Will antivirus software remove existing viruses?

So you’ve finally decided on the antivirus (AV) software you want to install and are feeling pretty good knowing that your data will be safe from malware. Suddenly, a question pops into your head; what happens if I already have a virus. Will my antivirus software remove existing viruses? The answer is ‘yes’, but there’s one caveat; to remove them, you’ll need to take some action yourself. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Scan your system
First, run a full system antivirus scan on your computer. Full system scans scan all the files on your system. If malware is detected, your AV software will ask you whether to quarantine or permanently delete the virus. Either option is an effective method for removing the virus. Before you run your scan, however, make sure that your AV software is current. Since scans rely on a database of known virus signatures to detect viruses, your AV should always work with an up-to-date signature database. Scanners compare the unique signature of each file on your computer to the virus signatures in the virus database. A match means that a virus has been detected, but if your software isn’t current, it won’t be able to use the latest database and thus might not detect new viruses. Consequently, you can’t be fully protected from known malware unless your software is current.

What happens if I can’t boot up my system to run the scan?
If you can’t boot into Windows, you’ll have to boot into Safe Mode and run a full-system scan from there. Depending on the size of your hard drive and the number of files on your system, this process could take some time, but make sure that the scan runs until it is completed. As explained above, when it’s finished, your AV software will ask you how you want to deal with any malware found (e.g., delete permanently or quarantine).

What happens next?
Once your antivirus software has successfully removed the malware, shut down your computer, reboot it and then run a full scan again. Hopefully, you’ll be malware-free the second time around and good to go, but if not, you’ll need to repeat the process described above.

Prevention is the best antidote
While it’s good to know that you can remove existing viruses, the best way to truly keep your data safe is to prevent malware from infecting your system in the first place. And the best way to do that is to install AV software and always keep it current.