How to Remove Malware from PC, Mac, iPhone or Android Devices

How to Remove Malware from PC, Mac, iPhone or Android Devices
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How to Remove Malware from PC, Mac, iPhone or Android Devices

S.E. Slack
October 25, 2019

Between email phishing scams, pop up ads that redirect you to suspicious websites and sneaky software that bundles into legitimate downloads, malware is everywhere for computer and smartphone users. Knowing how to protect and remove malware from your device is the price for modern web surfing because you’re at risk of contracting a virus, downloading spyware or ransomware or stumbling onto some other threat that can do a lot of damage to your system.

Malwarebytes, an antivirus provider, said that the United States has the most consumer malware detections in the world. No one is immune, according to Jerry Honeycutt, President of Honeycutt Inc.

“Most people think that they’re too little or inconsequential for an attacker to even notice them,” he said. “Anonymity is not protection from malware. Hackers often use a shotgun approach to blast their malware all over the internet to see what sticks.”

Hackers are primarily after information: the more they have, the more money they can steal. If you suspect or discover you have malware on your computer, it’s critical that you remove it as quickly as possible so hackers can’t get access to your personal and financial information.

Under malware attack? Here are some clues

If your device is experiencing sudden browser redirects or excessive pop-up ads, or is running much slower than usual, you could have dangerous malware on it.

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The good news is that malware removal can usually be completed in a few simple steps. While some threats might require extensive work, most are not difficult to remove.

In most cases, you can use a good antivirus program to ferret out and remove malware. If you prefer to try it on your own, follow the steps below to remove malware from Mac, Windows, iPhone and Android devices.

Important note: Always check your browser add-ons, too, when you’re concerned about a malware infection. Malware often installs extensions that can reinfect your device even if you’ve successfully removed the threat elsewhere on your system. Check your browser extensions to be sure that only ones you have approved; if any show up that you do not remember installing, remove them. You can always reinstall them later if you realize you removed one that you use often.

How to remove malware from your Mac

Many Mac users believe their computers can’t get attacked by viruses or malware. While Apple does a great job of plugging vulnerabilities, hackers are continually finding loopholes to exploit. While malware removal can be tackled by a variety of anti-malware programs, you can also do it yourself. Here’s how to remove malware from your Mac (do not log into any sensitive accounts or applications during this process):

  1. Disconnect from the internet.
  2. Start or restart your Mac. During this process, immediately press and hold the Shift key.
  3. Release the Shift key when you see the login window. You should be in Safe Mode now.
  4. Check the Activity Monitor to determine which applications are consuming the most resources. When you determine which application is most likely the malware, you can remove it using Finder.
  5. Go to the Finder menu.
  6. Click Applications.
  7. Click Utilities.
  8. Click Activity Monitor.
  9. Select the application.
  10. Click Quit.

If you’re unsure whether or not you’re seeing malware on the Activity Monitor, you can check Malwarebytes’ list of current viruses and malware for Macs.

How to remove malware from Windows 10

Windows 10 comes equipped with Windows Defender, an anti-malware component of the operating system. If you think malware has slipped through somehow, you can take the following steps to scan your computer and confirm any suspicious files have been removed. The process can take about 15-30 minutes.

  1. Close any open files, apps or programs.
  2. Disconnect from the internet.
  3. Click the Start icon.
  4. Click Settings.
  5. Click Update & Security.
  6. Click Windows Defender.
  7. Click Open Windows Defender Security Center.
  8. Click Virus & threat protection.
  9. Click Advanced Scan.
  10. Click Windows Defender Offline scan.
  11. Click Scan now.
  12. When your PC restarts after the scan, click the Start icon.
  13. Click Settings.
  14. Click Update & Security.
  15. Click Windows Defender.
  16. Click Open Windows Defender Security Center.
  17. Click Virus & threat protection.
  18. Click Scan history. Review the history to confirm that Windows Defender has removed or quarantined the malware you suspected of infiltrating your system.

If you’re not convinced that Windows Defender has done a thorough job, you can use a second-opinion malware scanner such as Zemana AntiMalware 3.0 to confirm your system is clear of threats.

How to remove malware from Android

Android phones are just as susceptible to malware as any other device. Even if you’re careful to only download apps from authorized locations, malware can still lurk in programs that bundle lots of extras into their downloads.

To remove malware from your Android, you must first put your phone in Safe Mode. You can usually do this by powering off your phone and selecting Safe Mode during the reboot (for older Androids, might need you to hold your finger on the Restart button or press the Volume button down as the device reboots). The words ‘safe mode’ will appear on the screen once it is activated; check your manufacturer’s website for instructions if you’re having difficulty. Alternatively, you can switch to Airplane mode to take your device off any network connections.

Once in Safe Mode, follow these steps for malware removal:

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  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Scroll to Apps.
  3. Find the list of all apps on your phone. (Tip: you might need to choose App Manager for this list depending upon your phone and Android version.)
  4. Review the list to determine which apps are unknown to you. If you see something unusual but you’re not sure about it, use a search engine to check the app name and confirm whether or not it is a legitimate app.
  5. Tap the suspicious app.
  6. Tap Uninstall.

You’ll be unable to uninstall system apps but some of the savviest malware will have already changed your system settings to block removal as well. In those cases, you might need to perform a factory reset of your device. This method erases all of your data and resets your phone back to the way it was the day you bought it.

How to remove malware from iPhone

Contrary to popular belief, iPhones can indeed become malware victims. While it is rare, if you believe your iPhone is compromised, you can follow these steps to reset and restore your phone to remove the malware. Important note: these steps assume you have been diligently backing up your iPhone.

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Reset.
  4. Tap Erase all Content and Settings.
  5. Plug your iPhone into your computer using a USB cord.
  6. Open iTunes.
  7. Tap your device (upper left).
  8. Tap Restore iPhone.
  9. Follow the on-screen instructions to erase your iPhone.
  10. Follow the steps to set up your iPhone. When prompted to restore from a backup, use a date where you know you did not have any malware infections.

Apple Support can help if you believe your iPhone still has signs of malware after trying this process.

Other protections to consider

You can protect yourself from malware infections in the future by following a few key steps.

  • Don’t click links in unsolicited texts, emails or in social media. You can search the email address to try to figure out where it’s coming from and who might have sent it.
  • Use malware protection and keep it updated. A strong malware protection app can help spot malware and block it from latching onto your device.
  • Download only approved apps. Be sure to only download approved apps from Google Play for Android devices, the App Store for iOS devices, or the Microsoft Store for Windows-based devices. If you use another source, be certain it’s legitimate.
  • Avoid suspicious websites. If your browser redirects you somewhere you weren’t expecting, leave the site immediately.
  • Never click on pop-up ads. Hackers are notorious for using adware to lure you into clicking things you shouldn’t or entering information to buy items that don’t exist.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.