This is something I get asked to do frequently and the conversion usually begins with something like “my laptop is running very slow” or “there’s strange windows with ads appearing on my screen”. Both these scenarios happen to everyone at some stage from the novice to the experienced user. The difference being the experienced user knows the few simple things to do to get their computer running right again.
This is a very basic process for cleaning your computer and is be done in three stages.
Removing what’s not needed and the unwanted
Open Control Panel (use the search option if you can’t find it) and click on either “Add/Remove Programs” or “Programs and Features” depending on your version of windows. Here you’ll see a list of all the programs installed on your computer. Go through the list and remove any program you don’t need or use.
I normally start with any antivirus programs that are listed. Most PCs come with pre-installed antivirus either from McAfee or Norton which only lasts for a few months so unless you purchased a subscription these should be the first to go.
Next I look for any toolbars that would have been installed by other programs. The only toolbars I’d leave are the Google and Bing toolbars. After that look for any program that mentions coupons, rebates or shopping, remove them all.
Finally look for any strange program that you don’t recognise, you can look it up here http://www.shouldiremoveit.com to see if it should be removed or not. That website also has a tool to somewhat automated this process but the idea of installing another program to get rid of the previous programs bothers me so I don’t do it but feel free to try it for yourself.
When finished uninstalling programs I run a program called AdwCeaner to do a final clean up on browsers to remove anything that could be lingering.
Run a Virus Scan
The next stage is to simply run a virus scan. My scan of choice is ESET’s online scanner. It’s a straight forward tool just click the button to run the scan and follow along with the instructions. The scan can take several hours so be prepared to leave your computer running at this point.
When the scan is finished you’ll want to install some sort of antivirus program. Windows 8 and 10 come with Microsoft’s antivirus built in but you can still add to this if you want. For a paid antivirus I recommend ESET NOD32 or most IT shops will carry Norton or Kaspersky which will also do the job. For most people a free antivirus will be fine and for that I recommend Bitdefender Free.
The final stage of the process is to run Windows Updates. Depending on how you’ve handled updates in the past this could take a few minutes or a few hours.
When all three stages are complete you’ll have a clean running computer and should be problem free for another while.