Is your computer running slower than usual? Are you getting lots of pop-ups? Have you seen other weird problems crop up? If so, your PC might be infected with a virus, spyware, or other malware—even if you have an antivirus program installed. Though other problems such as hardware issues can produce similarly annoying symptoms, it’s best to check for malware if your PC is acting up and we’ll show you how to do it yourself.
Step 1: Enter Safe Mode
Before you do anything, you need to disconnect your PC from the internet, and don’t use it until you’re ready to clean your PC. This can help prevent the malware from spreading and/or leaking your private data.
If you think your PC may have a malware infection, boot your PC into Microsoft’s Safe Mode. In this mode, only the minimum required programs and services are loaded. If any malware is set to load automatically when Windows starts, entering in this mode may prevent it from doing so. This is important because it allows the files to be removed easier since they’re not actually running or active.
Sadly, Microsoft has turned the process of booting into safe mode from a relatively easy process in Windows 7 and Windows 8 to one that is decidedly more complicated in Windows 10. To boot into Windows Safe Mode, first click the Start Button in Windows 10 and select the Power button as if you were going to reboot, but don’t click anything. Next hold down the Shift key and click Reboot. When the full-screen menu appears, select Troubleshooting, then Advanced Options, then Startup Settings. On the next window click the Restart button and wait for the next screen to appear (just stick with us here, we know this is long). Next you will see a menu with numbered startup options; select number 4, which is Safe Mode. Note that if you want to connect to any online scanners you’ll need to select option 5, which is Safe Mode with Networking.
You may find that your PC runs noticeably faster in Safe Mode. This could be a sign that your system has a malware infection, or it could mean that you have a lot of legitimate programs that normally start up alongside Windows. If your PC is outfitted with a solid state drive it’s probably fast either way.
Step 2: Delete temporary files
Now that you’re in Safe Mode, you’ll want to run a virus scan. But before you do that, delete your temporary files. Doing this may speed up the virus scanning, free up disk space, and even get rid of some malware. To use the Disk Cleanup utility included with Windows 10 just type Disk Cleanup in the search bar or after pressing the Start button and select the tool that appears named Disk Cleanup.
Step 3: Download malware scanners
Now you’re ready to have a malware scanner do its work—and fortunately, running a scanner is enough to remove most standard infections. If you already had an antivirus program active on your computer, you should use a different scanner for this malware check, since your current antivirus software may not have detected the malware. Remember, no antivirus program can detect 100 percent of the millions of malware types and variants.
There are two types of antivirus programs. You’re probably more familiar with real-time antivirus programs, which run in the background and constantly watch for malware. Another option is an on-demand scanner, which searches for malware infections when you open the program manually and run a scan. You should have only one real-time antivirus program installed at a time, but you can have many on-demand scanners installed to run scans with multiple programs, thereby ensuring that if one program misses something a different one might find it.