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30 Hardware and Windows Tips in 30 Days Tip 28: Malware Troubles? Get a Second Opinion!

Even if you're armed with an up-to-date antivirus program, you might still run into malware baddies you can't detect or remove. As long as you can still get online, though, you can use an increasing number of free tools to find and, in most cases, remove threats.  Here's where to find them - and how they work.

Antivirus Programs Are Smart - But Malware Writers Are 'Smarter'

Today's antivirus programs are smarter than ever before, but malware creators have an advantage over even the best ones: they can crank out new attacks and new variations on existing attacks faster than antivirus vendors can release updates. To make matters worse, antivirus programs vary widely in their ability to detect viruses, as this April 2007 test by the Virus.gr information portal reveals. Whether you use one of the highest-ranked products or not, don't be surprised if you scan your system for viruses and threats when it displays symptoms like slowdowns, popup ads, browser hijacking, and so forth - but your antivirus program doesn't find anything. What next?

Online Scanning to the Rescue

If you need a second opinion, use an online virus and threat scanner. This category, once limited to a few choices like Trend Micro's House Call and Symantec's Security Check, now contains many additional contenders:

Supported Platforms

Most online virus scanners support Windows/IE only, but House Call also supports Mozilla Firefox, Linux distros that support libc6, Solaris 2.6 and above, and MacOS X 10.4 (Tiger); it offers both an ActiveX (Windows) and a Java VM version (Windows, MacOS, Linus, Solaris). Most support Windows Vista.

Find, or Find and Remove?

Most online virus scanners both find and remove viruses and threats. However, if you find a particular virus with an online virus scan that cannot remove it, you might be able to download a specialized removal tool.These are offered by

To select the right downloadable removal tool, you must know the name of the virus or threat. This can be tricky, as different antivirus vendors use different naming conventions. Consult the virus encyclopedias offered by antivirus vendors to determine alternative names (sometimes called 'aliases') for a particular threat so you can download the correct one. The SymantecTrend MicroF-Secure, and Microsoft encyclopedias are among those that generally feature good lists of aliases used by other vendors.

As you can see, there's no shortage of solutions to a virus or malware infection - even if your installed antivirus program can't find or remove it.

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