Here’s one of the scenarios you may not like, but it could happen every day because it’s always viruses season for computers. You’re working on an important project and suddenly you start seeing annoying pop-ups displayed on your computer. Also, it takes too long for your files or computer apps to load. You wait and wait until you start asking yourself:
“Does my computer have a virus?”
Unfortunately, the answer might be “yes” and your PC could be already compromised with viruses or next-gen malware that are slowing down its activity and performance.
This is one of the many warning signs that show your PC might suffer from a malware infection. There are more of them you need to be aware of and understand, so you can quickly take action.
In this article, we’ll show you the most frequent warning signs of malware infection and what can you do about it.
Use these quick links to easily navigate and see some of the most common warning signs displayed on a computer:
1. Your computer is slowing down
2. Annoying adds are displayed
4. Pop-up messages
5. Internet traffic suspiciously increases
6. Your browser homepage changed without your input
7. Unusual messages show unexpectedly.
8. Your security solution is disabled
9. Your friends say they receive strange messages from you
10. Unfamiliar icons are displayed on your desktop
11. Unusual error messages
12. You can’t access the Control Panel
13. Everything seems to work perfectly on your PC
14. You get the error on the browser
15. You get suspicious shortcut files
Scenario 1: “My computer applications run slow lately and it takes longer than usual to start”
If you’re dealing with this scenario, it could mean you have viruses on your computer. We know, it’s so frustrating to see it loading slowly. It is a known fact that one of the malware’s main activity is to slow down your operating system, whenever you’re navigating on the Internet or simply accessing your local applications.
What can you do?
First off, you need to check out for causes and issues and try to understand what is going on.
Here are some of the most common causes that slow down your PC:
- Your system’s RAM memory is low and might be caused by the number of high apps you’re currently using. Windows Task Manager is a great tool to look for programs which use the most of your RAM memory. Press CTRL+ALT+DELETE simultaneously on your PC, choose Task Manager and will open a list of your current apps you have open;
- There is no storage space on your hard disk, so you need to check out all your files and documents stored there and do a cleaning;
- This behavior is particularly happening when you’re browsing the Internet, so you need to check out your browser’s Settings, then clear your browsing data;
- A fragmented system which means that the storage space is used inefficiently and reduces your PC’s performance;
- Your Windows OS hasn’t been updated or you’re using outdated drivers.
If you have already thoroughly verified these possible causes and all seems to work just fine, you can start considering a potential malware infection. Use these tips to help you optimize and speed up your Windows operating system. This article shows 5 ways to keep an eye on those programs accessing your drives.
Scenario 2: “I keep getting annoying ads that are opening randomly or strange messages on my computer’s screen”
Unexpected pop-ups which appear on your screen are a typical sign of a malware infection that wreak havoc on your computer. This form of malware is known as spyware and is designed to collect and steal users’ sensitive data without their knowledge.
In this particular case, the main issue is created not only by the numerous pop-up windows that affect your Internet browsing but also because it is quite difficult to remove them from the system.
These pop-ups are not only frustrating, but they usually come bundled with other concealed malware threats and could be far more destructive for our systems. They could be disguised as legitimate programs and actually track your web browsing data or monitor your online activity to collect passwords and other personal information.
We strongly recommend to NEVER CLICK on a suspicious pop-up!
A good idea would be to try one of these free spyware removal tools to get rid of those annoying pop-ups or strange messages.
Also, to better keep your computer away from malicious threats, make sure you apply these security measures:
- Do not click on pop-up windows
- Don’t answer unsolicited emails or messages
- Be very careful when you are trying to download free applications from various websites
Use this guide that includes useful steps that will make the removal process easier and more effective, as well as your Internet navigation hassle-free.
Scenario 3: “My laptop keeps crashing when I watch Youtube videos or play games. It simply freezes, then a blue screen shows up”
Oh, I know this one. It happened to me with my previous laptop so many times and was quite frustrating. It crashed so many times and got that popular BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). Then it started and “told” me Windows was recovering from an unexpected shutdown.
