How do I know if I have a computer virus?

Computer virus problems are a pain for everyone, and knowing whether you have a virus or not can sometimes be tricky, especially if you don’t have antivirus software on your computer. Without having anything to detect it, you’re just asking to be infected. If you suspect you have a virus, it can be one of the most frustrating things to deal with. You’ll be thinking, “Will I lose my files?”, “Is my personal information safe?”, “Can I remove it easily?”, and all these questions are completely valid, and could potentially have been avoided if your computer was protected. If you suspect you might have computer viruses and you HAVE antivirus software, that’s even more frustrating - the odds are you were unlucky and got hit with a zero-day attack, one that no one knows about until it has actually been spread. Here are a few things you can look out for if you think you might have a virus:

Slow computer
If your computer is all of a sudden running very sluggish, it could be a warning sign that your computer has been infected with a virus or some other kind of malware. Many types of viruses add a huge strain on system resources, so if you’re not running heavy applications and you still notice your system is slow, that could be the sign of a virus. It’s best to run a deep, full system scan to see if there is anything found. If not, your computer might just be low on memory, or have a lot of programs start on boot by default.

Unstable computer
A sign that you may have a computer virus is if you notice instability in your machine when you navigate and open programs. Some kinds of malware tinker with important files and when they are damaged, cause the computer to freeze, shut down, display a BSOD (blue screen of death), or do something else unpredictable. Again, these instabilities don’t absolutely mean you have a virus, but they’re definitely warning signs.

Messages you didn’t send
Some viruses only goal is to spread as much as possible, and with the growing number of methods to send messages, virus writers are looking to exploit them. Most commonly keep an eye out for messages in your sent items, or Facebook and Twitter posts that you didn’t actually send or post. Usually, the message will have some call to action with a link on it. The idea is if your friends think it’s from you, they’ll assume the link is safe, click on it, and become infected themselves. Sometimes all you’ll need to do to stop the virus is change your password, but it’s not always that easy, so make sure you have a good antivirus program to prevent this before it happens.

You’re locked out of the system
If one day you’re enjoying the Internet, browsing online, soaking in the information, and all of a sudden your computer screen locks, displaying a message, it could be a virus. A locked screen with a message indicating you’ve been locked out for various reasons - usually breaking the law - might appear, asking for money to release your computer from its locked state. This type of virus is known as ransomware - it holds you ransom until you give them money in return for your computer back - don’t be fooled once they have your money you’ll only have a locked computer and less money - you need to have this virus removed. Most antivirus companies will have a solution to this virus which you can download onto a cd and use - you’ll just have to do it from a different computer.

Discovering you have a virus on your computer is like getting a scratch on your brand new car, you can take all the precautions but it still might happen. Noticing you have one can be difficult, but having the right tools is essential to repairing the problem. To help keep your computer protected, take a look at the top ten antivirus programs to see which is best for you.

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