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What happens when your computer gets a virus?

Computer viruses are frequently spread by attachments in email messages or by instant messaging messages. Therefore, you must never open an email attachment unless you know who sent the message or you are expecting the email attachment. Viruses can be disguised as attachments of funny images, greeting cards, or audio and video files. Computer viruses also spread through downloads on the Internet. They can be hidden in pirated software or in other files or programs that you might download.

What is a computer virus?

A computer virus is a small software program that spreads from one computer to another and interferes with computer operation. A computer virus might corrupt or delete data on a computer, use an email program to spread the virus to other computers, or even delete everything on the hard disk.

When a computer is infected by a virus or spyware, it may display the following symptoms:

  1. Computer starts slowing down
  2. Computer crashes, freezes or stops responding
  3. Undesirable and constant pop-ups
  4. Web pages take a long time to load or stop responding
  5. Websites are redirected to other websites when you try to access them

How to tell if your computer is infected with spyware

Spyware is a type of software that is installed on your computer to watch and record your activity. Some types of spyware record your keystrokes and information that you type into websites or other programs and then use that information for targeted advertising or identity theft. These programs can be installed on your computer in many ways but often they are hidden inside of software such as free games, screen savers, or animated cursors.

Here are some signs that your computer might be infected with spyware:

  • You notice new toolbars, links, or favorites that you did not intentionally add to your web browser.
  • Your home page, mouse pointer, or search program changes unexpectedly.
  • You type the address of a specific website into your web browser, but you are taken to a completely unrelated website.
  • You see pop-up ads, even if your computer is not connected to the Internet.
  • Your computer suddenly starts running more slowly that it usually does. Not all computer performance problems are caused by spyware, of course, but spyware can cause a noticeable change in processing speed.

Sometimes your computer will show no symptoms, even if a spyware program is running. To help protect your privacy and your computer, we recommend that you run Windows Defender or another antispyware program at all times.

Please note your computer may display symptoms which may not be related to a virus or spyware problems, as other hardware issues can also display various problems. However, if you suspect an infection, it is better to diagnose it than ignore it.