You are probably familiar with this error too, right?
There might be two things causing this type of issue:
- You could be dealing with a technical issue caused by a potential incompatibility between your software and/or hardware
- Or it may be a malware issue.
If you suspect any technical problem, it may lead to this:
Are different programs running on your PC that are in conflict? Are there any orphaned registry keys which have not been removed that could eventually crash your system?
Orphaned registry keys are pieces of data information that have been left behind during the process of uninstalling several programs from your computer. They don’t only take up unnecessary space on the PC but can cause a serious issue for its proper functionality.
How to fix this:
Use the Registry Editor (Regedit.exe) that can be opened in the search bar of Windows. From there, you select the run command, but it could be a daunting part of this process because you have to manually remove orphaned keys.
Our recommendation is to run an automated cleaning session using a specialized program like CC Cleaner which is free (Two versions of this tool have been compromised by malicious actors who spread malware inside it, but CCleaner is safe now) and will automatically scan missed and unused keys while doing a backup of your data before the actual cleaning.
First of all, install the CCleaner program, click the Registry icon (as displayed in the image below), select the items you want to delete, then Scan for issues and a list of potential issues will be generated. After the scanning is done, you can review this list and click on Fix selected issues to solve the outstanding Registry issues. You will be asked to backup changes.
- For malware infection: run a complete scan on the system with a good antivirus product. If you have a dilemma about which antivirus is the best one, we wrote this useful guide on how you can find the right one for your needs. It is also important to rely on another layer of security on top of your antivirus solution to better fight against online threats and proactively block them.
If your programs or system crash constantly or the infamous BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) appears often, it’s a clear warning that your system is not working properly and you should look into it.
There are two things that can cause this issue:
- You could be dealing with a technical issue caused by a potential incompatibility between your software and/or hardware
- Or it may be a malware issue.
If you suspect a technical issue, multiple software problems may lead to this.
Scenario 4: “ I started getting this popup message <you’re running out of disk space on Windows (C:)”
If you are receiving this warning message, it means that there’s no free space left on a particular partition (in this case, C) on the main hard drive in your computer. More and more users are reporting this issue.
The cause? Here’s what Microsoft has to say about this:
This behavior can occur if the free disk space on your computer has dropped below the low disk space notification threshold associated with the Disk Cleanup utility.
How do I fix this?
First of all, you need to check if your physical storage space has been increasing lately or if some of your files disappeared or changed their names. Also, make sure, you delete all those old or unnecessary files that can lower your PC’s performance.
This could be another sign of malware infection since there are so many types of malicious programs which use different methods to fill up all the available space in the hard drive and cause it to crash.
Scenario 5: “For quite some time, every time I start my PC, I notice that the Internet traffic suspiciously increases”
If this message was displayed on your computer, chances are there is an unusually high network activity happening on your PC that could lead to a malware infection.
There are cases when the user is not connected to the Internet through his browser, and there is no program that may connect to online servers to download or upload any data, but high network activity can still be observed.
What can I do?
Have you checked for one of the followings:
- the last Windows update for your computer?
- is there any program or application that’s downloading any data?
- is there any update for a certain app running at this moment?
- is there a large download that you started and forgot about, which may still be running in the background?
If the answer to all these questions is NO, then you should check out where all that traffic is going. Here’s how to do this:
- Monitor your network and detect hidden threats by using one of these programs: GlassWire, Little Snitch or Wireshark.
- Check for a malware infection, by using a good antivirus product to fully scan your system.
- If you suspect your computer has been infected by a dangerous financial malware, we recommend using a specialized security suite designed to address advanced and new online threats.
Scenario 6: “My homepage has changed and I don’t remember doing it myself”
If you spotted this unusual behavior or a new toolbar showing out of nowhere, or you’ve been redirected to a different web address than the one you’ve initially accessed, they could be signs of malware infection.
