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How to remove malware from your PC

Windows computer owners have been affected by lots of viruses for more than two decades now. And while Mac and Linux fans used to brag about their computers being much safer, things have changed for the worse during the last few years. Today we've even gotten viruses that have been built for several operating systems, and are intelligent enough to detect their victims' OS and install the malware package that is guaranteed to produce havoc.

Often, once that a computer gets infected, it starts to behave abnormally. Even simple operations, such as copying or saving a small file take ages to complete. Or, the user is bombarded with lots of unwanted pop-ups which show up even when his or her browser isn't open.

Sometimes things can get even worse, and some malware packages have been created with the sole purpose of destroying computer hardware. Viruses like these will constantly write dummy data to the hard drive, slowing down the computer to a crawl and making its disk overheat and get damaged, for example.

So, what can you do to remove malware from your computer? The first step is to ensure that the virus isn't active in memory; otherwise, you may not be able to stop it. Therefore, try to boot your computer in safe mode. This way, most applications that are loaded automatically when the computer is turned on will be prevented from running.

If your computer uses Windows XP, it is time to get rid of this OS for good. Microsoft is no longer providing patches for it, so your computer can get infected with malware anytime, by simply visiting a legit looking website. But let's assume that your PC utilizes a more modern version of Microsoft's operating system, such as Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10. The first two OSs can be forced to run in safe mode by simply holding down the Shift key while your computer is restarting. For Windows 10, the process is a bit more complex, though. You will have to hold down the Shift key while you click "Start", "Power", and then the "Reboot" buttons to restart the computer and bring on a menu that includes the "Startup settings" option.

Once that your computer has booted into safe mode, you are ready to run a virus scan. Fortunately, there are several antivirus manufacturers which offer 100% free, or at least fully functional trial versions of their products. The best malware removal applications that I can wholeheartedly recommend are SuperAntispyware and Malwarebytes. On the other hand, the best antiviruses on my list are Kaspersky Security Scan and Bitdefender.

Scan your computer using all these security products; if everything works as expected, all the viruses and other malware applications from your computer should be removed. It is true that viruses will corrupt some of your files, so you may miss some data. Unfortunately, if you don't have any data backups, there aren't too many things that can be done about that.

Sometimes you will discover that viruses continue to be active even after your computer has been booted in Safe Mode. This happens because of a newer generation of malware – rootkits – which are able to load in the system memory before Windows loads. If this is the case, you should create and use a bootable rescue disk on a CD/DVD which includes the antivirus on it. Here's one provided by Bitdefender and another one created by Kaspersky. Boot your computer using one of these rescue disks, and then follow the on-screen instructions to remove all the viruses.

If all went well, your computer should now be free from viruses and other forms of malware. Don't forget to back it up regularly, though; this way, you will be able to minimize the losses in case that your PC gets infected again in the future.