How to Remove an Android Virus

by Sandra Henshaw - , Last Updated on September 1, 2015, Android

Mobile phone viruses are fairly similar to computer viruses in that they can steal or destroy your data, or even leave your device unusable. Fortunately, they're not common, and they're pretty easy to remove if you know how. That's why today we're looking at how you can identify and remove a virus from your Android phone. So, let's get started…

Do You Really Have a Virus?

We've got to be honest and say that the chances that you've actually got a virus on your Android device is very slim indeed. What's far more likely is that you've seen a pop up ad, either in an app or online, that's telling you you have a virus. This is a scam, and never, ever click on anything that flashes a virus warning up at you, since you'll end up causing more harm than good.

So, how then do you know if you've really got a virus? Viruses are different, which means symptoms are different. But if your phone is acting strangely (lagging, opening apps without permission, refusing to let you complete certain tasks) and you've tried every other solution then there is a possibility that you've got something there. A virus is really the last option on your list though, that's just how uncommon they are in Android devices.

Prevention is Better Than Cure

Okay, if you've already got a virus telling you that prevention is better than cure is closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, but still, you can use this info to avoid the situation in future. Android viruses tend to be installed through apps, and if you only get your apps through the Google Play store, you should be fine. If you're dead set on downloading a third party app from outside of Google Play, then know that you're running a risk. At the very least go online and check out reviews of the app you're thinking about downloading to see if anyone else has had problems.

If you're worried, you can also download anti-virus software for your phone. This works in the same way as it does with your computer, and the anti-virus app will scan anything that you download onto your device. This makes you safe, of course, but the down side is that running anti-virus software will probably also make your phone a little slower. The choice is really up to you, but if you consistently get apps from outside of trusted sources such as Google Play then you might want to consider running an anti-virus programme too.

Getting Rid of the Nasties

There are two ways of getting rid of a virus should you be unlucky enough to catch one, one simpler than the other. The absolute easiest way is to perform a factory reset on your phone (you should find an option to do this under the Settings menu). This will clear the virus, however, it was also clear everything else on your phone, so may not be your preferable option. There is another option though that will let you keep all your data.

Virus Elimination…

The very first thing that you're going to need to do is to switch off your phone and then restart it in “safe” mode. How to do this varies by device, but on most phones you'll need to press and hold the power button to bring up a set of options that includes things like Power Off and Restart. If you then press and hold the option that says Power Off you should be given another set of options that includes Restart in Safe Mode. If this doesn't work then you'll need to do a quick online search for the model of your phone and “safe mode.”

Once your phone has restarted you should see the words “safe mode” somewhere on the screen, and this means that only the built in functions of your phone will work, no third party apps will run at all. Since you know that a virus has to come from an app you've installed this means that the virus won't be active. This will allow you to delete the culprit app, something that isn't always possible outside of safe mode, since the virus itself usually stops you from deleting the app.

Now comes the detective work. Still in safe mode go to your Settings page, press Apps and make sure you're looking at the tab called Downloaded. One of these apps contains your virus, so look down the list for anything that doesn't seem right. Maybe it has a strange name, or maybe it's something that you haven't downloaded yourself. It should be fairly easy to spot (but you can always go through this process again if you make a mistake, so don't worry).

When you've identified the app, tap on its name on the list and you should get an options page which will include the ability to uninstall the app. Hit uninstall and you should be good to go. But… occasionally the uninstall button will be blanked out, or non functional….

If this is the case back out of the menu, go to Settings, Security, then Device Administrators. Find the app you want to remove on that list and uncheck the box next to it. You should now be able to go back to your Settings, Apps page and uninstall the relevant app.

Simply restarting your phone should be enough to get it our of safe mode, and hopefully all is well. If you still think you have a virus, this means that you deleted the wrong app! No worries though, just go back and repeat the process until you've found the culprit.

The chances of you getting a virus are very slim indeed, but it does happen sometimes. Fortunately, Android makes it very easy to clean your mobile, and you don't even have to worry about losing all your data, which is pretty convenient. It should take you no more than a couple of minutes to delete that virus, and then all you need to do is be a little more careful with your downloads in future!