Antivirus 101: How Do I Know If My Computer Has a Virus?

By: Amber Newby | May 6, 2014 (Edited July 7, 2017)

computer protection 101

In our modern, technological world, one of the constant threats facing millions of people around the world comes in the form of computer viruses that have the potential to cripple individual systems or even vast networks of connected ones. Even with antivirus software installed, sometimes there are certain types of malware that can get through the best defenses. The results of these viruses can range anywhere from basic hardware or software malfunctions to the full-blown theft of your private information. You can only take corrective measures, however, if you know that a virus is there. So here are some common indicators to look for that point toward a virus having infected your computer.

Sudden Outbreak of Slow Performance When Completing Different Tasks

One of the most common symptoms of a computer infected with some form of virus is a sudden development of slow processing performance. In other words, for no clear reason, your computer has recently started having trouble running certain programs, or the speed at which it's able to open those programs has clearly dropped off. Now, since there can be instances where slower performance occurs simply due to your system dealing with new, large files or programs that demand more of its processing power, what you want to be on the lookout for are files or programs acting up that you've had no issues with in the past. Whether it's a folder taking longer to open, a program taking longer to run, or a file taking longer to save, all of these can serve as signs pointing to a virus somewhere on your computer.

Repeated Instances of Your Computer Freezing and Giving No Response

Another sign to be wary of when it comes to a potential computer virus comes from repeated instances of your system freezing up completely and giving zero response to any input. You might be surfing the web, editing a document, or watching a movie, when all of a sudden everything on your screen freezes and neither your mouse nor your keyboard (sometimes not even ctr+alt+del) has any effect on the problem. In such instances, you'll have no other choice but to physically hit the power button to reboot your computer and get it running again. Experiencing these freezes, even repeatedly, isn't by itself a guarantee of a virus - your system may just need a general cleanup or update - but it might suggest that one is present if the system freezes are but one of many other virus symptoms you've been noticing.

Full System Crashing Without Any Prior Warning

Unlike the previous two signs that might not be on their own direct symptoms of a virus, if your computer suddenly crashes and reboots itself for no reason, you should all but assume that some sort of virus is present in your system. These types of crashes can occur at anytime and will offer you no prior warning. Whatever you were working on will be gone, and more than likely, once the system automatically reboots itself, you'll see a noticeable drop-off in your computer's overall performance from just moments ago when everything was working fine. In such cases, the best way to proceed is to take the safest course of action and assume that a virus has infected your computer. Better to make that assumption and work on contacting someone to get it fixed than to continue with your normal computer usage and risk any further damage.

Computer viruses are problems that have been around for years and will likely continue to exist well into the future. Therefore, one of your best protections against them - aside from smart computer and Internet usage - is to know the signs that one could be present in your system. Each of these indicators, especially if they occur in combination with each other, should be on your radar for identifying the presence of a virus on your computer.


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Written by Amber Newby

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