What Programs Remove Spyware, Malware, Trojans, and Viruses?

A newsworthy virus just made its debut recently, and coincidentally or not, we saw a surge in malware infections. As usual, I got asked the same questions about how their computer got infected when they said they have an antivirus program, and why didn’t it work?

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For some, their antivirus was a trial which expired 60 days after they hooked-up their shiny new computer many months ago, or years in some cases. Even if you use totally free antivirus programs like AVG, Avast and Avira, they periodically need to be upgraded to the latest version for maximum protection (which is still only basic protection if freeware is all you use).

I remember several years back when most consumers called all infections a “virus”, not knowing that there were other forms of malware such as spyware, adware, and trojans. As such, they were unknowingly surfing the internet with a false sense of security because they only had antivirus protection. They never gave a thought to using multiple layers of security. Its been reported that only about 3% of infections are actually true viruses, the rest are a variety of other forms of malware that an antivirus program may not even detect. I’m not saying to forego the antivirus program and move your money to something else though, because it should be considered a basic safety requirement … like seatbelts.

Most antivirus programs today do much more than their older counterparts, and some are part of “internet security suites” of software that offer protection from viruses, rootkits, spyware, trojans, adware, spam, phishing, intrusion and more. The sad thing is that many of the reputable companies that offer these all-in-one solutions never seemed to solve the speed and performance problems you will likely experience, especially if your computer is somewhat slow already because it doesn’t have much ram and/or has a slow processor.

Without Getting Technical, What’s the Difference Between Viruses and Spyware?

  • Viruses: True Viruses are communicable, usually malicious in nature and spread themselves from computer to computer, primarily via the internet through email and instant messaging programs and networks.
  • Spyware: True Spyware is unwanted software designed to secretly collect information about you without appropriate notice and consent. Although Spyware is a specific type of Malware, this term has been loosely used to describe all unwanted software (most of which is malicious) that aren’t true viruses. While Spyware is not communicable, there are many points of infection, particularly on gambling/casino sites, adult, warez, P2P, social networking, or anything else that is just downright popular.

There are several ways Spyware can get installed on your computer. One way is through a virus. Yes, they can be designed to work together! Another is for it to be secretly downloaded and piggy-backed with other software you’ve have intentionally chosen to install (read the EULA!, do some research, Downloader Beware!).

A PC Technican’s Point of View

To a PC Technician, the techniques for removing viruses and other malware are pretty much the same. If you are infected, you’re infected, we can take it from there. If you go on with the story of all the unusual symptoms and frustrations it has caused you, you are preaching to the choir. Where there are viruses, there is usually malware as well. As such, we have to use multiple programs to scan for viruses and malware, but of course it is much more than just running scans to completely disinfect a computer these days … trust me. If your computer was infected, and all you did as a consumer was run your Norton or McAfee and it didn’t find anything, or it did and repaired everything it found, PLEASE don’t think the job is done. Many people are infected with malware that their antivirus programs will never detect! Some infections are contained in programs you knowingly downloaded and use all the time. It isn’t until your computer suffers from being clogged-up with enough of it that you finally realize your computer must be infected.

Despite being infected, if you can still use the internet, your browser has most likely been hijacked and you will probably end up on a webpage for a program that claims it can fix your computer. At this point, it is probably already too late, but if you go forward, you will probably end up with one of the dreaded “Fake Antivirus Programs” out there. If you buy one, not only will your problem get worse, they will have your credit card number as well! Most consumers cannot fix these types of infections on their own, because they are too deeply rooted and very annoyingly persistent. Most people just don’t have access to even “one” of the programs we will need to start disinfecting a computer with a “Fake Antivirus Program”. Some of the most powerful programs we use are FREE, and you can get links to them from our newsletter.

Getting to the Point

You still need antivirus protection, but you need protection from the other forms of malware as well, which can usually be handled by an antispyware product. There are many reputable products out there to do this for you, but some are annoyingly user unfriendly and some will slow you down…significantly!

Also, Firewalls don’t necessarily stop Spyware, although they can help prevent you from getting hacked, or to stop the Spyware from transmitting the information it collects to the mothership. I usually don’t install Firewalls for people because most users don’t know how to use firewalls, and I don’t want all the support calls. I would say to read the manual and call the makers of the firewall before calling me, remember we are primarily a computer repair company, not free phone support for another company’s products.

You can do your own homework, but I will tell you what I have been using for years.

ESET Nod32 (requires annual paid subscription, but you can start with a free trial)

ESET Smart Security (same as Nod32, but with antispam and firewall)

SUPERAntiSpyware (has an inexpensive, transferable, life-time subscription option, but you can start with a free trial)

A Little Caution

  • Only use “1″ antivirus program (I have seen negative effects of having 2 antivirus programs that can sometimes be more harmful to Windows than an actual virus.)
  • Only use “1″ firewall program (Not as bad as 2 antivirus programs, but is a no-no never-the-less)
  • Only use “1″ active antispyware program (Not as bad as 2 antivirus programs, but is a no-no never-the-less)

So please remove your existing security product before upgrading or installing another one. But I even go a step further, after removing and restarting the computer, I will search for and remove any remnant registry keys, files and folders left behind. Programs are rarely “completely” removed just by running the uninstaller. Then I will clean my temp files and registry with CCleaner. I also manually remove as much malware as I can before installing an Antivirus program, because some malware is designed to prevent the successful installation, update or operation of most popularly known security products and you might end up even more frustrated.

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