Ask the Experts: Help! My PC is infected! How do I remove a virus?

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Ask the Experts: Help! My PC is infected! How do I remove a virus?

Kevin R. Smith

Mike wrote in today asking a question on a lot of people's minds:
I was surfing the web, I use Firefox, when suddenly my antivirus software started going totally nuts.

"I got a warning that it had blocked something from infecting my system, and I thought everything was fine, but a few second later, my system ground to a halt and my desktop disappeared.

"A few seconds after that, the desktop reappeared and everything seemed to be back to normal.

"Yeah right.

"Right after that I got a pop-up from something that looked like antivirus software, but I knew it wasn't saying my PC was infected.

"The thing is, I know what my antivirus software looks like, and this thing doesn't look anything like it.

"The d##### thing has taken over my system, and they claim unless I pay for a registered version of their so-called "software", it appears I'm screwed.

"What a bunch of a#######.

"So, I've tried doing a manual scan with my current antivirus. It says everything is fine. It's not. The definitions were just updated right before it happened, so I thought everything would be fine.

"I called the company looking for help, and they want to charge me to get rid of the thing. Didn't I already pay for antivirus protection?"

"I don't know who I'm more pissed off at. The jerks who wrote this thing or the antivirus company for trying to stick it to me."

"Now, I'm out looking for an answer, and I came across your site.

"Any tips or ideas on how I can get rid of this thing?

I shot a reply back to Mike immediately with this answer,

Hi Mike,

Sorry to hear about your virus fiasco. What a pain.

Especially since you thought you were covered. Good news and bad news.

First the bad news: as you've found out, not all antivirus software is created equal.

And unfortunately even the best software sometimes has something slip through. It's cat-and-mouse between the good guys and the bad guys every day, and the things like you got are what most of the companies consider their biggest challenge: preventing rogue / fake antivirus software.

Now for the good news: there are a couple of great free rescue tools out there that are ideal for a situation like the one you have on your hands.

The three I like the most are the ones from VIPRE, BitDefender, and Kaspersky.

Here are links for their free rescue CDs:
Effective Rescue CDs for Virus Removal
Info Page Download Page
VIPRE Rescue CD Information Download VIPRE Rescue CD (.exe)
BitDefender Rescue CD Information Download BitDefender Rescue CD (.iso)1
Kaspersky Rescue CD Information Download Kaspersky Rescue CD (.iso)

To use any of them, you need access to another clean PC with a CD-ROM burner or the ability to boot from a USB thumbdrive.

I'll skip the steps to make a CD or USB version since it's a little different for each, and it's covered in detail at their respective sites linked above.

They're all pretty easy to use, but since each of them work a little differently, you'll want to read up a bit on the one you're going to use before you get started.

Any of these rescue CDs should be able to easily detect and remove the virus. If not, write us back, and we'll go into the next steps. Either way, let me know how it goes. Good luck with it.

1The BitDefender Rescue CD file is called "bitdefender-rescue-cd.iso." I didn't link to it directly so if other options appear on their site, you can see what they are.


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When it seems that something has overtaken your computer and/or you receive a message stating that you must send money to rectify or unlock your computer, you must use "system restore" to restore your computer to an earlier date. With Windows, you can press F11 DURING STARTUP (before Windows loads when you've first turned on your computer), or type "system restore" in the search box near your startup button.

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