If you have a virus, there are two ways to deal with it:
- The IT “textbook answer” is to reformat the machine – it’s the only way you can be certain that the virus is removed, but the downside is that it takes hours of work to reformat and reinstall all your programs, and you’ll need to find (or replace) the installation media and key codes for Windows and all your applications. If the machine is more than a few years old, it might make more sense to just replace it. It may also be a good time to upgrade your applications if they’re more than a version or two out of date.
- Many people aren’t prepared to reformat or replace their machines to remediate malware. They may prefer to perform some drastic cleaning measures to try to find and remove all traces of malware and unwanted autoruns from the hard drive, the user profile(s), the system and boot partitions, and the registry. The results are not guaranteed and the malware may be smart enough to hide and resurface later. The security of your computer and your business and personal data cannot be assured.
In any event, once you repair or replace your computer, we recommend the #1 anti-virus strategy that no anti-virus company would ever share with you: create a limited user account for your everyday use. Don’t use an administrator account for day-to-day activities – only log in as an administrator when you need to install or update software or change restricted configuration settings – and then log off and back on as your limited user account. We support 500 computers for 5,000 users at a dozen schools for whom this is our only anti-virus strategy – and they’ve never had a virus.
Virii are not data (like pictures or documents); they are programs – they do things. In order to install a program on your computer, you need a particular level of authority, and without it, you can’t install programs, good or bad. Clicking on a button on a Website or in an email tells your computer that you want it to perform the functions attached to that button. The button may say something benign, like “Unsubscribe me from this mailing list,” but may actually be programmed to install malware on your PC. Once you click on the button, if you have the authority to install programs, you just installed the virus. The strategy we recommend requires you to take a few extra steps to install programs, which makes it much less likely that you’ll do it unintentionally or without being explicitely aware that you’re doing it. Rarely should you need to actually install programs or updates anyway, so it’s a lot of extra security in exchange for a minor personal inconvenience – it’s a fair trade off.
Many people are perfectly comfortable with reformating PCs, reinstalling applications, installing anti-virus software, or running consumer-grade virus removal programs. If you need help with it or want to pursue more aggressive malware removal options, just email our support techs. When you’re ready to replace your whole PC, be sure to check out our refurbished PCs to get the most bang for your buck.
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