The signs are there. Strange screens. Glacial movement of your web. Nag screens saying “you have a virus. Do you want us to clean it?” It’s not time to do a post-mortem on how you got the computer virus. The burning question is how do you get rid of it.

The steps are similar but depend on your operating system.

On the Windows Side

The first line of protection is prevention.

Make sure automatic updates from Windows is turned on and get done. The updates contain patches to close the holes hackers  use to put viruses into place.

Get a good anti-virus software in place. These range from paid products (such as Norton) to free products. Two such programs are AVG-Free and Microsoft Security Essentials. I use Microsoft Security Essentials for all our computers at our church. It works well without slowing performance.

Once in place, run a scan once a week. Most anti-virus software can be set to run a scan and clean on schedule. Schedule it for the middle of the night (unless you have insomnia) and you will never know it happened.

But what if, in spite of your best efforts, the virus slips through? It’s time to clean up.

First, run the scan again and follow instructions for removal.

Restore you system to an earlier time. Some are particularly stubborn virus and disable your anti-virus software. In that case restart your computer. When you see the screen that has the maker of your computer on it (the boot up screen), quickly alternate pressing the F7 and F8 keys. You will get an intimidating screen with a lot of options. Select the one that says “Safe Mode.” (Safe mode does not load many of the background programs, including viruses. It allows you to “safely” repair your computer’s operating system.) Click Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore. This command will ask you if you want to restore your computer to an earlier time. Answer “yes.” Select a date before you noticed any signs of the virus. Start the restore and go get a cup of coffee. It will take several minutes. (System restore does not change any of your data, but will restore system configurations and system files to an earlier time.)

Finally, run a complete scan again with even more tools. I would suggest you download two programs that will go beyond your preventative anti-virus. One is Malware Bytes. Another is Hitman Pro. (Hitman Pro costs $19.99 per year but is worth it.) Both of these products are “second opinion” products which identify potential problems missed by the first line of defense. (Hitman Pro found 8 items on my desktop computer that I never knew were there.) Run full scans and follow their recommendations.

On the Mac Side

Once upon a time, this part of the post would have been unnecessary. But with the unleashing of MacDefender viruses, it becomes necessary.

Again, the first thing is to do some preventative maintenance. Make sure you stay abreast with all updates. (Apple updated Snow Leopard to deal with MacDefender.)

But this is new. Get a good anti-virus program for Mac. I use Sophos Anti-virus. It is inexpensive, easy to use, and very effective.

With this duo, my Macbook remains safe.


Computer viruses have become a fact of life. They irritate us, slow us down, and even confuse us. But with an ounce of prevention and a pinch of cure, you can deal with this nuisance of the technological age.