How to Remove a Virus From a PC or Mac

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Do you know how to remove a virus from your Mac or PC? What would you do if a virus or malware infection happened to you?

If your answers to these questions are "no" and "I don't know" in that order, you've come to the right place.

Computer viruses are scary. 40 percent of all houses in the U.S. have been affected by some sort of virus, according to Statistic Brain. They can completely interrupt your life, especially if you spend most of it on a computer (like I do).

As a result, you need to learn how to defend yourself if you ever experience a virus attack. Keep scrolling to find out how to remove a virus from your computer or laptop if it happens to you.

Steps to Remove A Virus

Learning how to remove a virus from a PC or Mac is different depending on which one you have. However, there are some general steps you can take on every computer as soon as you notice you have a virus.

1. Go into Safe Mode

Safe mode involves disconnecting your computer from the Internet and leaving it that way until you're able to clean and scan your hard drive. You should also make sure to back up your information with the best online backup in case you need to reset your computer. Here's how to backup your computer.

2. Delete all Temporary Files & Questionable Downloads

The first thing to do after you've disconnected from the Internet involves manual removal. Go through your documents and delete any questionable files and downloads you can find. Sometimes malware infections sneak into your downloads disguised as legitimate programs. You can manually remove them to your trash and empty it to get rid of them.

3. Run a Virus Scan

You should then download and install a malware/virus scanner or use a built-in scanner to see if you have an infection. There are various types of viruses out there and two different types of anti-virus software available.

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Types of Antivirus Programs

  • On-demand scanner antivirus program: An On-Demand Scanner is an antivirus program that only scans for malware infections when you open it instead of running all of the time.
  • Real-Time scanner antivirus program: Real-Time Scanners run in the background at all times to protect you from vicious malware infections and viruses, so you don't have to worry about virus removal.

4. Choose an Antivirus Software

Once you've confirmed you have a virus, it's time for virus removal tools. The best anti-virus software will easily sift through your files, find the malware culprit, and bring it to justice depending on what type of virus you have.

5. What to do if Malware Blocks Antivirus Software Downloads

In certain situations, viruses will not let you download and install antivirus software onto your computer. If this happens, here's what you need to do.

  • Get a USB drive (A.K.A. pen drive). You can also use a hard disk.
  • Download the software onto another computer.
  • Plug in your pen drive or insert the hard disk.
  • Transfer the software from the computer to your USB drive.
  • Plug the USB (or hard disk) into your infected computer and run virus removal.

Virus vs. Malware: What Do They Mean?

The virus definition is not the same as the malware definition. A virus is any program or piece of code that gets loaded onto your computer and attempts to run without you knowing.

Malware is different from a virus because it looks real, but is actually an infection. Viruses sneak into your computer unannounced while malware cannot get onto your computer without you being tricked into clicking on it or entering your information.

How To Remove a Virus From a Mac

Mac security is strong; therefore, Macs don't become infected with malware or viruses easily and there are some good prevention methods, according to Apple. On the other hand, there are multiple deceptive malware infections out there offering to clean out your Mac OS X software, for a price.

The Mac Defender, for example, is a fake antivirus software that pops up on your web browser offering to defend against viruses and clean out your Mac. If you download it, it will infect your computer upon download.

If you have accidentally downloaded a fake antivirus or other malware onto your Mac, do not use your credit card, sensitive passwords, or other private information. In fact, you should disconnect from your Internet Explorer or other web browser and refrain from using any programs.

Once you've done this, here's how to remove a virus from a Mac OS X software.

Check For Malware

Apple's Mac laptops come with built-in malware detection and file quarantine. As a result, a pop-up window will occur when you go to download something questionable. If the software is malware, your Mac should present you with the option to put it in the trash. Here's how to make sure your Mac is defending you from malware.

1. Open your System Preferences.

2. Click on your App Store preference.

3. Check the box that says to Automatically Check for Updates as well as Install System Data Files and Security Updates.

Remove Malware

Manual removal of malware on a Mac security system is pretty simple as well. Here's how to do it.

1. Click on your Finder.

Mac Finder

2. Click on Applications to the left.

mac applications

3. Scroll all the way down and click on Utilities.

macbook utilities

4. You'll see an Activity Monitor. Open it.

mac activity monitor

5. Click View on your status bar next to Edit and select All Processes from your task manager.

6. Under where it says Process Name, look for the name of the malware infecting your Mac on your task manager.

activity monitor processes

Some common Mac malware infections include:

  • Mac Defender
  • Mac Security
  • Mac Protector

7. Select the malware infection and click Quit Process in the upper left-hand corner of your screen. The button looks like a stop sign with an X in the middle.

8. Close out of the Activity Monitor and go back to Finder > Applications.

9. Search for the same malware app you just quit out of.

10. Select it and drag it to the trash. Empty your trash.

empty the trash

"The Mac Defender, for example, is a fake antivirus software that pops up on your web browser offering to defend against viruses and clean out your Mac."

How To Remove Virus From PC

If you've received a notification from your antivirus software that a virus has been detected, you're going to have to run a scan to find it. Here's how to remove a virus from a PC.

Scan For Malware/Viruses and Remove

Windows 10 and 8 come with their own built-in Windows Defender antivirus and antimalware tool. If you don't have one built-in, you can use the free antivirus and antimalware tool Avira. Here's how to remove a virus from a PC using an antivirus software. If you are running a Windows 7 PC, you can download Microsoft Security Essentials. Microsoft Security Essentials will scan your PC for viruses and malware and remove them.

