Do I Have a Computer Virus?

I hear you say, duh, I’ve just scanned attached-facing-leftmy computer with an antivirus program and the answer is no! Wish I could give you the thumbs up, and say ‘awesome, no need to worry then, go back to bliss and enjoy!’  Truth is, it’s not that simple; frankly some antivirus programs are about as useful as a sunroof on a motorcycle. Fortunately there are other symptoms that should tip you off to a probable infection and have you scurrying to contain it with a second antivirus program that actually works.

In this blog I’ll tell you about the symptoms to look for, that should at least raise your suspicions.  Although a computer virus is different from malware (malicious software), the symptoms are similar so for simplicity we’ll lump them both together here, if you find several of the symptoms below then chances are you’ve got either one or more computer viruses, malware or both.

Windows Warnings:

I hate stating the obvious, but if you get pop up windows telling you your computer is at risk, infected or out to lunch, especially if said window doesn’t know how to exit, or you get pop up windows advertising something which at best is a bit dodgy, it’s a fair indication that your computer is infected with something other than good will. More often than not though, it’s not that obvious.

Instability Issues

Like when you’ve got the flu, your nose, mouth and other less seemly orifices can become unstable, any kind of instability issue on your computer could indicate an infection. For example:

  • Perhaps, quite suddenly you can’t download stuff anymore. You’re smart though and figure maybe you have a virus and try downloading an antivirus program but even that won’t work.
  • If you have an antivirus program it seems to hang, or is mysteriously disabled, like some hidden minion broke it and put it in a corner where you wouldn’t notice.
  • Maybe some or all of the icons on your desktop suddenly stop working have gone walk about, or now open something different than before!
  • The printer seems broke. It was working yesterday but now nothing happens.
  • More disturbingly you might loose touch with a disk drive, it’s just not there anymore, or if it is it won’t play nice and let you connect to it.
  • You’re computer seems to have a mind of its own and arbitrarily shuts down, reboots or simply freezes without any input whatsoever from you. Least before when it crashed you know you caused it right?
  • Likewise, programs tend to open by themselves like they’re possessed!
  • Your hardware seems to be working overtime.  Maybe the modem indicator light is going nuts or you’ve used up all your download limit with eBay (which is probably not possible). Maybe your ISP (Internet Service Provider) has contacted you and told you how naughty you’ve been using all that download and you’ll be punished for the rest of the month with dial-up speed, but you can’t figure out how it’s been used up.  Another hardware sign involves the hard drive. Perhaps it sounds louder than normal or the fans sound like they’re going to lift off!

One or more of these should always merit a closer look. There is one more subtle symptom, that is barely noticed for weeks or longer;  Your PC seems to have gotten old and slowed down. It used to be fast, now it seems positively geriatric. When you open a program or a file it just hangs there like it’s waiting for further instructions, medication, a bus or something. This isn’t always a sure sign there’s a digital plague reaping havoc inside your computer, more often than not it’s a quirk of Microsoft Windows. The article ‘My PC is Slowing Down – Help!‘ shows what you can do about it.

In a nutshell:  If you get an onscreen warning, your computer becomes unstable in some way, something stops working or the whole thing just seems to slow down it might be time to take a closer look.

Next week I’ll show you some sure fire ways to get rid of a computer virus and its pesky cousin; malware. I’ll also show you how to shut the door to them returning, till then have a good week and try not to toss your PC out the window just yet.

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