Assuming that you got a virus warning dialog that isn’t a fake dialog generated by an Internet malware scam, you’re probably a bit worried. Here are tips for you to handle this intelligently, effectively and in a way that only escalates the way you deal with the problem if the problem actually merits it. 1: Disconnect At the point where you get a pop-up dialog warning of a virus, you won’t really be sure whether the virus has actually infected your machine or has simply been detected as being on your hard drive, but may not have actually installed. Modern antivirus software is very good at picking up viruses when you download them by accident and intercepting them before they can do anything at all. Nonetheless, you want to disconnect from your network. This prevents two things: * Distributing the virus to other computers on your network * Anybody getting information off of your computer over the Internet via a security-compromising virus Once you have detached the computer from the network, you can start looking at the problem. 2: See If It’s Been Dealt With Sometimes your antivirus software will deal with the problem right away and the dialog box will show you what was done. For example, your antivirus software may detect a Trojan that you downloaded and immediately quarantine it so that it can’t do any damage. If your antivirus software says that the file was quarantined or deleted, your fine. You should go through, however, and find any other files that came along with that infected file and delete them as well. Empty your recycle bin after you do. Figure 1: The AVG antivirus screen and options. 3: You’re Infected If you’ve actually been infected with the virus, this is where things get tricky. Your antivirus software may go through a process where it is able to remove or isolate the file from other resources on your computer. The following scenario will likely happen if you have a problem here. Your antivirus software will keep detecting that virus over and over again. Oftentimes, this will happen right after you boot. You will also likely have symptoms of a virus, such as your homepage being hijacked to a different page, not being able to execute an Internet search without going to a phony Internet search page, diminished performance and so forth. These are all good signs that you want to keep your computer off of the network until you have fixed the problem. If you have access to a different computer – you may have to use the infected one, if you have no other options – look for a removal tool for the specific virus that your antivirus software is detecting. This is easy to do. Simply take the name of the virus from your software and enter the following search string into Google: “VirusX Removal Tool”. Replace “VirusX” with the name of the virus that your antivirus software detected. When you find a removal tool, make certain that it comes from a reputable site, such as Norton, your own antivirus software’s site, or some other site that you can verify as being legitimate. Most of these one-time removal tools are very easy to use and they are specifically designed to target and remove the virus that you’re infected with. Be aware that your antivirus software not being able to remove the virus doesn’t mean that your antivirus software is awful. It just means that, in this case, somebody made a relatively clever virus and your antivirus software doesn’t have an effective way of getting rid of it. 4: It’s Horrible All of these methods may fail. You may have a type of virus called a rootkit or another nasty virus that is just very difficult to remove from your computer. At this point, you can consider restoring your computer to a previous state, which you can do from the Control Panel or by having a tech look at your computer. If all appears to be lost, you can reformat your computer and start from scratch. Sometimes, this is really the only way to get rid of a particularly nasty virus and, while not the most desirable solution, it does mean that your computer isn’t ruined.