How do I find and remove a virus?

A fast way to check whether your PC has a virus is to use Windows Defender. This malware protection is included with Windows and helps identify and remove viruses, spyware and other malicious software.


  • If you're using Windows 8.1, you can run a scanner or anti-malware application provided by another company if you prefer. To keep your PC running smoothly, you should only install and run one anti-malware application at a time.

  • If you're using Windows RT 8.1, Windows Defender is always on and can't be turned off.

To scan your PC with Windows Defender

  1. Open Windows Defender by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the top-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, then clicking Search), entering defender in the search box, then tapping or clicking Windows Defender.

  2. Under Scan options, pick the type of scan you want to run:

    • A Quick scan checks only the areas on your PC that malicious software is most likely to infect, and any applications currently running.

    • A Full scan checks all the files on your PC. Depending on your PC, this scan might take an hour or more.

    • A Custom scan checks only the files and locations you choose.

  3. Tap or click Scan now.

Removing a virus manually

Windows Defender will typically remove viruses automatically. However, in some cases,you might need to remove a virus manually. This can be a technical process that you should only try if you've exhausted all other options, you're familiar with the Windows registry and you know how to view and delete system and program files in Windows.

First, run your anti-malware application to identify the virus by name. If you don't have an anti-malware application, or if your application doesn't detect the virus, you might still be able to identify it by looking for clues about how it behaves. Write down the words in any messages it displays, or, if you’ve received the virus in an email, write down the subject line or name of the file attached to the message. Then search an antivirus provider's website or the Microsoft Malware Protection Center for references to what you've written down or to try and find the name of the virus and instructions for how to remove it.

For recovery and prevention

After the virus has been removed, you might need to reinstall some software or restore lost info. Making regular backups of your files can help you avoid data loss if your PC gets infected again. If you haven't made backups in the past, it's a good idea to start now. For more info, see Restoring files or folders using File History.

For additional tips on how you can help protect your PC from viruses, see How can I help protect my PC from viruses?