How to Check a PC For a Virus

Windows computers sometimes do get viruses and other malware, but not every slow or misbehaving PC is infected by malware. Let us explore how to check if you actually have a virus; and whether a suspicious process is dangerous or not.

Windows computers sometimes do get viruses and other malware, but not every slow or misbehaving PC is infected by malware. Let us explore how to check if you actually have a virus; and whether a suspicious process is dangerous or not.

This is for the PC

Copyright Scott Adams, Inc./Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS

Signs of a Virus

If you notice any of the following issues with your computer, it may be infected with a virus:

  • Slow computer performance (taking a long time to start up or open programs)
  • Problems shutting down or restarting
  • Missing files, such as DLLs, or Master File Table, or Master Boot Record
  • Frequent system crashes and/or error messages
  • Unexpected pop-up windows
  • New applications (toolbars, etc.) that appear without you downloading them
  • Overworked hard drive (the fan makes sounds and seems to be whirring and working hard when you are not doing much)
  • Emails that send autonomously from your accounts
  • Browser lag or redirects
  • Malfunctioning antivirus programs or firewalls

Just because your PC is running fine does not mean it does not have malware. The viruses of a decade ago were often pranks that ran wild and used a lot of system resources. Modern malware is more likely to lurk silently and covertly in the background, trying to evade detection so it can capture your credit card numbers and other personal information. In other words, modern-day malware is often created by criminals just to make money, and well-crafted malware will not cause any noticeable PC problems at all.

There’s no one-size-fits-all piece of evidence to look for without actually scanning your PC for malware. Sometimes malware causes PC problems, and sometimes it’s well-behaved while sneakily accomplishing its goal in the background. The only way to know for sure whether you have malware is to examine your system for it.

Check Your Processes

You might be wondering if your computer has a virus because you have seen a strange process in the Windows Task Manager.

First, open the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc or by right-clicking the Windows taskbar and selecting Task Manager. Refer to below image:

Selecting the Task Manager

It is normal to see quite a few processes here. Many of these processes have strange, confusing names. That is normal. Windows includes quite a few background processes, your PC manufacturer added some, and applications you install often add them. See below image:

Accessing your system Processes

If you do not see many entries, click the More details link in bottom left-hand corner.

Badly behaved malware will often use a large amount of CPU, memory, or disk resources. Google Chome and/or chrome.exe are resource ‘hogs’. If you see a lot of these entries, first, save and close all your work. Then. right click on each one and select End Task. Now, you will need to restart your computer and relaunch Google Chrome to reopen this post. Now, access your processes again and check for Google Chrome and/or chrome.exe. If you still see entries that are using lots of system resources, continue reading for other options. See following image:

Ending a Task

If you are curious about whether a specific program is malicious, right-click it in the Task Manager and select Search Online to find more information.

If information about malware appears when you search the process, that is a sign you likely have malware. However, do not assume that your computer is virus-free just because a process looks legitimate. A process could lie and say it is Google Chrome or chrome.exe but it may just be malware impersonating Google Chrome that is located in a different folder on your system. If you are concerned you might have malware, we recommend performing an anti-malware scan.

In our example, Google Chrome has a number at the end, number 15. This refers to the number of running Chrome instances. To see the detail, click its Expand arrow. If you use Chrome a lot, just ensure that the CPU percentage is very low; which means the Chrome task is “not overloading your system”. If it is, End Task as mentioned above. Refer to below image:

Expanding a Process

Scan Your Computer

By default, Windows 10 is always scanning your PC for malware with the integrated Windows Security application, also known as Windows Defender. You can, however, perform manual scans.

On Windows 10, open your Start menu, type Windows Security in the Cortana search box. Now, click the Windows Security shortcut in upper left-hand corner to open it.

You can also navigate to:

Settings > Update & Security > Windows Security > Open Windows Security

See below image:

Selecting Windows Security

To perform an anti-malware scan, click Virus & threat protection in the sidebar. Now, click Quick Scan to scan your system for malware. If you do not see the Quick Scan option, ensure that Windows Defender is running. Windows Security will perform a scan and give you the results. If any malware is found, it will offer to remove it from your PC automatically. See following image:

Performing a Quick Scan

Another option is to use a third-party application. We recommend Malwarebytes. The free version of Malwarebytes will let you perform manual scans to check for viruses and other malware on your PC. The paid version adds real-time protection. But, the free version will work just fine to check your PC for malware.

To download, click here. Then install and run. You may receive an Update Now screen. If so, just click the Update Now button and follow the instructions. Then, click the “free 14-day trial” button to run a scan. Refer to below image for the opening screen of Malwarebytes:

Malwarebytes main screen

If any of the above steps fail, you can restart your computer in Safe Mode by pressing the Shift + Restart, or pressing the F8 key repeatly, or using a Recovery drive. When you get to the advanced troubleshooting tools, you will arrive at a screen that lets you access these tools. Click the Troubleshoot button to proceed.

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