How to Tell if Your Computer Has a Virus in 2024, With Examples

In this article, we’ll explain how to tell if your computer has a virus, which can help you tackle problems such as poor computer performance, slow internet connections, and data security issues. We’ll also explore the different types of malware, including viruses, and explain how each one can harm you.

In addition to explaining how to tell if you have a virus on your device, we’ll offer advice on how to get rid of a virus and avoid more sophisticated threats, like ransomware. Whether you’re a business owner, a freelancer, or a consumer browsing the web, this guide will provide everything you need to know on how to tell if your computer has a virus.

Do I Have a Virus? The Telltale Signs

Understanding the subtle indicators of a possible malware infection on your device is the first and most crucial step for safeguarding your device and your privacy. This guide will help you explore the common signs you have a virus – and we suggest taking immediate action if you spot these red flags.

Slow Performance

Persistent slowdowns, frequent crashes, or delayed program responses all indicate there’s a virus on your computer. That’s because a virus can interfere with the critical processes of a computer, consuming system resources and causing sluggish responses.

How to tell if your computer has a virus

Pop-Ups

An unexpected appearance of pop-ups is often a sign of a virus infection, and you should avoid clicking on them. Often, these pop-ups will advertise programs that can apparently help you with system infections.

These programs are usually malware-ridden apps, however, and are designed to damage your computer and extract personal data.

Files Missing or Changing

Corrupted or missing files are a strong indication of virus activity. What’s worse, many viruses that can do this can severely compromise the overall functionality of your device, leading to data loss and potential system instability.

How to know if your computer has a virus

Unauthorized Logins

Unauthorized logins to your accounts may well be a result of virus activity on your devices. Unless you’re using one of the best password managers or similar third-party security apps to protect your online accounts, we suggest periodically reviewing your email to check for unauthorized login attempts.

Unusual Network Activity

Hackers can configure viruses to continuously transmit data from your devices via the internet. You’ll notice signs of this threat if your monthly data limit depletes in minutes, indicating abnormal network activity.

Using a smartphone or computer virus removal tool is essential in this instance, as these viruses are often impossible to track manually.

How to know if you have a virus on your computer

The Different Types of Computer Viruses

Viruses are a diverse family of malicious programs and include covert spyware, sophisticated ransomware, self-replicating worms, and more. To understand how to get rid of a virus on your computer devices, you’ll first need to know how to differentiate between the following sub-types.

  • Worms – This self-replicating virus can quickly spread across networks, causing system slowdowns and consuming bandwidth. Consider using an antivirus solution to remove them from your system, as these viruses can be very persistent.
  • Adware – If you’ve noticed a spike in pop-up windows that are hard to close and direct you to unknown websites or download links, your system is likely under an adware attack. It’s best not to follow their instructions, as they often lead to malicious sites.
  • Spyware – Hidden screen recorders and keyloggers are nearly impossible to notice without a comprehensive antivirus tool. Although some are used as third-party parental control solutions, anyone can potentially use them to monitor your activities without your consent.
  • Ransomware – Ransomware attacks are notorious for their ability to lock down businesses, allowing hackers to extort the owners in exchange for their company’s data. What’s worse, ransomware attacks are on the rise, especially in the US, and 47% of reported ransomware attacks in 2022 targeted US business owners.
While some virus attacks, such as ransomware, are almost exclusive to Windows, that doesn’t mean other operating systems are safe. For example, if you’re wondering if it’s possible for Macs to get viruses, the answer is yes, contrary to popular myths.

That’s why you should pay attention to the warning signs of a virus infection, no matter your device, and get up to speed on how to know if you have a virus on your computer.

How to Check for Viruses on Your Computer

There are two easy and effective ways to check if your computer is virus-free or if you need to take action. The first is to open the Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc on Windows) and check for unknown processes with high CPU usage.

This is a proven method to detect viruses, as viruses often appear as unusual, resource-hungry processes that impact your system’s performance.

You can also run a full system scan using Microsoft Defender Antivirus on Windows or XProtect on Mac devices. These tools can detect and eliminate most cyber threats, and using them is generally more straightforward than manually resolving the issue.

How to tell if you have a virus

Although both of these solutions can help you get rid of persistent viruses on your computer, blocking viruses from accessing your system is a much better option. That’s why you should consider investing in one of the best antivirus solutions, as they specialize in protecting your devices from evolving viruses.

In our 13+ years of experience in the tech industry, we’ve tested, reviewed, and compared a wide range of antivirus solutions, and we continue to do so every year. This year, we’re confident that TotalAV is the best choice. It has impressed us with its features, competitive pricing, and user-friendly interface.

