Malware removal can seem daunting after your device is infected with a virus, but with a careful and rapid response, removing a virus or malware program can be easier than you think. We created a guide that explains exactly how to rid your Mac or PC of malware. 

What Is Malware?

Malware (short for malicious software) can manifest in various forms: viruses, spyware, backdoors, worms, adware, ransomware, trojans and more. No matter what form it takes, malware aims to profit from your misfortune, either by stealing your personal information and selling it on the dark web or by encrypting your data, locking you out until you pay a ransom to regain access. 

Malware can find its way onto your devices — both PCs and Macs are vulnerable — in several ways, potentially exposing your social security numbers, debit and credit card information, login information, bank account data and more. This is why being able to recognize the symptoms of an infected device is vital to protecting your personally identifiable information and fending off identity theft. 

graphic of computer with bugs on screen

How Your Devices Become Infected With Malware

So how does malware infect a computer? There are plenty of ways to fall victim to a malware infection. Sometimes it can be as simple as visiting a malicious website or clicking a fake link in an email scam. Oftentimes these infection attempts will try to instill a sense of urgency to install software or download a file containing a hidden virus. Be sure to exercise caution online and be wary of clicking any unfamiliar links or emails. 

Malware can infect both Macs and PCs. Although PCs are more commonly known for attracting this vulnerability, Macs can be just as susceptible. No matter which type of device you have, it’s important to be aware of the threat of malware.

If your Mac or PC has malware, they may show symptoms such as:

  • Slower than usual performance
  • A tool or plug-in in your browser that you didn’t install 
  • Pop-up ads that are hard to close, contain offensive content, or are generally annoying, even outside of your Internet browser
  • General out-of-the-ordinary function 

If you think your PC or Mac has a malware infection, follow the steps below to get rid of a malware infection.

How to Remove Malware From Your Mac 

Step 1:  Disconnect from the Internet 

Before you do anything else on your Mac, you must disconnect the Internet to keep it from transmitting any of your information back to the malware server or infecting other devices. Do your best to stay offline. 

If you need to go online to download a tool, immediately disconnect once it finishes and doesn’t reconnect once you have what you need. It may help to print these instructions before disconnecting. 

screenshot of disconnecting from the internet

Step 2: Enter safe mode 

Isolate any issues with your Mac by entering safe mode. Do this by starting or restarting your device, then immediately hold the shift key. The Apple logo should appear on your screen. If this doesn’t work, learn more here

Step 3: Refrain from logging into accounts 

Many forms of malware aim to access your sensitive information. They do this by poaching your login credentials after tracking your keystrokes or lifting your password from your screen or clipboard. Prevent losing any login info by avoiding logging in at all. 

Step 4: Delete temporary files

Delete temporary files that may have been installed by malware by quitting any apps you have open — right-click them, select “Quit” and then:

screenshot of deleting temporary files

  • Step 1: From Finder select  “Go” in the top bar

screenshot of deleting temporary files

  • Step 2: Click “Go To Folder” and then type or copy and paste “~/Library/”

screenshot of deleting temporary files

  • Step 3: Go to the “Cache” folder

screenshot of deleting temporary files

  • Step 3: Move all files from the cache by clicking “Move to Trash”

screenshot of deleting temporary files

  • Step 4: “Empty” the Trash

screenshot of emptying the trash

Step 5: Check your activity monitor 

If you think you have malicious software on your Mac, then you must find it in the Activity Monitor and stop it. Through the Activity Monitor, you can see all of the applications running on your computer and how each one affects its performance. Locate the malicious software and delete it through the Finder. 

  • Step 1: Go to Finder and select “Applications” 
  • Step 2: Click “Utilities” 

screenshot of finding activity monitor

  • Step 3: Go to the “Activity Monitor” 

screenshot of finding the activity monitor

  • Step 4: Double click an application and then click “Quit”

screenshot of quitting applications

Step 6 – Run a malware scanner

Now you’re ready to actually cure your Mac of its malware infection. Luckily, running a malware scanner is usually enough to get rid of most standard infections. If you already had an antivirus program on your device, you should download an on-demand malware scanner that’s different than what you’re using for antivirus. 

Download a scanner from a reliable source, such as Panda’s Cloud Cleaner, run it, and then install security software that works constantly in the background to protect you from existing and emerging security threats. Programs such as Panda’s Antivirus for Mac work great for this. 

Step 7: Fix your web browser 

In most cases, malware will modify the homepage of your Internet browser so that it can reinfect your device, show you lots of ads, slow down your browsing and flat out annoy you. Verify that the homepage address is legitimate and then move on to check your browser for malicious extensions. We covered this in our guide to removing the Chromium Virus, but you can review the basics below 

Fix your web browser on Safari 

Step 1: Open your Safari browser and then open the Safari menu, labeled “Safari” on the top left of your screen

Step 2: Choose “Preferences”

screenshot of finding preferences on safari

Step 3: Select “Extensions”

Step 4: Find recent suspicious extensions and click “Uninstall”

screenshot of selecting extensions

Fix your web browser on Chrome

Step 1: Click the menu icon on Chrome (top right-hand corner)

Step 2: Select “More Tools”

Step 3: Click on “Extensions”

screenshot of finding extensions on Chrome

Step 4: Locate any browser add-ons that look suspicious and select “Remove”

screenshot of removing extensions

Step 8: Clear Your Cache

After you’ve checked your browser’s homepage and removed any suspicious extensions, clear your cache of any downloads that may have infected your computer in the first place. 

