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Oh no, your computer’s started acting funny! It might be going slower than usual, freezing frequently, spewing pop-up windows, or sliding porn into your Internet browser’s bookmarks/favorites. It might be hardware or software problems, or it might be a virus. If it’s a virus, then you should be able to take care of it yourself by following these instructions. This is not a guaranteed DIY guide to computer cleaning, but if you have to give up and take it to Best Buy, well, at least you can tell them you tried.

What you will need:
Antivirus program (AVG, Norton, and McAfee are some popular programs)
Internet connection (this one will be tricky)
A few hours on a Saturday night

1. Did you install a new program recently? Check the reviews at to make sure it isn’t riddled with spyware and adware. (A previous Techgirl talked about them as being little programs that sit in your computer feeding information about you to a third party. Some of them can cause problems with your computer, such as pop-up windows.) If you think the new program is the culprit, then uninstall it. If not, move on.

2. Disable your Internet connection, if possible. “But Techgirl, you said above that you need an Internet connection!” Yes, and I also said it would be tricky! For now, engage the Internet Lock on your firewall (if it has that option) or disconnect from the Mills network. This prevents the virus from contacting the outside world and calling its friends to mess up your computer some more, and it also prevents the virus or worm from spreading to other computers on the network.

3. Update your antivirus program and run a full system scan. Your antivirus program needs to download updates regularly in order to perform; new viruses and other malicious programs come out every day. Also update and run all your spyware and adware programs (AdAware, Spybot, etc.). For that matter, check the reviews at or Google to make sure your spyware/adware program isn’t what’s causing the problem! A lot of scammers advertise blockers and scanners that are actually, themselves, riddled with spyware.

If it’s updated and the newest version, your antivirus program should be able to catch it. If it catches it but isn’t able to fix it, well, that’s where things get tricky.

4. Restart Windows in Safe Mode. Shut off the computer, wait 30 seconds, and then turn it back on. Hit the F8 key before the Windows loading screen actually starts; you might want to just gently tap the key once a second or so, especially on a newer computer where Windows starts loading pretty quickly. The computer will then give you to the option to start in Safe Mode.

Note: not all computers start to Safe Mode by hitting F8, although that’s the most common key. If F8 doesn’t work, pay attention to the instructions at the bottom of the screen when your computer first starts. It’ll say something like: DEL to enter Setup, F8 for Windows loading options. If it doesn’t say F8, then then hit whatever key it tells you instead.

Now you’re in Safe Mode. Everything will look weird: it’ll will be bigger than you’re used to, there will be fewer colors, and not all your programs will work. Don’t panic! Safe Mode means Windows is running only what’s necessary for it to function-which means the virus is probably sleeping, too. Run another full system scan, and this time your antivirus program should be able to quarantine or heal the file. If not, then write down the virus name and

5. Ask Google. This is where you disable that Internet Lock, if so far it’s been a relatively benign virus that hasn’t really been doing anything. If you don’t feel too good about that, then borrow a friend’s computer or head down to the library. Put the virus’ name into Google, and it should come up with a bunch of forums and/or help sites that give you step-by-step instructions on how to manually remove the virus from your computer. If you’re not comfortable with that-most, if not all of these instructions involve editing the Windows registry, which is where Windows remembers how to run your programs-or if that doesn’t work, then it’s probably time to take the computer into the shop.

Once you’ve followed these steps, restart the computer into normal Windows and run the virus scanner again, just to be sure. And maybe a third time, just to make sure the virus doesn’t come back. You can never be too careful. If everything seems normal after that second or third scan, then you’re probably good-and whatever you were doing that picked up a virus, don’t do it again!