How To Know if You Have a Computer Virus

Our increasing reliance on computers for work and daily activities can be a great convenience, but it also increases the negative impact of a computer virus. Installing anti-virus (AV) software is an essential step in protecting your computer, but even the best AV software won’t detect all viruses. You must also use your observation skills to identify the following behaviors that could indicate your computer is infected.

Abnormal Disk Activity

Unexpected disk activity should always prompt you to investigate the cause. While it may have an innocent explanation like insufficient space on your hard drive, it can also indicate the presence of a virus. For example, if you don’t think your computer should be doing anything and you see the hard drive light constantly flashing, you should determine the cause.

Bring up your task manger and sort the display of running programs in descending order of disk activity. Examine the programs at the top of the list to see if there are any programs that you don’t recognize. If you aren’t familiar with the programs that normally run on your computer, seek the help of an expert.

New Features in Your Browse

Internet access is one of the most common uses of computers today, making web browsers a primary target for hackers. Many viruses make changes to browsers that cause observable changes. For example, if your home page or wallpaper changes unexpectedly, it’s a strong indication that a virus has infected your browser. New tool bars are also a common change when a plugin is installed into your browser. In addition, you should always take notice when your browser redirects you to a different site from the one you’re trying to reach.

Sending out Spam

One of the main functions of viruses is to propagate themselves on other computers. They often accomplish this goal by sending email messages to other people on your contact list. These messages may contain an attachment with the virus, which will infect the recipient’s computer when they open the attachment. If you suspect this is happening, you should log out of all your social networking accounts immediately and change your passwords. Select strong passwords that are easy to remember but hard to guess.

Crashing Programs

Programs that crash frequently can be a sign that your computer is infected, especially if it’s software with a large user base. This can indicate the software is of poor quality, but commercial-grade software is generally more stable than this. Viruses can cause programs to crash when they compete for the same resources or change settings on your computer.


Modern AV software is highly effective at detecting specific viruses that it already knows about. It can also detect viruses that exhibit virus-like behavior, even when it doesn’t recognize that particular virus. However, you still need to remain alert to suspicious behavior from your computer.