Clear your cache on Safari 

Step 1: Click Safari in the top left corner of the screen and go to “Preferences”

screenshot of clearing your cache

Step 2: Click “Privacy” 

Step 3: Find “Manage Website Data” 

screenshot of clearing your cache

Step 4: “Remove All”

screenshot of clearing cache

How to clear your cache on Chrome

Step 1: Go to the menu dropdown on Chrome and click “History”

screenshot of clearing browsing history

Step 2: Click “Clear Browsing Data” 

screenshot of getting rid of suspicious browser extensions

Step 3: In “Time Range” check “All Time” 

Step 4: Then click “Clear Data”

screenshot of clearing your cache

How to Remove Malware From Your PC

Step 1: Disconnect your PC from the Internet

Before you do anything else, disconnect your PC from the Internet so that your computer can communicate with the malware server that might be controlling it, and so that it can’t transmit any of your personal information that it may have collected. If you have to download a tool to help remove the malware, do it quickly and immediately disconnect from the Internet when it’s finished. Do your best to stay offline.

screenshot of disconnecting from the internet

Step 2: Enter safe mode 

Isolate any issues with your PC by rebooting it in safe mode. This allows your computer to perform checks while it runs on the minimum number of programs it needs to operate. 

  • Step 1: Restart your PC.
  • Step 2: When you see the sign-in screen, hold down the Shift key and select Power → Restart.
  • Step 3: After your PC restarts, go to the “Choose an option” screen and select “Troubleshoot,” then “Advanced Options” and then “Startup Settings.”
  • Step 4: In the next screen, click “Restart” and wait for the next screen to load.
  • Step 5: A menu will appear with numbered startup options. Select number 4 or F4 to start your PC in safe mode.

Step 3: Refrain from logging into accounts 

The goal of many forms of malware is to gain access to your sensitive information. They do this by poaching your login credentials by tracking your keystrokes or lifting your password from your screen or clipboard. Prevent the loss of any login info by avoiding logging in at all. 

Step 4: Delete temporary files

Speed up your scan for viruses and free up some disc space by deleting temporary files. Just search for the “Disk Cleanup” tool and run it.

screenshot of how to delete temporary files

screenshot of deleting temporary files

Step 5: Check your activity monitor 

If you think you have malicious software on your PC then you need to find it in the Activity Monitor and stop it from running. Through the Activity Monitor, you can see all of the applications that are running on your computer and how each one affects its performance.

  • Step 1: Go to your search bar and type in “resource monitor” to find the app

screenshot of checking activity monitor

  • Step 2: Right-click on the program you want to end and click “End Process”

screenshot of checking activity monitor

Step 6: Run a malware scanner

Now you’re ready to actually cure your PC of its malware infection. Luckily, running a malware scanner is usually enough to rid your computer of most standard infections. If you already had an antivirus program your device, you should download an on-demand malware scanner that is different than what you’re using for antivirus. 

Download a scanner from a reliable source, such as Panda’s Cloud Cleaner, run it, and then install security software that works constantly in the background and protects you against existing and emerging security threats. Programs such as Panda’s Antivirus for PC work great for this. 

Step 7: Fix your web browser 

In most cases, malware will attempt to modify your Internet browser homepage so that it can reinfect your device, show you advertisements, slow down your browsing and just flat out annoy you. Check that the homepage address is the right one and then move on to check your Internet browser for malicious extensions. We covered this before in our guide to removing the Chromium Virus, but you can review the basics below:

How to fix your web browser on Internet Explorer

  • Step 1: Click the gear icon in the top right corner of the Internet Explorer screen
  • Step 2: Select “Manage Add-ons”

screenshot of fixing web browser

  • Step 3: Find any recently added extensions that look suspicious
  • Step 4: Select the suspicious entry and click “Disable”

screenshot of fixing web browser

How to fix your web browser on Chrome

  • Step 1: Click the menu icon on Chrome (top right-hand corner)
  • Step 2: Select “More Tools”
  • Step 3: Click on “Extensions”

screenshot of fixing web browser

  • Step 4: Locate any browser add-ons that look suspicious and select “Remove”

screenshot of fixing web browser

Step 8: Clear your cache

How to clear your cache on Internet Explorer 

  • Step 1: Click the gear in the top right corner to open up the “Settings” window
  • Step 2: Go to the “Safety” and click “Delete Browsing History”

screenshot of clearing cache

How to clear your cache on Chrome

  • Step 1: Go to the “History” dropdown

screenshot of clearing cache

  • Step 2: Click “Clear Browsing Data” 

screenshot of clearing cache

  • Step 3: In “Time Range” check “All Time” 
  • Step 4: Then click “Clear Data”

screenshot of clearing cache

What If Malware Removal Doesn’t Work?

Sometimes malware infections can be present even after all these steps. If you believe your device is still infected, you’ll need to completely wipe your hard drive and reinstall your operating system. Before doing this, it’s a good idea to consult the Apple or Microsoft support teams to ensure that the steps you take are correct. 

How To Protect Your Devices From Malware

Developing a keen eye for suspicious activity online is the best way to protect yourself and your devices from a malware infection or other viruses. There are already plenty of ways that malware can find its way onto your computer, and there are more types of malware being created all the time. Some best practices to defend your computer and your information against a breach are:

  • Create stronger passwords 
  • Delete files from your downloads and trash can often 
  • Update your operating system and applications when prompted 
  • Avoid suspicious emails, links and websites
  • Upgrade your Antivirus 

Malware is a threat to any device connected to the Internet and hackers are getting more creative with how they infect them. Exercising your best judgment online, knowing the signs of a malware infection, and acting quickly when you think your device is infected are some of the best ways to protect your information online in addition to strong malware detection and antivirus software. Be sure to check out how Panda Security helps protect your devices and your information online with great tools like free Antivirus software.  

Sources

PC Mag I PC World I MalwareTips I Apple