My Computer is Infected – how do I remove viruses?

STOP RIGHT THERE!! Before you go any further, read this carefully. Since about 2008, there has a been an astronomical increase in the number of programs which look like antivirus programs (for example, Win 7 Internet Security 2012. Only when you click on them are you then infected. This article does have tips for removing those viruses, but I also include several pictures to increase awareness of these official-looking-but-entirely-bogus programs. If you know what to look for you, you may be able to safely back away without actually getting infected.

This article was originally written in March of 2009, updated in February 2010, and is now being updated and re-published a third time on February 26th, 2012.

2012 tips: my advice for you, this year, is this: DON’T CLICK ANYTHING. If you see a screen like the one above, don’t even try to close it. Immediately use the task bar at the bottom of the screen to switch back to anything you need and save it. Then, click the start menu, and SHUT DOWN THE COMPUTER. If you don’t click on the button to ‘stop the scan’ or ‘clean infected files’ or anything like that, you’ll be in good shape. At this point, it’s just an official looking popup window, but nothing’s actually been installed on your computer. But we’re going to play it safe.

With the computer shut all the way down, boot in to “safe mode with networking.” To do this, locate the “F8” key on the top of your keyboard. See it? Hit the power button to turn on your computer and immediately start tapping F8, at least once a second. It should bring you to Windows Advanced Startup Options. There you can use the arrows on the keyboard to select Safe Mode with Networking. Then log in to Windows the way you normally would – safe mode will look a little different, but work with it, you should be safer in here. If the viruses pop up immediately, when in Safe Mode, you’re going to need more help than we can provide in this blog. If you’re in safe mode, keep reading.

From here, we’re going to use two tools, both free. Open your web browser and go to SuperAntiSpyware.com and click on the link for Super Anti-Spyware Portable Version. Run a full system scan using that tool and remove anything it finds. Then, for best results, I would also advise downloading, installing, and running the free version of Malware Bytes Anti-Malware. Use the “download now” link on the website to obtain their free edition.

Both prorams are somewhat complex but also self explanatory. Don’t let them overwhelm you. With Super Anti-Spyware you simply choose your languge, then click the “Scan Your Computer” button. Once both scans have completed (depending on the age of your computer, size of your drive, and number of files, the process can take nearly an hour per scan), and you have removed the reportedly infected files (both programs make it very simple to clean the files they have found to be malicious), reboot your computer. It will boot normally back in to Windows, and hopefully your issues are resolved.

Good luck.

Below are the original two revisions of this article and some additional screenshots.

This is a rewrite of a bulletin I put out in March of 2009. I still find this to be a common issue which I feel needs addressing.

Recently, a slew of my friends, family, co-workers, and just people on the street, have come to me with the same question: “I think I have a ton of viruses, how do I fix it?” The simple fact is: you probably don’t have a ton of viruses!

Antivirus 2009/2010 (looks like Windows Security Center) and Antivirus 360 (looks like Ad-Aware) are new POP UP PROGRAMS, usually contracted while surfing the internet – even on legitimate websites. This anti-virus lookalike program will pop up with the sole purpose of making you panic, telling you that you need to click to fix the problem NOW. If you then click the “REMOVE ALL THREATS” or “FIX THIS NOW.” If you’re lucky, at this point, it will ask you to BUY their “special” virus and “mal-ware” removal program.

If you’re unlucky, it will actually start to install a virus on your computer. It LOOKS like it is there to help, warning you have several viruses, but when you click on the banner to “fix this problem” you are actually installing the very bad payload, which is, itself, a virus. The virus then disables your ACTUAL anti-virus program (if you have one); it blocks the ability for your antivirus program to retrieve updates capable of fixing this problem. All in all puts you in a very deep hole of problems.

What you need to know: If you did not tell the computer to do a virus scan, and suddenly it pops up and says you have dozens or even hundreds of viruses, it is one of these FAKE pop ups! No doubt in my mind. Most Virus Scanners can find one or two viruses when they’re running their automatic scans in the background. If you did not start a manual Full System Scan, your computer will never tell you that you have 300+ viruses – it can’t find that many without doing a manual scan. So if something ranomly tells you that you’re sunk, don’t panic, take a deep breath and laugh it off: you already know their tricks!

If one of these pops up on your computer: your safest practice is to immediately save anything you are working on, and restart your computer. Do not try to close the window that is alerting you of all of the viruses; shutting down the computer will close the pop up. If it does happen to be a legitimate problem or something is actually installed on your computer, and it will pop back up next time you turn on the computer. If it does not come up after a restart – it was likely nothing more than one of these fake pop ups, and nothing has been installed on your computer!

