Dealing with Computer Viruses
It's a sickening feeling. You boot up your computer in the morning and instead of the familiar desktop, you get a black screen without any of your regular icons. Or, you're working on a project and a message suddenly pops up that your computer has been infected with a virus and you should click "here" to fix it. Don't do it unless you're absolutely sure it's a message from your antivirus software.
Maybe you received an email from a friend, but it has a strange message like "Try this!" or "I love you" and an attachment. As soon as you click on the attachment, you realize you've just infected your computer with a virus.
Another sign that your computer has been infected is that you can't get to some of your favorite websites. Instead you're redirected to a site that wants you to pay to remove the virus.
So how do you deal with these nasty bugs running around the internet? Well, first, try to prevent them from ever getting on your computer in the first place. You ARE running some kind of anti-virus software aren't you? If not, get some today. There are several free ones available. I recommend you go to ninite.com, scroll down to the security section, and pick ONE to install on your computer. Ninite will install it for you with just one click and without installing any other toolbars or unnecessary software. I like Microsoft Security Essentials or AVG. After installing the software, be sure to update the virus database if the program offers to do so. Also, perform a full scan of your system with your new software. This may take several hours, so you may want to start the scan just before bedtime. (While you're at the ninite.com website, take a look at the other free programs you can download. Check any that you want and ninite will handle all the installations without bothering you.)
Secondly, make sure that "System Restore" is activated on your computer. This feature periodically creates a "restore" point on your machine. If your computer DOES become infected, you may be able to simply restore your system to an earlier time (before it became infected). System restore can be found in different places depending upon the operating system you're using. On my Windows 7 system, it's under Control Panel > System > System Protection. You can create your first restore point here and also configure future restore points.
Despite all this, you may someday find yourself infected...that is, your computer is infected. If so, DON'T PANIC! Write down (or take a picture with your phone) any warning messages you may see. Next, reboot the computer and, while it is booting, hold down the F8 key. You'll soon see a menu. Select "safe mode with networking" and see if you can complete the boot and access your internet connection. If so, try downloading Malware Bytes (also available at ninite.com). Install it, update it, and let it scan for problems. The scan should be performed in safe mode because the computer only loads the very essential programs it needs which, hopefully, excludes the virus.
Some viruses prevent you from getting to sites where you can download programs like Maleware Bytes. If so, you'll have to go to another computer, download the software to a flash drive, then try to install it on the infected machine.
If Maleware Bytes is unable to remove the virus, Google the warning message (remember, you wrote it down earlier, or took a picture of it) and you'll most probably find someone who's successfully removed it with another piece of software.
Finally, restore your computer to an earlier point using System Restore. Be sure to pick a restore point BEFORE your computer became infected.
And remember to BACK UP your files. In fact, if you have a large enough external USB hard drive, you can create a complete system image of the internal drive. The image will include all your files, settings, and programs. Be sure to also create a repair disk at the same time. In Windows 7, look under Control Panel > Backup and Restore. There, you'll be able to create both the repair disk and the system image. You'll need the repair disk if your hard drive fails and you have to replace it. You'll boot from the repair disk and then restore the system image from the external hard drive. But remember, you'll lose everything on your computer since the last system image was created, so you may want to set up a regular schedule of replacing the system image every week or so. Still, a few lost files are better than losing EVERYTHING on your hard drive.
If all this becomes just too much to deal with, find the nearest 14-year old and invite him/her over for a glass of lemonade and a cookie. Your computer will probably be up and running again in a couple of hours!