then check the option to Open a specific page or set of pages and then click on Set pages. This should take you to this window where you can add or delete malicious links sneakily set as homepage.

Hijacking chrome browser

Settings for Firefox:

You can access the Options menu in the top right corner of the browser. This will immediately take you to the General tab, where you can reset your homepage as you see fit.

Firefox settings

Malicious hackers can also take control of your accounts through session hijacking by entering the server and access its information without having to hack a registered account. Additionally, he can also make modifications on the server to help him hack it in the future or to simplify a data-stealing operation.

Verify your proxy settings

There is malware that can even change what Internet service you use to connect to the web. Simply removing the malware won’t reset these proxy settings, so it’s something you should fix before considering your PC squeaky clean.

To access your proxy settings, go to Control Panel -> Network and Internet and then press Internet Options.

proxy settings 1

In the Internet Options menu, go to the Connections tab and press the LAN settings button.

Internet properties

Make sure that Automatically detect settings is on, and that the other two options, “Use automatic configuration script” and “Use a proxy server for your LAN” are unmarked.

Here’s how your settings should look like:

LAN settings

How to make sure you’ll never get infected with malware again

Now that you’ve managed to clean up your PC and remove malware, it is important to take some protection measures to prevent getting another infection.

Some malware programs operate stealthily, and you may not know the infection is there. They don’t visibly affect your PC. Instead, they may collect sensitive information of yours such as passwords, credit card data, completed forms and screenshots.

We recommend following these protection measures to prevent getting your computer infected:

  • Use two-factor authentication management system

If among other things you were also infected with a keylogger, then there’s a high chance your passwords and accounts were compromised. One of the first things you should do is start using the two-factor authentication management system and manage your passwords safely. There is some malware that can take full control of your passwords.

This password security guide will provide all the details needed to set strong and unique passwords to prevent malicious hackers exploiting them and lock you out of your accounts. With the two-factor authentication system, you will add another layer of protection to your account.

  • Always keep your software up to date

Outdated software is one of the major cause of malware infections out there, mostly because they come with many vulnerabilities exploited by cybercriminals. Keeping up your software permanently up to date will lower the chances for malicious hackers to get inside your device or limit any possibility for them to infect computers.

We know it can become a tedious, yet necessary task to constantly update your software, particularly those that patch frequently. Thor FREE is a great solution that will automatically (and silently) update your software, without any annoying confirmation pop-ups. It’s light and unobtrusive, so it won’t slow down your system.

  • Use a complete EDR (endpoint detection and response) solution to keep malware at bay

One layer of protection is not enough, and you need multiple layers of security to better protect your PC. A traffic filtering software will nicely and efficiently complement an antivirus since it scans incoming and outgoing traffic for any malware and then blocks that traffic from entering your PC. In other words, it gets difficult for new malware to reach your device.

Thor Premium Home does everything I mentioned in the paragraph above and is able to protect you from brand new and unlisted malware that traditional antivirus software can’t detect. It will also sanitize your Internet traffic and block malicious sources, making sure you have both your financial and confidential information safely kept.

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BONUS:

I also added a list of in-depth articles we recommend reading so you can better know how to recognize different signs of malware infection and protect your computer with multiple layers of security.

This post was originally published by Paul Cucu in January 2017 and received relevant updates from Ioana Rijnetu in November 2017 and from Bianca Soare in July 2019.

Best Antivirus For My PC
2019.07.04 INTERMEDIATE READ

How to Choose the Best Antivirus for Windows – Your Ultimate Antivirus Software Guide [Updated 2019]

2019.06.28 SLOW READ

13+ Warning Signs that Your Computer is Malware-Infected [Updated 2019]

Comments

A very good informative article. I’ve bookmarked your website and will be checking back in future!

Glad I found this, very helpful.
Thanks

Hello and thank you for your feedback, Mikolo! Happy to know this was useful.

A very informative article, good work, please keep it up to date. learn good things from here. Thanks

Many thanks for your kind words, Vikas! Really glad this article was useful and informative. Thank you!

Excellent and very useful article. Thanks for sharing here.!

Thank you so much for sharing this useful information with us.