I personally dealt with one of these pop ups, recently, where even when you clicked the “X” in the top right, to close the program, it refused to exit. It would say “are you sure you want to close” then as soon as you clicked “YES” – another window popped up with the same “virus alert!” It is trying to trick you in to clicking the wrong thing, thus installing the “payload” which could do anything from causing the computer to go slow by infecting other computers, to stealing files off of the computer, to even crashing the whole thing, requiring a complete rebuild. That is why I recommend immediately shutting down and/or restarting the computer.

If you have accidentally “installed” one of these “antivirus” programs, in an attempt to solve the problem it created, you might not be entirely out of luck, as the website MalwareBytes.org has an anti-malware “removal tool.” At this time, it is the only recommended removal software I have come accross, earning recognition from several “tech” websites as the best possible solution to those who may have clicked on a fake anti-virus banner, next to wiping the computer clean and rebuilding it.

Above, I have included a few “screen shots” of what these fake antivirus programs might look like, these are only a few variants, there are literally dozens popping up (no pun intended) right now.

Thanks for reading, I hope it was more “edu-taining” than jargon heavy gibberish!

If you’re really interested in the technology part, check the ISC’s article.

2011 – MC Lars – Lars Attacks


You can’t talk about nerdcore music without mentioning MC Lars. He may not be quite as well known as folks like MC Chris and MC Frontalot, but I can tell you one thing: he works just as hard as, if not harder than, either of them.

Lars should be known as the hardest working man in Nerdcore. He teaches, he raps, he makes videos, he supports causes that are close to his heart, and he’s even taken to writing editorial posts for HuffingtonPost. On his website, MCLars.com, he promotes things his fans are doing, and offers up instrumental recordings from his albums (making it easier for fans to make remixes), and likes to share what he’s been listening to.

His most recent full length album, Lars Attacks, proves that you can stay true to nerdcore while still being taken seriously as a musician and a rapper. As evidenced by the second track, The Gospel of Hip-Hop, where he is accompanied by special guest rapper, KRS-One. It doesn’t get much more “legit” than that, kids.

My exposure to MC Lars came through his other collaborative work, but the fact that his albums are inexpensive or available on a “name your price” kind of basis, it’s hard to resist. He’s been hard at work for over a decade and it’s fun to listen to him evolve musically. As with most bandcamp websites, you can stream before you buy and see what you like from his collection of works, so I don’t see any reason for you not to give MC Lars, and his latest full length album, Lars Attacks, a chance!

Delete a profile on your Xbox 360 & more account management

I’ve gotten this question a few times, and I usually need a little clarification from the person asking. To delete your Xbox 360 Profile from your Xbox 360 is simple. But if you really want to ‘purge’ your gamertag from Xbox Live — well, it’s not entirely possible. More information on what you can do is below.

Let’s start simple. Let’s say you have a Gamertag you don’t use any more, a friend’s gamertag that was “recovered” to your console so you could play some games together, or just a local account you have no intention of using ever again. To delete the profile so that it doesn’t show on your Xbox 360 all you have to do is sign in to an existing account (OR, from the sign on screen of the most recent dashboard (Metro UI), you can even select “Skip Sign In” and get to the Dashboard without signing in to any profile). Once on the dashboard, move to the far right menu, “System,” then click Storage, All Devices, and Gamer Profiles. Then you can select the profile you want to delete, hit the “A” button and choose DELETE.

As with most of our Xbox Tip of the Week articles, Microsoft has a simple how to guide on their website.

Note that the process above deletes the profile and details from your specific Xbox 360 console. The account still exists on Microsoft’s servers and can be accessed via Xbox Live from another console, Xbox.com, Games for Windows Live, or Xbox Live for Windows Phone. In other words – you can’t see it and it’s not wasting space on your console, but if you wanted to delete it for security reasons, you’re not done. There are literally millions of ‘abandoned’ gamertags and Xbox Live accounts, so for most people, you’ve done all you need to do. But if you’re security concious and want to ensure the account has been blown away, well then I’ve got bad news.

It has become pretty clear that Microsoft will NEVER delete a Gamertag. Even after this process, the Gamertag you remove is essentially locked down from the system, but it is not entirely purged. Nobody else can register and take that tag, but you can never get it back, either. If you want to keep using that gamertag, you should not use the steps below – the tag will essentially be locked from the sytem. What you may want to do is change the Live ID associated with the Gamertag.

If you are certain that you’re 100% done with Xbox Live, your best option is to let your Gold status expire and let your Gamertag go in to “Silver” status. This is the free tier of Xbox Live. To ensure you’re not set up for auto-renewal to Gold status, check out the support article for canceling Xbox Live Gold. If you’re done with the Live ID that is associated with your Gamertag, you can go to Account.Live.com and log in with the LiveID you want to close. Then, at the bottom of the page, click the link that says Close Your Account. At the very least, I would ensure that you’ve disabled your gold renewal and removed any payment options from the LiveID.

If you have questions, post them here, and I’ll do my best to clarify some of these steps!