Today you can’t be on the internet for more than a few minutes before hearing about the latest threats from a computer virus. So what is a computer virus exactly and how does one catch a virus? Furthermore, what kind of computer repair do you need once you have become infected?
Well a computer virus is a small piece of code (basically a bunch of sentences translated into a computer language) which is both executable as well as reproducible. Executable means that the virus is executed, or run, by the computer. Generally, a virus is integrated into a computer application or document; say, for instance, Microsoft Word. Now, whenever this infected version of Microsoft Word runs, the virus will start to look for other applications which it can infect. Say, the virus find out that you are also running Microsoft Excel; well, the virus will try to infect Microsoft Excel. This process will continue on as more and more of your programs become infected. Are you starting to understand why a virus is also said to be reproducible? A computer virus is somewhat similar to a real world virus in that it uses a host (a computer application or document in this case) to duplicate itself.
Realistically, it is unlikely that you will get a virus from a common program such as Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel. However, viruses can be transmitted within ‘shady’ programs (those you find on illegal file sharing sites) or through common types of files such as pdf’s (which store text) and jpeg’s (which store pictures). Consequently, it is very important that you do not open and run email attachments unless the sender’s authenticity has been verified.
At this point you might be thinking: a virus can copy itself, so what? The problem is that viruses can be programmed (basically told by the person who creates them) to do any number of things. A virus can be benign in that it is told to simply stay in the background and copy itself. However, a virus can also be malignant if encouraged to erase an individual’s hard drive or do something of a similar destructive nature. Ultimately, it is very difficult to determine exactly what a virus is going to do since it is usually told to stay in the background.
So what are some signs that your computer has been infected by a virus and it is in need of some computer repair? One of the most obvious signs of a computer virus is if your computer suddenly grinds to halt and becomes exceedingly slow. We had one client in downtown Vancouver who had this problem; furthermore, he was unable to access to internet because the virus was using up his internet resources. Another common sign of a virus is a computer which suddenly starts crashing and/or restarting. Finally, a client of ours from Burnaby BC had a situation in which strange icons appeared on his desktop and parts of his Windows XP operating system were no longer visible.
Assuming you have detected a virus on your computer, what next? Well, we here at Computer Repair Vancouver advise you to first try to rectify the problem yourself before bringing in computer repair professionals to take a look at your problem. This may seem like a scary proposition, but in today’s computer landscape, it actually is not. All you need to do is download an antivirus computer program from the internet, install it (usually by double clicking on the file you downloaded), and run it (by clicking a button which says something to the effect of “scan”). There are a multitude of free and commercial antivirus packages, however, I will list a few that have been around for a while and are considered quite reliable. If you are looking for free software we recommend that you download either Avira antivir (http://www.free-av.com/) or AVG (http://free.avg.com/ca-en/homepage). Just make sure that you choose to download the free or basic version of the software. If, on the other hand, you are willing to go with a commercial option we recommend either BitDefender or Kasperky. Honestly, it is generally best to first try the free software and see if that alleviates the symptoms which you are experiencing. There is no such thing as a golden antivirus program which will alleviate all of your computer problems.
If your problem remains after having tried to resolve a virus problem by yourself, it is likely best to contact a computer repair professional. Generally he or she will run a number of additional software programs (some looking for viruses and some looking for malware – a topic we will discuss next time). If this solves the problem then great, he or she is done. However, if there is a more serious problem with your system the computer repair technician may be forced to back up your data before he reformats your hard drive; a process which gets rid of your old system files and replaces them with new, uninfected ones.
Hopefully, this has given you a good summary as to what a computer virus is, what are some its symptoms, and how it can be dealt with. Although we have briefly looked at some of the trusted antivirus software out there, we glossed over the exact steps involved in installing the software and running it. If the demand exists, we will create a step by step tutorial on how exactly to do this in the near future. However, next time we here at Computer Repair Vancouver are going to look at another popular computer problem, that of malware.