Adware, viruses, trojans, spyware, ransomware, and rootkits are everywhere these days, and keeping our computers free of malware is a constant struggle.

No matter how aggressive we are in preventing malware infections, they can still manage to make their way on our hard drives and into the machine’s memory banks. 

When a PC is infected, removing it from any malware scraps can be challenging. But it can be done. This post explains how to do it step by step. 

Steps to remove malware on a computer

The best way to make sure you’ve thoroughly cleaned your PC of malware is to wipe your hard drive and reinstall Windows from scratch. The second best way is to restore everything from a known good system image backup you created earlier.

However, sometimes not a viable option, so we had to get rid of the malware with a bit of elbow grease (and a considerable amount of time). Here is the procedure I recommend:

1 – Boot your PC into Safe Mode with Networking. This post explains how to do that. (It’s best always to make sure you’re in Safe Mode when trying to get rid of the malware.)

2 – If possible (and maybe not), update your existing antivirus software and do a full scan, then remove any malware it finds.

If you can’t update your existing antivirus program, remove it from the system, install the free version of Avast Antivirus, then scan with (Avast is excellent, and I recommend it in all other versions).

3 – Download your favorite web browser and download the free version of Malwarebytes from this site. Install and run a full scan, then remove any malware it finds.

4 – Download the free version of Spybot Search & Destroy from this page (click the text link below the red button to download the free version). Complete scan and remove any malware found.

5 – Download and install the free Sophos Virus Removal tool from this site and run it. This tool does a thorough job of detecting and removing rootkits (a particularly nasty malware type).

6 – Go to Control Panel and click the Uninstall a program (in some versions of Windows, it is labeled as the Add or Remove Programs. Remove any toolbars that you do not remember installing at some point. With very few exceptions, the toolbar is almost always malware. The same goes for the search word in the name. Eliminate those, too, while you’re there.

7 – Download Autoruns from this site. Save the zipped folder to your Desktop, extract all the files, then click on autoruns .exe to run the program. Uncheck the box next to any processes you don’t want to load every time you start your computer.

If you’re unsure of the process, right-click on it and click Search online to find out what the process is and whether you should remove it. When you’re done, click File > Exit.

Note: Unchecking the box next to the Autoruns entry will not remove it from the hard drive. It merely keeps it from automatically loading each time the system boots. You can always reverse the process by rerunning Autoruns and rechecking the box.

8 – This step is optional but strongly recommended. At this point, I will uninstall the existing PC antivirus software, then download and install the free version of Avast Antivirus.

I use Avast, and I love it. It is considered by many security experts to be the best free antivirus out there, and after using it for a while, I can say I agree with them.

Please understand that following the 8-step process above is not a quick process. If done correctly, it could easily take the better part in a day. That being said, you can do other things with your PC while different scans are running.

The bottom line: You must make sure you have removed your PC from any malware that happens on it. This procedure will help you to do just that.

Good luck!