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Windows computers sometimes get infected with viruses and other malware, but not every slow or poorly performing computer is infected with malware. Here’s how to check if you have a virus — and whether this suspicious process is dangerous or not.

What are the signs of a virus?

Slow performance, application crashes, and computer freezes can sometimes be a sign that a virus or other type of malware is causing damage. However, this is not always the case: there are many other causes of problems that can slow down your PC.

Likewise, just because your computer is working fine, it doesn’t mean it’s free of malware. Viruses decades ago were often pranks that went berserk and used up a lot of system resources. Modern malware is more likely to lurk in the background surreptitiously and unnoticed, trying to evade detection so they can grab your credit card numbers and other personal information. In other words, modern malware is often created by criminals just to make money, and well-designed malware won’t cause any noticeable PC problems at all.

However, sudden slow PC performance may be one of the signs that you have malware. Weird apps on your system can also point to malware, but again, there’s no guarantee that malware is involved. Some applications pop up a command prompt window when they update, so weird windows flashing on your screen and quickly disappearing might be a normal part of legitimate software on your system.

There is no one-size-fits-all proof without actually scanning the computer for malware. Sometimes malware causes problems with a PC, and sometimes it behaves well while quietly performing its purpose in the background. The only way to know for sure if you have malware is to scan your system for it.

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How to check if a process is a virus or not

You might be wondering if your computer has a virus because you have seen a strange process in the Windows Task Manager, which can be opened by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc or by right-clicking the Windows taskbar and selecting «Task Manager».

Opening the Windows Task Manager from the Windows 10 Taskbar.

There are quite a few processes to see here — click «More Info» if you see a smaller list. Many of these processes have strange, confusing names. This is fine. Windows includes quite a few background processes, some of them are added by your PC manufacturer, and the apps you install often add them.

Windows 10 Task Manager showing running processes.

Malicious malware often uses a large amount of CPU, memory, or disk resources and can allocate here. If you’re wondering if a particular program is malware, right-click on it in Task Manager and select «Search the Web» to find more information.

If a search in the process shows information about malware, this is a sign that you have malware. However, don’t assume that your computer is virus-free just because the process looks legitimate. The process may lie and say it is «Google Chrome» or «chrome.exe», but it could just be a malware imitating Google Chrome that is located in a different folder on your system. If you are concerned that you might have malware, we recommend that you run a malware scan.

The Search the Web option is not available in Windows 7. If you are using Windows 7, you will need to paste the process name into Google or another search engine instead.

Searching for the process name on the Internet from the Windows Task Manager.

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How to scan your computer for viruses

By default, Windows 10 always scans your PC for malware using the built-in Windows Security app, also known as Windows Defender. However, you can perform manual scans.

In Windows 10, open the Start menu, type «Security» and click the «Windows Security» shortcut to open it. You can also go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Security > Open Windows Security.

Opening the Windows Security App from Windows 10 Settings.

To check for malware, click Virus & Threat Protection.

Opening the Virus and Threat Protection settings in Windows Security.

Click «Quick Scan» to scan your system for malware. Windows Security will scan and give you the results. If any malware is found, it will offer to remove it from your computer automatically.

Manual scanning for viruses and other malware in Windows Security.

If you need a second opinion — always a good idea, if you’re worried that you might have malware and your main antivirus isn’t finding anything — you can scan with another security app as well.

We love and recommend Malwarebytes, which pairs well with Windows Security to provide an extra layer of protection for your PC. The free version of Malwarebytes will allow you to manually scan for viruses and other malware on your PC. The paid version adds real-time protection, but if you just want to check your computer for malware, the free version will work just fine.

Scan for malware with Malwarebytes on Windows.

Windows 7 does not include built-in antivirus software. For a free antivirus, you can download Microsoft Security Essentials and run a scan with it. This provides protection similar to the Windows Defender security software built into Windows 10.

If your antivirus app detects malware but can’t remove it, try scanning in safe mode. You can also make sure your computer is free of malware by restoring Windows 10 to its default state.

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