Ten Ways to Tell If Your Computer Has a Virus (And What to Do About It)

Ever get the sinking feeling that something’s wrong with your computer? Here are ten ways to tell if your computer is infected with a virus, and what to do if it is.

Run a virus scan
A bit obvious, isn’t it? While you’re at it, make sure your antivirus program has been updated recently. If you haven’t bought a new version in a few years, now’s the time.

Run a second virus scan with a different program
Antivirus programs sometimes come up with different results. It’s a good idea to scan with a second program to pick up anything the first one left behind. However, you shouldn’t try to run two antivirus programs concurrently; they’ll conflict with each other. Try a virus scanner from a reputable company like Malwarebytes or Sophos in conjunction with your usual virus program.

Keep track of crashed apps
Virus-writers don’t exactly keep quality control in mind. Viruses often conflict with each other, and with the legitimate apps on your computer. If you’re suddenly faced with an onslaught of app crashes and error messages, time to fire up the antivirus scanner.

Watch your computer’s speed
Is your computer slower than usual or having a hard time redrawing the screen? These can all be signs that viruses are running in the background.

Watch your network’s speed
Viruses often work silently, with little indication of their presence. Even if they’re clever enough not to cause obvious side effects like slowing down your computer or crashing your apps, they still need Internet access to do their dirty work. A network that has suddenly slowed to a crawl can be an indication of virus infection, especially if the slowdown takes place at odd hours when you know you’re not the one using it.

Check your Web browser extensions
Browser extensions provide additional functionality on the Web. Some are terrific tools while others are sneaky little devils that serve you ads, slurp your data, and otherwise spy on you. Here’s how you can check your browser extensions:

Check your social media accounts
If there are all sorts of weird links on your social media that you didn’t post, your account may have been hijacked. And if that’s the case, it may have happened through a virus infection on your computer.

Restart in recovery mode
If your computer is so confused it won’t work properly, you can boot into recovery mode which may allow you to run antivirus and other diagnostic tools.

Ask the Internet
Fortunately we don’t have to compute in a vacuum. If you think you’re infected with a particular virus, do a Web search on it. You’ll often find removal instructions and links to tools (just make sure those tools are legit and not themselves viruses in disguise).

Run a virus scan on your other computers
If one is infected, it’s likely the others are, too. You need to keep all your computers secure, even if they’re old or you don’t use them often.

So what should you do if you have a computer virus? My Tech Tips articles for Windows and Mac users include antivirus software recommendations and tips on how to remove viruses from your computer.

(This article was originally published in August 2012 and has been updated with new information.)

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