1. First, go into safe mode by holding down Shift on your keyboard while you click Restart.

2. Then go to Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Windows Startup Settings > Restart > Safe Mode.

3. Make sure to delete/uninstall any recently downloaded files or files you don't recognize.

4. Once you have an antivirus program installed, open it on your computer.

5. Run a scan. It should do this automatically when you open it.

6. It should offer to remove whatever malware it finds on your hard drive. It's as simple as that.

7. If you don't have an antivirus software, you can try to remove the virus manually.

8. Go to you Command Prompt by clicking on Start and typing cmd into the search engine.

9. Select the drive that is infected.

10. Type in attrib -s -h *.* /s /d into the command prompt and then press enter.

11. Type dir to see the content on the drive.

12. Look for any questionable .exe files.

13. Rename any autorun.inf files.

14. Then, go to My Computer and select the drive.

15. Delete the infected files.

Types of Viruses and Malware

How to Remove Trojan Horse Virus

Trojan Horse Viruses are computer programs that infect your computer by misleading you about their identity and intentions. You can remove a Trojan Virus by following the instructions mentioned above depending on whether you have a Mac or PC. Trojan viruses should be scanned for and deleted as soon as possible to secure your information.

How to Remove Browser Hijacker Malware

A browser hijacker is a malware that infects your web browser by changing its settings. You may notice your pages running slower, your homepage is different or your search is getting redirected somehow. To remove it, you can download the Norton Power Eraser software and follow the steps to remove.

How to Remove a Ransomware Virus

A Ransomware Virus is considered a denial-of-access attack that stops your computer from being able to access files. If computer ransomware pops up on your Internet Explorer or another web browser, you may have to use the "System Restore" option. Here's how.

On a PC

1. Shut down your computer.

2. Find the f8 key on your keyboard and turn your computer back on.

3. As your computer turns on, press the f8 key repeatedly. This should bring you to the Advanced Boot Options Menu.

4. Select Repair Your Computer and hit Enter.

5. Log on. Select your Windows account name.

6. Click System Restore.

On a Mac

1. If ransomware pops up on your Mac, force quit Safari by clicking on your Apple menu icon and Force Quit if you can.

force quit safari

2. Disconnect from the Internet by clicking the WiFi button on your status bar and then Turn WiFi Off.

turn wifi off

3. This should clear the ransomware. Just make sure you don't click on it.

How to Remove Shortcut Virus

You have a Shortcut Virus if your USB drive files are replaced with shortcuts. Shortcut viruses usually enter through your pen drive, PC, hard disk, Memory cards or mobile phone. Remove shortcut viruses by:

How To Remove Redirect Virus

The Google Redirect Virus messes with your Google search engine on your Google Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, or any browser. You should be able to get rid of it easily using an anti-virus program and the steps listed above.

Antivirus Removal Tools For Macs

If you're a Mac user, there are certain antivirus and removal tools that will work best. Here are several.

Vipre Rescue Virus Removal

Vipre Rescue Virus Removal is a real-time antivirus software that can actually be downloaded and installed on both PCs and Macs. All you have to do is download the VIPRE Rescue App after putting your computer into Safe Mode.

You can download the app on a different computer than the infected one. Once it's downloaded, put it on a flash drive and plug the flash drive into your infected computer. Click Yes and unzip when you open the Vipre software and it will clean out your virus or malware infection.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Scanner

Perform a threat scan with the free Malwarebytes anti-malware scanner to check for a virus. It is one of the best free anti-virus scanners for Mac computers. Malwarebytes anti-malware tool will check your computer's memory, registry, and file system for viruses and malware. You can also activate a custom scan to scan specific hard drives and folders.

Symantec Security Response

Symantec Security Response is a collection of secure and free anti-malware tool. The Symantec Security Response website has various security products to protect your PC or Mac from viruses and remove them when they infect your computer. One of their more popular antivirus programs is the Norton Power Eraser Antivirus software. Check out how to install it on their website.

Sophos Anti-Virus

The free Sophos Anti-virus program protects your Mac or PC from malware, viruses, ransomware, and inappropriate websites. Check their website for details on how to use it.

AntiVirus Removal Scanners For Windows PCs

There are various free tools you can use to scan your Windows Pc for viruses and malware. Here's a short list.

Kaspersky Total Security

Kaspersky Total Security is a free rescue disk and app to remove malicious software on Windows PCs. You should check the Kaspersky Total Security website for details on system requirements before you download the rescue disk.

McAfee Internet Security

McAfee Internet Security is an award-winning, free anti-virus scanner and remover for PC that can optimize your computer's performance. It has real-time and on-demand scanning depending on what you need. You may need a serial number when installing the software. If so, the serial number should be located within the License Agreement. McAfee Internet Security also has a total protection plan that costs money.

SpyHunter Malware Removal

SpyHunter Malware Removal is a real-time, free anti-virus software for Windows computers. Even if the SpyHunter Malware software cannot remove your malicious software itself, you can contact the help desk to analyze your computer system and fix your infection remotely.

F-Secure Online Scanner

F-Secure Online Scanner is free and will scan for and remove any malware or virus present on your PC computer. The F-Secure Online Scanner will also protect your computer from viruses and prevent them from coming back.


Now that you know how to remove a virus from your PC or Mac, you may also need to look into how to remove a virus from your phone and how to secure your WiFi. Without WiFi security and virus removal knowledge for all of your devices, you are much more vulnerable to attacks.

If this article has helped you figure out how to remove a virus from your Mac or PC, please share it with your friends and family to help others get rid of viruses and malware. You can also subscribe to the MoneySavingPro Blog and follow us on Pinterest and Facebook for more how-to articles and money saving tips.

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