The cost of recovering from computer malware infections can be high. Best Buy’s Geek Squad, for example, charges $150 or more to remove a virus online, or $300 if they make a house call. Consumer Reports states in its July issue that, “One third of households we surveyed had experienced a malicious software infection in the previous year. All told, we estimate that malware cost consumers $2.3 billion last year and caused them to replace 1.3 million PCs.” Most of that cost was avoidable.
As with any disease, prevention is the easiest and cheapest health measure. How to safeguard a computer offers guidance to useful knowledge about protecting yourself online, and greatly reducing the risk of infection. Still, it is possible for malware to sneak into even a well-managed PC, but you don’t necessarily have to pay a lot of money, or buy a new computer, to get rid of it.
A malware infection is not a good reason to replace a computer. Although infections can degrade a computer’s performance, or block certain activities, cases of physical damage are extremely rare. The majority of malware creators are after two things, your money and your information, and in order to get them they need your computer to keep working, even though poorly.
It is not hard to see how a person with a four or five year old PC receiving an expensive repair estimate might be tempted to buy a new computer, especially when standing in a store where every employee is encouraged to up-sell, but unless you were already planning to replace your computer, don’t let an infection persuade you to do it.
Most malware infections can be easily removed. A free program, Malwarebytes, has proven to be effective for this purpose. Install it on your computer, then update it and scan your system weekly, or whenever you notice symptoms of infection, such as a slow computer, or inability to open certain web pages. A paid version can perform scheduled updates and scans automatically, if you prefer.
Never, ever, accept an offer on a web page to scan your computer for any reason, unless you are absolutely sure that the offer is legitimate. The chances are too high that you will be inviting malicious software to take root in your system. The wolf in sheep’s clothing approach is popular among malware creators. In fact, most malware gains entry by tricking the user into clicking on a seemingly innocent link.
Some malware is devious enough to protect itself. Once it becomes installed, it prevents programs that can remove it from running. It can still be removed, and removal instructions can usually be found on the Internet, but the procedure is best performed by a person with good technical computer skills. If you don’t know somebody who would help you for free, shop around for a reliable, guaranteed service with reasonable rates.
In the worst case, malware can so infiltrate a computer that the only way to remove it is to reinstall the operating system. The process erases everything on the hard drive, so all personal files, such as documents and pictures, must be saved, first. The procedure is not as difficult as it might sound, but it does require some technical knowledge. Seek help if you need it.
Practice safe computing, scan your system regularly, and shop around when you need service. These are common sense ways to fight malware, and save money.
Disclaimer: The author has no affiliation with the organizations mentioned in this article, and does not benefit in any way from your use of their products or services.