To supplement our own TotalAV test results, we visited AV-Test to see how it performs compared to its competition and found industry-leading statistics.

While most antiviruses slow down your PC’s performance by 7% when opening programs, AV slows it down by as little as 2%. AV-Test also detected zero false flags from TotalAV, meaning you won’t need to look for workarounds to download files or to necessarily use one of the best VPNs.

How to Get Rid of a Virus on Computer

We’ve explored how to know if your computer has a virus, so we’ll now provide a step-by-step guide on how to get rid of a computer virus. Here’s what you need to do if you don’t have an antivirus solution installed.

  1. Restart the Device in Safe ModeStarting a computer in safe mode limits the functionality of viruses, as the computer will only allow essential processes to run.
  2. Uninstall Suspicious Apps – Look for recently installed and unfamiliar applications that may be the source of the infection and uninstall them.
  3. Run Built-In Protection Scans – Use your system’s built-in protection, such as Microsoft Defender Antivirus, to run a full scan, which may detect and resolve the issue.
  4. Update Software – If you haven’t updated your operating system in a while, look for the most recent update and install it.
  5. Clean Your Browser – Before you exit Safe Mode, clear your browser cache, cookies, and extensions, as some viruses thrive in these areas.

However, having a tool that proactively scans your device’s files, offers real-time protection, and prevents viruses from causing harm to your computer in the first place is wise, so consider downloading and installing TotalAV. The installation process takes less than a minute, and here’s how it looks.

Step 1 – Download the TotalAV App

Head to the official TotalAV website and click “Free Download,” which you’ll see in the middle of the homepage. You can also immediately subscribe to the Internet Security plan, which will provide far more protection than TotalAV’s free plan.

antivirus program

Step 2 – Install TotalAV on Your Device

Once you open the installer, click “Install” and wait for the process to finish, which takes less than a minute.

How to get rid of a computer virus

Step 3 – Perform Your First Full System Scan

With TotalAV installed, you can immediately scan your device for viruses, permanently removing harmful files.

Computer virus removal

Top Tips for Stopping Computer Viruses

To avoid asking yourself, “Does my computer have a virus?” every few months, adopt the following practices to keep it safe from harm.

  • Mindful Browsing – Do your best to avoid suspicious URLs and only visit reputable websites to reduce the risk of malicious content reaching your device.
  • Antivirus With Real-Time Protection – Install a reliable antivirus tool, like TotalAV, to shield your device from external threats, and make sure to keep it updated.
  • Secure WiFi Practices – Unless you’re using one of the best antiviruses with a VPN built-in, avoid logging into your online accounts while connected to a public WiFi network.
  • Strong Passwords – Create strong, unique passwords and ensure your online accounts don’t share the same credentials. If this sounds like too much work in a business environment, consider one of the best business password managers.

Other Antivirus Guides to Read Next

Subscribing to a reliable antivirus solution can provide peace of mind, knowing your devices are safe from the ever-increasing threat of cyberattacks. However, not every antivirus program is ideal for all use cases, so we’ve included a list of some of our guides that highlight the best choices based on your device and circumstances.

Conclusion – How to Know If Your Computer Has a Virus

The digital threat landscape is continuously evolving, so maintaining a virus-free computer requires constant vigilance. Adopting the best practices, recognizing the telltale signs, and employing effective detection methods are paramount to avoiding having your data stolen or your devices rendered unusable.

However, keeping track of cybersecurity trends and staying informed on emerging cyber threats can be time-consuming. That’s why it’s best to integrate a comprehensive security tool, like TotalAV, into your system’s defenses.

With a reliable antivirus solution, you can have peace of mind knowing your device is virus-free by running full scans or enabling real-time protection. In addition, most antiviruses extend their protection to your browser and other devices and offer other helpful tools, such as VPN services.

Computer Virus FAQs

How does a computer get a virus?

How can I check my computer for viruses?

How can I check my computer for viruses without antivirus?

What are the five signs of computer virus infection?

What if I think I have a virus, but my antivirus can’t find it?

How do you know your computer has been hacked?

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Ilijia Miljkovac
Technology Writer

Ilija Miljkovac is a Techopedia writer with seven years of experience covering all things tech. He writes about cybersecurity topics, spanning VPNs, antiviruses, and hosting, helping to inform B2B and B2C audiences about the latest products and services. He's written for publications such as Business2Community, TheTechReport, Comparitech, and more. When he's not working, Ilija spends his time hiking in nature or holed up in his apartment gaming.