Uncover Hidden Threats - Warning! Infected (Part 2)

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Remove malware from your computer

The simplest way to remove malware is to let a security program detect it and then remove it automatically. Once complete, restart the computer and perform a full scan again to verify the threat has been removed.

Sometimes you may have to scan and remove threats a number of times before they are all finally defeated. Other times the threat stubbornly remains. If that is the case, or your security tools refuse to run properly (or at all) because they are being blocked by malware, the next step is to try to restart Windows in Safe Mode. Safe Mode is a cut down version of Windows for troubleshooting purposes. In this environment many, but not all, malware infections are crippled, making them easier to detect and remove.

System explorer lets you manually check for suspicious-looking programs and processes taking place on your computer

System explorer lets you manually check for suspicious-looking programs and processes taking place on your computer

To access Safe Mode, restart the PC and tap the F8 key to summon the Advanced Boot Menu. Choose ‘Safe Mode with networking’ to enable internet access so security tools can update (XP users must be connected to the internet via an Ethernet cable for this to work).

When Safe Mode opens, click Yes (if prompted) to avoid opening System Restore; it is little use for removing malware infections. Safe Mode is set to run at a low resolution, so security tools may be awkward to use. To change this, right-click the Desktop and choose Screen Resolution (select Properties then the Settings tab in Windows XP). Click Advanced, choose the Adapter tab and click List All Modes to pick a higher resolution from the list – 1,024x768 pixels is a comfortable size.

You may need to resize the screen in Safe Mode to use your security software

You may need to resize the screen in Safe Mode to use your security software

Now launch your usual security tool from the Start menu. Many security tools will work in Safe Mode, but not all do, while others may still be crippled as a result of the malware infection. If yours does launch, update it and perform a full scan, letting it remove any infections it finds.

Whether or not this approach works, run scans with both Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and Norton Power Eraser. If prompted to reboot, do so, but return to Safe Mode by tapping F8. Once all three tools have done their work, restart your PC, which should automatically launch Windows in normal mode. Perform full scans with all three tools again to verify no traces of malware remain.

Remove stubborn threats

Sadly not all malware is crippled by Safe Mode, while other infections actually block access to Safe Mode. If your PC restarts or displays a blue ‘STOP’ error when attempting to access Safe Mode, then a malware infection is likely.

If this is the case, or you are unable to remove infections even in Safe Mode, you will need access to a second, clean PC. From here, create a rescue CD or DVD to scan your computer without launching Windows. Most security companies provide rescue discs, but you can also download free tools from the likes of Kaspersky and AVG.

The downloaded file will be a very large file with an .iso extension – this is a disc image that can be used to create a CD or DVD. If you don’t have disc-burning software, then download and install the free ISO Recorder tool from Then double-click the ISO file and follow the wizard to create the rescue disc. Once created, insert the disc into the PC’s drive and restart. If the computer is not set to boot automatically from CD or DVD, find an option to choose the boot device in the Bios look for a prompt to press F2 or Delete (Del) or similar soon after switching on the PC.

The security tool should launch from the disc. Follow the prompts to let it download the latest updates from the internet and scan. Should an infection be found, let the rescue disc deal with it, and then run another scan to verify that it has been removed. Remove the disc, restart the computer and perform final scans.

Repair any damage a virus has done

With luck, your PC will be returned to good working order. However, it may still be affected by some of the damage caused by the infection – not being able to access Safe Mode, for example, or being locked out of key tools such as Windows Update and Registry Editor.

There are free tools designed to repair such havoc. Visit and download the portable edition of Windows Repair. Save the Zip file, right-click it and choose Extract All, then Finish. Open the ‘ Windows Repair’ folder and double-click the ‘Repair_Windows.exe’ program to start. Click Next twice to skip the section about cleaning your computer – you have already done this – then click the Do It button. Let Windows restart for a disk check.

Rescue CDs can help repair even those computers that are badly affected

Rescue CDs can help repair even those computers that are badly affected

Once the disk check completes, launch Windows Repair again, this time switching to the ‘Step 3 (Optional)’ tab. Click Do It again to allow Windows to perform a check for damaged and missing files. You may be prompted for your Windows CD to repair files. Once complete, click Next followed by Create to create a Restore Point, then Backup to back up the Registry.

You are now ready to apply repairs. Click Next followed by Start to open a new window with a list of available fixes. Start by clicking the Unselect All button, then click on an item to read more about it in the right-hand pane. If the symptoms described match problems on your PC, tick the box. When you have gone through the list, click Start and fixes should be applied. If a security warning box appears, verify that the publisher is Microsoft Corporation before you click Run.

Once the repair jobs have finished, you will probably be prompted to restart your computer. When Windows has reloaded, you should find it works correctly.

Keep it clean

Prevention is always better and easier than cure, so take these quick steps to ensure your PC stays infection-free.

First, run regular scans with both Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and Norton Power Eraser, in addition to your main security software. Second, take steps to minimize your exposure to malware. Most malware comes through the internet, so that means improving the security of your web browser and email.

Make sure you are running the latest version of Internet Explorer, Chrome or Firefox. These include antimalware tools that screen websites and download for known risks. Supplement this protection by installing a site filtering plug-in such as MyWOT ( or Norton Identity Safe (, both of which provide safety ratings for websites and search engine results, helping to steer you away from unsafe sites.

Finally, consider installing a free tool called POP Peeper (, which allows you to screen email before downloading it to your computer, giving you extra protection against fake emails.

Tablet and smartphone security

These days many people own Smartphone and tablets, and these may become vulnerable to malware infections in the not-to-distant future.

Owners of iPhones and iPads can feel a little smug, because Apple’s tight control over apps and its mobile operating system, iOS, means that there are far fewer opportunities for malware authors to sneak their wares onto Apple devices. Apps also run within an electronic ring fence known as a ‘sandbox’, from which the app cannot escape.

Android tablet and Smartphone owners, on the other hand, should protect themselves. While you can pay for anti-malware software, you will find free tools are adequate. Avast Mobile Security protects against malware, dodgy websites and even theft

Should i pay for antivirus software?

There is no real need to pay for antivirus software. The likes of AVG Antivirus Free and Avast Free Antivirus provide perfectly adequate protection. More comprehensive suites, such as Kaspersky Internet Security 2013, offer a combined firewall and antivirus suite, plus other goodies such as a sandbox, a tool that runs unknown programs in isolation from the rest of your computer to help prevent infection. There are, however, some advantages to buying paid-for security packages. Suites such as Norton Internet Security 2013 have features including File Insight, where all downloaded files are screened for safety and reliability against a large community-driven database of known files, as well as tools that further protect Facebook users. It is worth looking for three-user versions, which allow you to protect an entire household’s computer collection with a single purchase.

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