How to Remove Malware from Windows

We’ve all been there: you notice your computer is running slower, odd pop-ups emerge from nowhere, or perhaps an unfamiliar application launches at startup. These are tell-tale signs of malware, and your Windows PC might be under threat. But don’t panic! With a calm approach and the right tools, you can cleanse your system and reclaim your computer. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you do just that.

1. Enter Safe Mode

Why? Safe Mode is a stripped-down version of Windows, operating with only the essential files and drivers. This minimizes the chance of malware interacting with the system while you’re trying to remove it.

  • Restart your computer.
  • When it begins booting up, repeatedly press the F8 key until the Advanced Boot Options menu appears.
  • Use the arrow keys to select “Safe Mode with Networking” and press Enter.

Further Reading: Microsoft’s guide to starting your PC in safe mode

2. Delete Temporary Files

Why? Before running a malware scan, it’s beneficial to delete temporary files. This action can potentially remove some minor malware and speed up the malware scanning process.

  • Go to the Start Menu and type “Disk Cleanup.”
  • Choose the drive you wish to clean (usually C:).
  • Select the file types to remove and click “OK.”

3. Download and Run a Malware Scanner

Why? You need specialized software to identify and remove malware. Some malware even disguises itself as an antivirus tool, so choose a reputable one.

Top Recommendations:

  • Malwarebytes: A widely trusted tool that’s adept at removing aggressive malware.
  • Avast Free Antivirus: Known for its extensive database and heuristic analysis capabilities.

Download one (or both) of the above, install, and run a complete system scan. Follow the prompts to quarantine or delete any detected threats.

Further Reading: PCMag’s list of best free malware removal tools of 2023

4. Restore or Reset Your System

Why? If malware has deeply embedded itself, sometimes it’s more efficient to restore your system to a previous state or reset it entirely.

  • Restore: Windows creates periodic “restore points” which capture system settings and program files at a specific point in time. By restoring to a date before the malware infection, you can often remove the threat.
    • Search for “System Restore” in the Start Menu and follow the prompts.
  • Reset: This option returns Windows to its default state, removing all applications but keeping personal files.
    • Go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Reset this PC.

Further Reading: How to use System Restore on Windows 10

5. Stay Protected

Now that you’ve removed the malware, it’s pivotal to ensure you don’t fall victim again.

  • Update Regularly: Ensure Windows, browsers, and applications are always up-to-date. Microsoft frequently releases security patches in its updates.
  • Use a Reliable Antivirus: Even the free versions of reputable antivirus tools can provide a solid defense against malware.
  • Stay Informed: Awareness is half the battle. Periodically check tech news sites for emerging threats.

Malware can be a silent intruder, wreaking havoc behind the scenes, but with the right approach, its reign can be short-lived. By adopting a proactive stance, keeping your software updated, and arming yourself with knowledge and tools, your Windows experience can remain seamless and secure. Remember, in the digital realm, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.