Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Windows 10: Viruses and Malware


A few months ago, I received the offer to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. That offer—along with the caveat that I could revert to Windows 7 if I didn't care for the new system—prompted me to download and upgrade. It was actually easy, and for the most part, everything worked as it did before and the learning curve was not that steep. Or so I thought at the time.

Fast forward a couple of months and one day, for reasons I haven't figured out as of yet, my computer started struggling and locking up from time to time.

After reading a few articles on potential things that could be causing such problems, I removed a bunch of programs I wasn't using. That did nothing to help things. Then—again, based on something I read somewhere—I removed the free AVG anti-virus/malware software I'd been running for at least a couple of years.

About a year earlier, I had to download Malwarebytes in order to rid my laptop of some "crapware" I picked up somewhere on the Interwebs, but I had to purchase the program for it to clean my computer properly. I left the program running automatic updates and daily checks just to be on the safe side.

So, when I read that getting rid of AVG may solve my computer's performance issues, and because of having the paid version of Malwarebytes, Windows 10, and Windows Defender, I uninstalled AVG and my computer started running normally again.

But things took a turn for the worse again, a couple of weeks ago. My computer's performance slowed down to a crawl making it almost unusable. At this point I called a local professional computer shop and brought it in for service.

They kept it there for a couple of days, and told me it had been infected by some nasty malware that was basically hogging all my CPU's resources. They did their thing and—after I handed them a C-note—they gave me back a computer that was running fine again.

At least that was the case for about five days, until the same problem occurred again!

When I tried to run Windows Defender, the system warned me it had been turned off and I had no way to enable it again. It was clear my computer had been infected by a malicious program. I managed to run a Malwarebytes scan which made no difference whatsoever.

It was time to go deeper into the Windows beast in order to try to purge the system of this malady.


WINDOWS DEFENDER AND MALWAREBYTES IN SAFE MODE

When you run Windows in Safe Mode, you are running a very basic version of the system. This keeps viruses and malware inactive, and I immediately noticed how fast and well my computer was running, albeit in the weird-looking safe mode.

The plan was to run both Windows Defender and Malwarebytes in safe mode. Doing this would—I hoped—rid my system of the problem or, at least, do enough damage to it so it would not load and run ever again.

Of course, as a Windows 10 newbie, I had no clue as to how to get it load in safe mode. I restarted the laptop several times, and hit the F8 key for what seemed an eternity until I realized I had to find a better way to do this.


RUNNING WINDOWS 10 IN SAFE MODE

In order to figure how to start Windows 10 in safe mode, I borrowed my girlfriend's computer to search for the right answer since the old F8 trick did not seem to work with the new system.

Sure enough. Windows 10 does not work that way. Instead, I was to learn, you have several options to launch Windows in safe mode, and the easiest way it to press and hold the Windows key followed by the letter R. This opens the Run box.

When the Run box opens, you type msconfig and hit enter.


From there the System Configuration box opens,and you must select the "Boot" tab, then check the "Safe boot" box, followed by the  "Network" option. Then click "OK" and reboot the system.


After going through the rebooting motions, Windows 10 loads in Safe Mode. Finally!


GIVING WINDOWS 10 A COLON CLEANSE

I apologize for the crass comparison and commentary, but when your computer has been infected with a virus or malware for a while, you really want to get rid of that crap for good.

First thing was to try to enable Windows Defender while in safe mode, and I was (finally) able to do so.

I then launched the program, ran a quick update, then allowed it to scan the whole system, which took about 45 minutes.

When that was finished, I ran Malwarebytes for another full scan. At this point I did not want to take any shortcuts.


DID THIS SOLVE THE PROBLEM?

You bet your Aston Martin it did!

But first you have to exit Windows 10 safe mode, and since there's no obvious or easy way to figure this out by clicking or looking at the screen, let me save you some time and aggravation by giving you the answer, since it may not be as obvious to some.

Press and hold the Windows key then press "R" to open the Run box. Again, type msconfig and hit Enter. The System Configuration box will open and make sure the "General" tab is selected.

From there you can click the "Normal Startup" option and you're (hopefully) back in biz.



A WORD OF CAUTION

When you boot your computer in safe mode, don't start deleting files unless you know what you're doing, since it's easy to really screw up your computer for good.

If your system is running extremely slow and the mouse cursor locks up for no good reason, there's a good chance your system has been infected by either a virus or malware. If you leave it alone, it won't get better. Actually, chances are it will go from bad to worse.

Of course there's no guarantee that what worked for me will work for you, so my suggestion is that you do some research online (yes, you will probably have to borrow a computer to do this), and learn as much as you can about things you can do.

Again, this article chronicles what worked for me and my Windows 10 laptop, and I hope you find it useful.

Dealing with a computer that's been infected by a virus or malware is a frustrating experience, and punching the machine will not make it snap back to normal.

I tried that and it does not work.