Malware is one of the most common problems affecting computers today.
Unlike the computer viruses found 20 years ago that merely annoyed the user or destroyed data on the hard drive, modern malware can cause much more serious problems for computer users.
They can allow an attacker to steal private information such as passwords by monitoring keystrokes, allow the PC to be used as part of a denial of service attack against a website, and even let an intruder use your internet connection to send spam messages.
Fortunately, there are many tools that you can use to keep your PC secure and to remove any malware programs that may have infected it. Here are some easy steps to check a computer running Windows XP or 7 for unwanted programs.
Download and Install Security Software
There are dozens of good software packages that help keep your computer free of unwanted software.
Many security tools have a free version that do a decent job at protecting your PC.
Two such program are AVG Free Edition and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free.
By installing these programs on your computer, you will be able to perform a scan to see if there are any potentially dangerous programs running on your computer. If any are found, they can usually be disabled immediately and removed from your PC.
However, the issue with common anti-virus programs is that they may not be able to detect all possible types of malware, as new malicious software is created every day. Therefore, it may take a bit of time before an update is released to the security software that makes it able to detect and neutralize the latest threats.
But there are a few other tools that you can use to check for potentially dangerous programs and remove them manually.
Examine Which Programs Load Automatically at Startup
Most types of malware will run automatically when your computer boots. The first place you will want to check is in the Start Menu under the Startup folder. Take a look to see if there is any items that you don’t recognize.
Often malicious software will keep its presence hidden though. To get a more detailed look at which programs load when you start your computer, simply open the Start Menu and type msconfig in the Run box.
Select the Startup tab, which will show you a list of all programs that automatically run when you open Windows.
If you notice one that looks suspicious, you can Google its name to see if it is associated with malware. If so, you can uncheck it, then go to the folder it is located in to delete it.
Check The Running Programs
While the Windows Task Manager gives you a list of running programs, there is a better tool that you can use, as it will allow you to view all running programs, even those who are able to hide from the Task Manager.
Neuber Security Task Manager, available in a 30-day free trial version, makes a list of all running processes, complete with a threat assessment that shows how likely it is that a program is malicious.
You can use Google to research any programs that look suspicious and if confirmed to be malware, Security Task Manager allows you to remove it from your computer.