|Spyware, Viruses, & other computer problems||St. Norbert College|
Slow computer? Pop-ups? Crashes? Internet suddenly slow?
Your computer's probably infected with spyware or viruses.
Most of the time when a computer is slow, freezes up a lot, or has a lot of pop-ups, it's because of spyware and/or viruses. These things are dangerous, many computers are infected, and many people don't even know they have them on their computers.
Spyware, also known as adware or malware, is everywhere these days. There are several ways your computer can become infected. Many free programs, especially file sharing programs, install spyware on your computer or make your computer vulnerable to spyware-infected files masquerading as songs, games, or videos. These things can do all sorts of bad things to your computer, including making it really slow, making it crash, making your Internet connection slow, or making programs not work. Even worse, it can do bad things to you too. It can install things that monitor your computer activity, steal your personal information and use that to steal your identity, and "hijack" your computer and use it to send out spam or viruses to other people.
We strongly recommend that you use at least one anti-spyware program (preferably more than one*) and periodically scan your computer for spyware, even if you aren't having any problems. For links to download several free anti-spyware programs, see our Downloads page.
*Note that although you should never have more than one anti-virus program installed on your computer at the same time, it is okay - recommended, actually - to have more than one anti-spyware program on your computer at the same time (they differ in how they define/identify spyware, so each one often finds things the others missed).
There are tons of fake "spyware removal" programs out there that actually are spyware! These fake spyware removal programs also try to confuse people by using names that sound like real security programs (SpywareBlaster is legit but SpyBlast is fake) and by mimicking the screens of real programs. Don't install any program unless you know for sure that it's legitimate.
Also, if you see a warning pop up on your screen saying that your computer is infected, chances are that it's actually spyware or an attempt to install spyware on your computer. If you ever see something like this, do not click on anything! Call the Help Desk, or, if the Help Desk isn't available, turn off your computer without clicking on anything (save your work first). With many of these, even if you click on what looks like the close button, your computer will become infected.
Students connecting their computers to the College computer network are required to install Microsoft Security Essentials, which should keep you from getting most viruses & spyware (no product can prevent 100% of all infections). College-owned computers currently use McAfee VirusScan Enterprise, which is also available for personally-owned computers, but only provides protection against viruses, not spyware. For employee-owned computers, you do not need to pay for virus protection. We recommend using Microsoft Security Essentials or another free product such as AVG Free, avast! Free, or Avira AntiVir Personal; see http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-anti-virus-software.htm for reviews & links.
File sharing programs - those used to "share" music, movies, etc. not only configure themselves to always be running in the background, so they use up your computer's system resources & make it slow, but they often also install spyware on your computer or make your computer vulnerable to spyware-infected files masquerading as songs, games, or videos. Using file sharing software on campus also violates College policies and is almost always used for illegal purposes that subject you to possible legal action. For information, see the handout File Sharing Software, Spyware, and your Computer.
You can try using Windows System Restore (Start - All Programs - Accessories - System Tools - System Restore) to return your system to an earlier point in time, before it became infected. You can also try scanning your computer with one or more free anti-spyware programs; see our Downloads page for links to download several of these (if you're going to do this, try Malwarebytes first). You may need to go into Safe Mode before doing these things. You enter Safe Mode by pressing the F8 key when your computer first starts booting up but before Windows starts. Turn the computer on and keep tapping F8 until you get the boot options screen. It can be tricky to catch it at the right moment - you may need to try more than once.
Sometimes spyware infections can be so bad that even all of the available tools can't completely clean & fix your computer. If you've tried scanning for spyware and viruses, but still have problems or signs that your computer is infected, you may need to take more extensive measures. The best thing to do in these cases is to restore your computer to its original configuration using your restore disks or restore method provided by your computer's manufacturer. If you don't want to or can't fix it yourself, you may need to get an expert to help you: