We all hate computer viruses. Even back in the early days of home offices and laptops, viruses have been rearing their ugly heads and annoying computer users for years. It's not enough for viruses to just go in, delete all your files, and spread to other computers anymore. There are all sorts of nasty viruses and malware out there, and all of them do so many different and awful things to your system that sometimes it can't be hard to tell whether or not you actually have a virus. If you're not sure if your recent computer troubles are the result of faulty software or a computer virus, here's a few warning symptoms to look out for.

Pop-up ads

Nobody likes pop-up ads. They're intrusive, they're annoying, and in some cases, can be a front for viruses. If you're getting a lot of popups on your computer when you browse the Web, it may just simply be a case of a badly-configured browser. Usually adjusting your browser Settings or getting an ad-blocker program will fix the problem.

But if you are constantly receiving pop-up ads, even when your Internet browser isn't open, that's usually a tell-tale sign of a virus infection. This is especially true if those pop-ups says things like "a virus has been detected on your computer," and then offers you software, either free or paid, to fix it. Do NOT fall for this scam; you'll only be downloading more malware onto your system. If any program, other than your antivirus software, tries to tell you there's a virus on your computer, don't believe it.


So you're on the Internet, minding your own business, when all of a sudden you've received a startling message that your computer has been locked down due to illegal activity. Don't be alarmed, you're not really in trouble (unless you actually were viewing illegal material, in which case you're on your own, buddy...) This sort of virus is known as "ransomware." True to their name, these viruses hold your computer for ransom and refuse to give you back control unless you pay a certain amount of money to regain control.

Unfortunately, these particularly nasty viruses will often times block your access to your antivirus software, so you can't get it off your computer without a rescue disc or professional help. But whatever you do, do not give up your payment information. You're not gonna get control of your computer back, and you've just handed over valuable personal information to whoever sent out the virus, most likely a hacker or identity thief.

System slowdown

Have you noticed your computer's been running really slow lately? Some viruses, such as worms or Trojans, run multiple tasks on your computer that take up valuable resources on your computer and can cause it to slow down, freeze up, or even cause it to crash altogether. So if you find your computer is running very slow, even when you don't have a lot of programs open at once, it could very well be the result of a virus.

Of course, a sudden slowdown may not always be the result of a virus. Sometimes it may be a case of having too many programs running at once on your computer, or maybe you just have old hardware and need an upgrade. You can check out my previous Geek Girl Report to get more insight on what can cause your computer to slow down and how to get it back up to speed.

Essential tools and functions stop working

Usually if you run into a problem with your computer, you can hit Control+Alt+Delete to open up Task Manager and pinpoint the troublesome program. For Mac users, you can simply hit Command+Space to open the Activity Manager program, which serves the same function. But if you find that you can't open either program, or your Start menu, or even your antivirus software, you might have a virus in your system that doesn't want to be found and is blocking every way you can identify or get rid of it.

Nothing's wrong

Sometimes the most dangerous symptom of a computer virus is no symptom at all. Even if your computer is running perfectly and you say to yourself, "I don't need antivirus protection. My computer's running just fine!" The fact is, viruses are getting more and more sophisticated every day, and just because everything's running fine doesn't necessarily mean you're virus-free anymore. There are even some viruses out there that will actually remove other viruses on your system to keep you from getting suspicious.

As cliche as it sounds, the best defense really is a good offense when it comes to fighting computer viruses. Especially in this day and age, you need to have solid antivirus protection on your computer. If you need some recommendations, check out the Geek Girl Report's recommendations for some fantastic, and free, antivirus software. If you're a Mac user, check here for antivirus software recommendations just for Macs.