Nice Article. Thanks, for your efforts. This is very useful for the user.

hello loana, i was wondering, if my CD is a movie CD will it still be infcted by malware?
and i’m very scared that the malware will install viruses to my computer, can it do that?
and i’m going to say thanks to you for helping me! ^.^

Hi and thank you for reaching out! I think that the first thing to do is scanning your CD to see if there are viruses or malware. To do that, right click on the drive where your CD was detected, and then select Scan with your Antivirus program installed on your PC. Hope this helps!

Vamshi - Canada on March 6, 2018 at 8:06 am

IOANA, Ho do you manage to write so many useful pots. Thank you very much for sharing all.

Hello, Vamshi! Thank you so much for your kind words!! Your feedback made my day 🙂 I try and do my best to write articles and guides that can help users stay safe online and protect their digital assets. Thanks for reading our blog.

Great post! Really in-depth explanations and an overall wonderful guide put together about malware and virus removal.

Thank you so much for your kind words! Happy to know this guide was useful for you.

Hi,

Thanks for sharing such a informative post with useful step by step malware removal process…!!

Hello, Sandeep! Many thanks for your kind words, it means a lot for us. If you want to gain more knowledge in cyber security, you may be interested in our free educational resources: https://heimdalsecurity.com/security-education-resources Thank you!

That’s so kind of Ioana. You help us to eradicate issues by ourself. 🙂

Hey, just recently few computers in our office seemed having a same issue… well, my PC would work fine, I would open few applications on my desktop such as, outlook, MS word, chrome, Media players etc…. suddenly the pop up came and all the open applications on my desktop were all gone at once…. the pop up window was written in Spanish ” El Sistema etc… ” and I close the error window and restart all the application again… and after some time, it happens again……. the icon of the error window seemed look like something like word document or word pad or something….. anyone having the same issue? or anyone know about this? I search the internet but I can’t find anything related to it…. I really need your help….

file description: EL y yo_descripcion grafica
file type: exe

when it crashes all the application, the pop up was written in Spanish and I quote
” EL Sistema ha vuelto al ” and others….. need help right now to figure it out….

I’m not a computer guy or something….

Hello Skella! We recommend to update your operating system and do not click or download unknown files that could infect your devices. Can you, please, send more details to our support team: support@heimdalsecurity.com ? They will respond in a timely manner. Thank you!

Thanks indeed for this valuable information!
Do you know of any program that can restore encrypted documents that got changed into THOR files?? Oh, if you can help us with this, then a heavy burden will be lifted!!
With appreciation – KF

Excellent blog, thank to your for the kind information. you can add one more virusvanish.com..

No mention of SysInternal tools such as Autoruns or Process Explorer?

Hello, we did take into account adding Sysinternal tools, however it has a high level of complexity and we wanted to make this guide simple and straightforward for the average user.

Thank you for the feedback though, it is very much appreciated!

can your microsoft word documents carry malware or viruses when you email them as attachments…I am an editor…and I’m constantly sending emailed documents back and forth…I’m wondering if I can “catch” or “spread” viruses doing this

Hi Donna!

Cybercriminals often use infected documents to spread malware, which is why you should be very careful when receiving attachments from unknown senders, especially attachments you didn’t request. In order for a document to carry malware, it has to be “programmed” to do so, so you don’t have to worry that this can happen accidentally. Maybe this article we wrote will help paint a clearer picture: https://heimdalsecurity.com/blog/practical-online-protection-where-malware-hides/. I hope it helps and it’s wonderful to see that you are making sure that your inbox is safe and clean!

Yes, excellent, hard hitting advice. I notice you didn’t mention that “bootkits” are rootkit variants, and that TDSS KILLER is able to sniff them out. It’s nice that a lot of the utilities mentioned are FREE. Also, sometimes it is necessary (and easier) to use anti-malware software on a standalone (USB/CD) drive. Other than that, seems to be all we need to know, unless there’s a “bot” in there… Thanks.

That’s a load of great information.
Well researched.
Excellent ideas on tackling the Malwares.
Many thanks …Mr Paul Cucu..!

Very usefull article.
Thanks

Excellent Guide, Thankyou.

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