By James W. Harris, Thursday, February 26, 2015
WARNING: This is free advice, take at your own risk. I’m trying to be helpful, but without commitment.
Twice in the past month I’ve had to help people clean up a computer virus remotely over the phone, and both times Kaspersky 2015 Antivirus did the trick. At $39 for a 3 user license, it’s not first tool people want to turn to. What you want to do is try all the free tools first, and if they don’t work, consider buying Kaspersky, or another top level antivirus program.
Before I retired, I had to support hundreds of computers and their users. The first tool we tried when someone got a virus was Malwarebytes. If it was a minor infection, Malwarebytes would clean it up. If it was a bad infection, that infection wouldn’t let us install Malwarebytes. That’s a major indicator. You know you have a bad computer virus when you can’t install software, can’t run Microsoft updates, can’t get to the command prompt, or pursue any other course of action that might clean up the virus. Viruses are getting very clever about protecting themselves. [Home users get the free version of Malwarebytes and make sure you uncheck the box that asks you if you want to try the professional version when you run the install. The professional version is great if you want to pay for it, and have it run in background all the time. The free version is great for running occasionally, which takes up fewer resources.]
If you think you have a virus, try running your regular antivirus program doing a full scan. Then, run Disk Cleanup, and go through your Programs and Features control panel and uninstall anything you know you don’t need. Don’t uninstall what you don’t know. Google the program to find out what it does if you don’t know. Restart the computer. Try and install Malwarebytes again. If you can’t get to the internet, put Malwarebytes on a flashdrive using another computer. If something keeps Malwarebytes or other scanners from installing, then you probably have a nasty virus that’s going to take more work.
You can try some of the better free antivirus programs, but I’d avoid AVG. It’s become really annoying. Here are two reviews for free anti-virus programs at Gizmo’s Freeware and Tom’s Guide. The trouble with free is these companies have to find alternate ways to make money, and sometimes their methods can be very annoying. That’s why I don’t love AVG anymore. Avira seems to be kinder in this regard.
Helping someone over the phone clean up a virus infected computer isn’t easy. Getting them to try a bunch of different free programs in hopes of finding one that works can be tedious, and usually people who ask me for help aren’t real keen on messing with computers in the first place. That’s why I’ve asked them to consider paying for a top level program like Kaspersky. It’s work like a charm twice now this month. That’s all I can say. You could buy it, and get nowhere.
I’m offering this experience because it might be useful, but I don’t want to be responsible for anything that goes wrong. However, in both the cases I’m referring to, these people couldn’t use their computers, and they wanted to avoid hitting the panic keys to reinstall Windows.
Kaspersky requires you to register before using it – they want to track your licenses. We’ve always gotten the cheaper version, the plain 2015 antivirus program. They offer more expensive suites. If you visit a lot of dangerous places on the Internet, you might want the extra protection. In both cases I mentioned, Kaspersky was able to install and run when the infected machines were not letting other programs install.
If you have a killer virus that stops all programs from installing, try and find an antivirus program that can run from a boot disc. This bypasses Windows. Here’s a list of free ones. Here’s another view of 26 such utilities. These usually boot to Linux and often have hard to use interfaces. You need some Geek skills to use them. Often if you take badly infected machines to a computer shop or Geek Squad, they will want to wipe your disc and start over. Sometimes it takes many hours to clean up an infect computer, and they know it’s quicker to wipe a disk and start over. Otherwise they’d have to charge you $400.
Getting an infection on your computer can be very trying and depressing. The best thing to do is always run good antivirus software, always keep your operating system and programs up-to-date, and even consider running extra preventive measures. It’s not good to have two antivirus scanners running in the background at the same time – it causes a performance hit, and sometimes conflicts. However, I’m considering adding Webroot to my home computer. I used it at work. It’s an Internet base scanner, so it approaches problems from another direction. But that means paying two yearly fees. However, $39.95 a year keeps me thinking about it, rather than buying. If you visit a lot of iffy web sites, consider buying Malwarebytes. It’s not a general purpose antivirus program, but it does clean up the crap you step in while walking the seedy streets of the web.