If your PC is getting slow, I have a quick fix for you – remove the junk software that has accumulated on your PC.
Junk software includes toolbars, search tools, adware, programs that claim to fix your PC and other unwanted programs.
The junk software removal tool that I recommend is MalwareBytes (free version available at malwarebytes.com). I have had good experiences with it and it is well respected in the IT community.
Install MalwareBytes. Update the virus database. Run a Threat Scan. Follow the instructions to remove the malware. Done.
Of course this will not fix all PC problems but will help with the one I encounter most frequently these days – slow PC clogged with junk software. Your mileage may vary.
Read on for a more detailed discussion of junk software, malware and malware removal.
Slow PC caused by junk software
People complain to me that their PC is running slow.
So I check out their PC and I find a lot of junk software installed on their PC – toolbars, adware, browser hijacks and junk programs that claim they will fix fake problems such as “driver errors,” “slow PC,” “registry problems,” “virus/spyware/malware found.”
Junk software accumulates as people roam the Internet and when offered updates or new software they click yes because they don’t want to be bothered or don’t understand what is offered. Unfortunately clicking yes gives any web site permission to install junk software on the PC. Clicking links in emails can also install junk software.
Junk software runs the gamut from benign to malicious. Benign junk software may simply offer you targeted ads which some people enjoy. Malicious junk software will track you on the Internet, hijack your browser, try to sell you scam junk software, try to steal your passwords and identity, try to steal or delete your data, and worse.
Junk software always slows your PC down.
Remove the junk software and be more careful what you click on in the future!
Do not click on software that is offered to you and do not click on links offered in emails.
More about malware and malware removal
I prefer to call any unwanted software malware (short for malicious software). Malware includes a wide software, ranging from benign to downright destructive, from suggesting ads to stealing your passwords. Malware includes viruses, worms, adware, spyware, browser hijackers, spammers, etc.
If your PC still has malware issues, there are more things to try
Other malware removal tools to try –
- JRT – Junkware Removal Tool
- Avast Browser Cleaner
- Stand alone (boot) antivirus, such as Microsoft Defender off-line or Avast!
With your installed antivirus, run a full system scan.
Note that full drive scans can take hours.
Run MalwareBytes or other antivirus in safe mode.
If you know you have a particular malware, search engine it to find tools and techniques to remove it.
Use System Restore to set the computer back to a time before it was infected.
Sometimes malware can be found and removed by hand.
Places to look for malware and malware settings include
- Programs and Features
- Browser Add-ons and Extensions
- Browser toolbars
- Task Scheduler
- System32 directory
- Temporary directories
- Use the Task Manager to find processes and resource usage
Manually uninstall programs that you don’t need, especially toolbars, search engine tools, adware, programs that claim to “fix your drivers” or “improve your PC performance” or “fix registry problems” or “remove found malware.”
Review and block programs from starting up automatically on booting that you don’t need ie Skype, printer updaters, etc. CCleaner has a nice interface.
Removing malware and unwanted programs will speed up your PC in general, especially when browsing the Internet and booting up.
A few notes about drives
Removing temporary files and browser cache files will often speed up a PC. An excellent tool for this is CCleaner (free version available at piriform.com).
Hard drives and the Windows file system are usually robust but failing hard drives and corrupt file systems can really slow a PC down. Windows has utilities to scan the file system and drive. An excellent tool for drive maintenance and recovery is SpinRite (available at grc.com/spinrite $89USD). Note full disk scans can take hours.
Is the PC now clean?
After successful malware removal and a scan result of “No Threats Found,” is the PC free of all malware?
Maybe. Scanning with multiple tools, full disk scans and scanning with a stand alone boot tool will increase your confidence that the PC is now free of malware.
BUT there always is the possibility some malware was not removed – examples are brand new malware that the anti-malware companies have not yet seen and added to their removal capabilities (called zero day malware) or well hidden malware (some are called rootkits),
Some people suggest that once your PC is infected, you must reinstall Windows to obliterate the malware. But that may not be enough if the malware lives in CMOS, the boot sector, other partition on the drive, a USB drive, mobile phone, router, wireless device, a device owned by someone that visits, the list goes on…
After removing malware you may have to do some cleanup, such as reset your browser home page, reset your proxy settings and reinstall programs that inadvertently got removed, for example a coupon printer.
Malware can be very bad
A list of some things that malware can do –
- track and report your every move on the Internet
- create a profile of you in a big data database
- hijack your browser to web sites you don’t want
- block web sites that you do want
- clutter your browser with toolbars
- send you to fake web sites that look like the real thing to steal information
- disable your Internet connection
- block anti-malware
- steal your passwords
- steal any and all private information and identity theft
- sell you scam junk software (and steal your credit card number in the process)
- use your PC to do evil work such as DDOS, spamming, email relay and botnets
- steal your computer resources to mine bitcoins
- watch you on your webcam, listen to your microphone
- delete your files
- encrypt your files and ask for a ransom (ransomware)
- make your PC run slow
- crash your PC
The best way to avoid malware and scams is to be careful about what you do and click on. Don’t accept software offered or click on links offered in email. Use good passwords. Anything that looks suspicious probably is. Don’t give up personal information unless you are sure who is getting it. Don’t click on links purportedly from your bank, if you need to visit a secure site, type in the address yourself. Keep Windows and your software up to date. Don’t use Internet Explorer, use an alternate browser like Firefox or Chrome. Realize that when you use social media or search engines or free email services that you are giving up a lot of personal information. Be aware of your surroundings in parking lots. You get the idea.
Now that MalwareBytes is installed on your PC, run it periodically or immediately if you suspect that you got infected! Run CCleaner occasionally.
If you need help, consult your local nerd or computer professional.
Please always backup your important data.
Your mileage may vary. Share your experiences and ideas.