Do I Have a Virus?
Viruses can be trouble. But, with a few exceptions, they are not as damaging as they have been in the past. Luckily, virus writers seem to be less malicious than they used to be. More often than not, a modern virus is used to steal information or computer resources rather than destroy data.
With a few precautions, you can remain relatively safe while still enjoying your normal Internet activities.
Don't open e-mails from people you don't know, especially if it has attachments. Delete such e-mail and forget that it was ever received.
Don't open e-mails from people you do know if you aren't expecting them to send you something. This is especially true if the e-mail has attachments.
Never run or open ANY e-mail attachment unless you know who it comes from, are expecting a file from them, and recognize the filename.
If you receive an e-mail telling you to take immediate action to make sure you don't have a virus, DO NOT follow the instructions. Check with a professional, this is most likely a hoax.
If you receive a program (or any file) through a method other than e-mail, still be careful. Run your antivirus program, to help decide if the file is safe.
Try to stay away from web sites that you aren't familiar with. There have been too many problems found with browsers recently that allow a website to run any program they want on your computer.
Make sure you are running an antivirus program, that it is up-to-date, and that your subscription is not expired. If you need antivirus software, there are several free ones, try AVG or Microsoft Security Essentials.
Don't run more than one antivirus program at a time. They will make your computer slow and will most likely conflict with one another and make you less secure than just running one.
You might have a virus if
Your virus scanner tells you it has found infected files.
An unfamiliar virus scanner that you didn't install says you have hundreds (or thousands) of viruses. Don't run or purchase this scanner, it is the virus! Shut your computer down and see if it goes away. If it comes back, you'll need to have your computer cleaned up.
You notice any strange behavior. Examples would include sluggish performance and generally unpredictable results when running programs. This might be a virus at work, but is can also be due to other causes.
People from your e-mail address book write to you and ask why you are sending them strange e-mails that you don't remember sending.
Programs complain about missing files (this has many other more common causes).
If you think you might have a virus and want to double check, update and run the antivirus software on your computer. If you don't have such a program try AVG Anti-Virus Free or Microsoft Security Essentials and for other malware try MalwareBytes. Even if these programs give you a clean bill of health you could still have a virus or spyware infection. It's possible that a virus is too new to be found by this software. The most important step in running an antivirus program is updating the list of known viruses.
If you are still unsure if you have a virus or have found a virus and don't know how to handle it, call a professional to diagnose and fix any problems. It is possible to cause even more damage cleaning up a virus than the virus caused itself. Even if you get rid of the virus, you may find your system unstable. Starbeam can help you recover your data and put your computer back in working order.