It usually happens when you visit a website and you accidentally click on a link or a pop-up window. This triggers the unwanted software to download and install on your device. The effects are not only annoying but also malicious, and can compromise your data.
What to do?
Run a complete scan with your security solution (an antivirus or proactive security solution) as soon as possible. Why? Because these type of threats don’t go away easily.
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Scenario 7: “My PC is acting weird because I get unusual messages that appear unexpectedly.”
I get this! That’s usually the type of warning message that makes you wonder “What’s going on with my computer?”
Here are some frequent warning signs to watch out!
- Suddenly you see programs opening and closing automatically
- your Windows OS is shutting down unexpectedly, without any reason
- you’ve noticed strange windows when your PC tries to boot
- Windows tells you that you’ve lost access to some of your drives.
Although the root cause may be a technical issue, it could also be a warning sign that malware has taken over your computer and is slowing down its activity.
How to mitigate the impact of a malware infection?
Follow these steps:
1. Keep your Windows system up to date
2. Scan your computer with an antivirus solution
3. Install a proactive security program to enhance your computer’s protection
4. Consider reinstalling your operating system. This 13-step guide will show you how to secure your PC after a fresh (re)installation.
Scenario 8: “I use an antivirus product and keep getting the message that <Protection is disabled>”
If you noticed your antivirus solution doesn’t seem to work anymore or the Update module is disabled, then you should check out immediately for ways to fix this.
Did you know that some types of malware are sneaky and can disable your security solution?
Well, yes, they are designed to leave users without any defense and making difficult to detect them. If you already tried to reboot your computer, closed and opened the security solution and all your troubleshooting efforts seemed useless, you could take into consideration the malware infection scenario.
This is especially the case, because it’s a known fact that traditional antivirus solutions can’t easily detect, block or remove next-gen and advanced malware (such as ransomware, adware or financial malware). Thus, you can get exposed to all kind of attacks, and we strongly recommend enhancing your protection by adding multiple layers of protection.
Read these 10 reasons why second-generation malware evades antivirus detection.
Scenario 9: “My friends tell me they’re getting strange random messages from me on Facebook, which I didn’t send”
If your friends recently got several strange messages/emails or suspicious links from you, and you didn’t send them, it’s likely that you’ve been infected with malware. Here’s a good example of malware spreading via Facebook Messenger and tricking users into clicking on links they’ve received from one of their friends.
But first, check out your online accounts and see if those random messages were actually sent from one of your accounts. If something like this happened, take immediate action by following these security measures:
- Log out from all your accounts. For most of our online accounts, we log into multiple devices and we often forget to log out. So make sure to log out from your online accounts on all connected devices.
- Use unique and strong passwords for all your online accounts. Always remember to change passwords for your online accounts! NEVER use the same password(s) for multiple accounts, because if you are hacked, all your accounts will be exposed and lose valuable data stolen. This password security guide will help you master passwords like an expert.
- Start using two-factor authentication RIGHT NOW. Do you want to increase your control over your accounts’ security? Then add this second security layer that will ask for an extra authentication step in the login process, along with your credentials.
Scenario 10: “There are these new, yet unfamiliar icons on my desktop that I don’t recognize”
If you’ve been noticing unknown and new icons on your PC, you most likely downloaded by accident these sneaky programs called PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs). They are malicious programs that can do a lot of damage and expose you to data leakage, displaying annoying ads or pop-ups on the screen, or adding toolbars on your browser.
If you’re infected with PUPs, have a look at this guide showing how to avoid these unwanted programs and remove them from your computer.
Scenario 11: “Sometimes I see unusual error messages displayed on my computer”
An error message like this one could indicate that there’s a bug in your system that needs to be fixed, or it could be a warning sign of malware infection. These types of error messages showing missing or corrupt files folders suggest that your PC has been compromised and its performance is affected, which makes it run slowly.
How to fix this:
Do a full scan of your PC and see if any viruses are detected. Also, make sure you have the latest updates installed on your operating system and regularly check for security patches, applications patches, and drivers.
