Computer virus symptoms are a not cast in stone, but rather a moving target. Just like with the human viral conditions, they evolve through generations – which in computer technology terms may mean weeks or even days. Some symptoms may not necessarily mean an infection – for example, if you are sneezing, you do not necessarily have a flu, it may be just an allergy – which means different cause, and different treatment methods. Same with computers – if your system seems to be slower than usual, it may be a symptom of a virus, but it may also be a symptom of “program overload” – when you have too many programs running at once, and it crashes your computer system’s performance.
With that in mind, let’s go over some of the most common symptoms that can alert you to the potential virus within your computer system, or even your computer network, presented here in no particular order.
1. Hardware Troubles – It’s Alive!
If sudden sounds of the CD-ROM tray opening completely out if its own will give you the heebie jeebies, I don’t blame you! If your hardware – computer, printer, etc. – started acting up on its own, without you requesting any action by means of keyboard or mouse, you are likely having a virus in your computer system. When you work on the computer, especially if you are performing some actions by using programs,your hard drive is expected to be making some noises.
If you are not doing anything, and your computer seems to be putting in extra effort and looks like it is communicating with 8th dimension completely by itself, consider an emergency antivirus scan.
2. No Response – Is Anyone Home?
We’ve all been there: working away, and then BAM – nothing happens! You can’t move your mouse, the keyboard does zilch, you go into panic mode “ouch, did I save that document I was writing for the past 2 hours?”…. (Now, in the voice of “desperate housewives narrator: “Yes. We all had the frozen iceberg for a computer before”). Lockup alone may not necessarily mean you have a virus – it could also be a symptom of a desperate need for a cleanup (we will be going over it in another article) – but if it presents itself in array of other symptoms, be on a lookout for a virus.
Check out our Why my Computer Keeps Freezing page for more info
3. Slow Performance – Are We There yet?
If you notice that certain actions take much longer then usual, you should be concerned. As in the previous paragraphs – you must account for specifics of certain files and programs when making a judgment of the slow performance: one PDF document may take much longer time to open simply because it is of a much larger size, and it will not be indicative of the computer virus. However, keep in mind that some viruses can reproduce and multiply your files and overcrowd disk space, overloading disk usage. In another example, when you are browsing your documents folders and you notice that it takes – unusually – longer to browse from one folder to another, or if it takes more and more time to open the same program, you should be on a lookout for other computer virus symptoms.
4. Slow Startup – Easy doesn’t.
Another important symptom of a computer virus is a slow startup. Do not confuse it with wishful thinking. As a collective, we are impatient beings. Did you ever catch yourself pushing an elevator button, mumbling to yourself, “It must be the slowest elevator ever”? My point exactly! When considering the startup process – think of the typical (however slow you may feel it is) to the actual startup time. Does it seem to be much slower then usual? Does it seem to just sit there, and not even a blink or a squeak happens?
If it takes way too long, then it may be a symptom of a viral infection in your computer.
5. Crashing – Crash and Burn, Baby!
When your computer crashes spontaneously, be careful. After computer restarts, you may notice it does not seem to run normally. If it self-restarts frequently, every few minutes – beware of a virus. This symptom alone may indicate that your system is infected. If your computer crashed, best course of action – Do Not Resuscitate and call your IT support company.
6. Missing files – Gone With the Wind…
When you notice that applications on your computer do not work correctly, you may also notice some of your files are missing. That includes different types of files. Some may be the files that you created, such as images or documents you had saved on your drive. You may physically notice absence of those when you actually look for them and can’t seem to find them anywhere. As a result of computer virus infection your computer may also be missing system files. As a user, you may not know what they are and may not notice they are gone, however, if you are trying to use certain applications (browser, email client, document editor, etc.) sometimes those application will refuse to run properly and pop up a warning for you that “critical file is missing” – usually accompanied by the name of the file that is MIA – alerting you to a loss of some files.
7. Disks or Disk Drives Are Not Accessible – Who Ate My Porridge?
If you are loosing the network connection – or worse yet cannot connect to the USB drive you just plugged in, or you go to My Computer and only see one drive instead of your usual X number of drives, you may be in trouble. If you cannot connect to all, some of the drives or cannot access your CD-ROM, it may be one of the symptoms indicating your computer is infected.
8. Extra Files – Who Sat In My Chair?
You may visually notice extra pop ups and extra programs that seem to be running on your computer, especially on startup. You may notice (if you check for it) that your disk space suddenly quadrupled in size without you making 200 copies of your vacation photos folder on your C: drive.
9. Printer Issues – Is This Thing On?
If you cannot get your documents to print correctly, or cannot print at all, you may be dealing with a virus. First, rule out your printer not being turned on. Next, ensure it is connected to your network and is not offline. If it turned on and it is online (connected to your network), and you still have problems with printer, your computer system may have a virus and may affect not just your drive, but you network, as well.
10. Unusual Error Messages – Did You See That?
This may include gibberish messages, messages you hadn’t seem before, undesired ad messages and such. Special attention must be paid to messages that disguise themselves as anti-virus warning messages. They are designed to trick you into thinking that you are at risk, and must take action to protect your computer system. Sometimes that is how the virus introduces itself into the system, and sometimes it may already be in your system, and that is how it takes over it, making your more and more vulnerable, and doing further damage to your computer. Again, when you are in doubt, it is best to call professional computer support company.
Remember, when your computer demonstrates symptoms of the computer virus, it is usually too late: you can just hope that damage that was done to your computer or the whole network is not irreversible.
So, here is what you can do to keep your computer system safe from viruses:
- Have a legitimate antivirus program installed on your system.
- Remember to renew your antivirus software on time – if it isn’t renewed, its not active.
- Make sure you are always up-to-date with latest virus definitions – if it is not up-to-date, it is useless.
- Ensure that your antivirus updates are running automatically – or as a minimum, make sure you install antivirus program updates as frequently as you can to make sure that your system has a defense line against most recent viruses, too.
Computer software, including antivirus programs, comes in such various shapes and forms, and are sized to fit different needs in terms of size and budget. If you are not sure about what you need or if you feel your network system has been compromised and your organization needs help with computer virus issues – consult with your trusted IT support adviser first.