A computer virus can slow your computer down, make your computer act erratically or unpredictably, send lots of traffic on the network when you are doing nothing, read your sensitive information, or destroy your information or computer. If you see any of these symptoms you may have a virus. However, there are other reasons for these symptoms that you should try to eliminate before you can be sure it's a virus.
The first 3 steps you should always perform if you think you have a computer virus are:
- Update your virus software,
- Unplug from the network, and
- Run your virus scanner.
The symptoms listed can have non-virus causes, some of which are listed here. But it is best to err on the side of caution until you know for sure.
Did your computer slow down all of a sudden? If it just got slower over time, it's possible various things have built up over time to slow it down naturally. This can include having too many programs running at once, having too many icons on your desktop, having a very large file open, or having a program running in the background that is using most of your computer's resources (think of a Virus scanner). Also network problems can slow your computer down - to check if this is the case, simply unplug the network wire from your computer to see if things speed up.
Computer acting erratic
Is your mouse jumping around when you move it? It could be dirty or your hand could be touching the touchpad on your laptop. Is your mouse moving by itself? Make sure your desk is flat, and that you are not using VPN. Then go to Start > Control Panel > System > Remote Settings and make sure Remote Assistance is turned off. If the problem persists, take your computer off the network - unplug the network cable or turn off your wireless card.
Sending lots of traffic over the network
If your computer is on, and you are doing nothing there should be no or almost no network traffic - nothing happening means no traffic. If there is network traffic, it may be a legitimate program downloading updates in the background. If you are streaming video over the internet, or downloading large files over the internet, there will always be lots of network traffic. However, if you aren't doing those things it may be a virus sending itself across the network or calling home with your information.
Computer stops working for no reason
If your computer is not working all of a sudden, it may be a virus or other problem. This could be a program that worked fine yesterday won't open today, or your computer won't boot up. If you are having extreme problems, you need to get professional computer help. Staff and faculty can bring their computer to the ITS Service Desk ( Where are the ITS Service Desk locations? ) for help because its a college computer (look for the asset number tag to verify this - What is a college asset number?). Everyone else, even for staff home computers, need to go to the New Technology store or other computer technician so they can diagnose and fix your computer problems.