Source: Microsoft Windows Dev Center
Scenario 12: “It seems that I can’t access my Control Panel by clicking on the button”
If you are facing this issue and your Control Panel does not open, it means that your computer is having a technical problem and is not functioning correctly.
How to fix this?
The first thing to do is run a full scan with your antivirus software. Then, see if you can open Control Panel in Safe Mode and follow these steps described here. It could also be another sign that your computer is vulnerable and exposed to potential cyber attacks. After running a full scan with your antivirus product, use also a proactive security solution to keep your confidential information properly safe.
Scenario 13: “Everything seems to work perfectly on my PC. Are any chances to be paranoid and still check out for malware?”
When it comes to data protection, it is essential to be a little bit paranoid and very careful, even if everything seems to look normal. Why? Because cybercriminals are creative and they can hide malware in the most unexpected places, leaving no visible marks and still infecting your computer.
Everything may seem to work perfectly normal on your PC until a boot on your system could silently wait for instructions to access and collect your most valuable data.
Scenario 14: “My laptop working very slow and sometimes it gives the <Flash not working> error on the browser”
We received the above message from one of our readers.
If you get this message too on your laptop or PC, it might be a good idea to disable Flash and try another alternative. Flash has lots of vulnerabilities that we talked about in this article, showing all the security risks users are exposed to.
Regardless of your browser used, (Firefox, Opera, Chrome) this could be a warning sign that your computer is malware-infected.
Here are a few useful tips that could come in handy:
- Keep your Windows system up to date, and consider reinstall your OS, if this issue persists.
- Have a full scan of all your files and apps installed on your PC using an AV solution, to see if it detects any malware
- Consider installing a proactive security solution to enhance protection for your computer and keep malware and other online threats at bay.
- Also, make sure you reboot your PC if you haven’t performed this task in a while.
- Have a look at the Task Manager function and see what programs run in the background that could slow down your PC performance. It helps you get an overview of what apps and program take space and how much.
- Make sure you have the latest version of Adobe Flash installed, but if you don’t have it, download it from here and follow the instructions. Remember to restart the computer after this procedure.
- If you no longer want to have the Flash Player app on your computer, you can follow these easy steps and uninstall it.
Scenario 15: “I used an external USB drive and when I connected it to my computer, it was infected by a virus and suddenly all the files turned into shortcuts.”
Here’s another warning sign showing your computer could be infected with malware. If you used an external USB drive or another external flash drive to copy information without scanning it before, this could explain the appearance of those shortcut files.
If all your images, files, and other documents show up as shortcut files and are not accessible, they could be infected with malware. These malicious files can compromise all your data from the computer, rename your files and create a lot of chaos and hassle.
How to fix this?
If your files have been compromised, here are some useful tips and security measures to take:
- Have a full scan of your USB drive and check out for possible viruses and malware. If the antivirus solution doesn’t detect them on your external drive, maybe you should try to format it and clean the space.
- Use the Command Prompt (cmd) on a Windows machine, while the USB drive is plug into your device. To access it, go to the Start menu, type in “Cmd”, press “enter”, and you’ll see the “cmd.exe” under a list of programs. Click on it and you will be directed to the Windows command line from where you can recover the virus-infected files and get repair. The process may take a while, but it will clean up your More details can be found here
- Make sure you add multiple layers of security and consider using a proactive security solution to strengthen your protection.
Can you avoid malware infections?
Yes, you definitely can, if you’re paying close attention to these early malware infection signs and prevent them from happening. Make sure your operating system, browsers, and plugins are always up to date, because keeping your software patched can keep online criminals at bay.
Also, here’s a list of recommended articles: to help you better survive a malware infection:
Make sure your network is safe and secure, and always think before you click on something. Also, remember to practice safe browsing and always access trusted online sources to easier prevent potential online threats.
Reminder: Knowledge and long-lasting education are our best weapons to fight against online threats, so it’s vital to learn and educate yourself and others to better understand how malware works on our system, and how we can mitigate its impact.
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