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What is a Resident Virus?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A resident virus is a computer virus which embeds itself into the memory on a computer, activating whenever the operating system performs a specific function so that it can infect files on the computer. This method of viral infection is in contrast with a non-resident virus, which actively seeks out files to infect. Resident viruses can be quite pernicious, as they may spread through a system so thoroughly that they even attach to antivirus programs, infecting the very things they scan for signs of viral infection.

There are a number of ways to design a resident virus. Virus designers must think about the rate of infection when developing a virus. Some are fast infectors, moving as quickly as possible through a system with the goal of doing the most damage. Others move more slowly. Viruses which move quickly tend to reveal themselves because they cause problems in operating system performance, but this may not be an issue in the eye of the creator since the damage is already known. Viruses which move slowly can be better positioned to infect other computers or to remain hidden for an extended period.

Removing a resident virus which has embedded itself in a computer's memory can be a challenge. The virus may be designed to resist the actions of conventional antivirus software, or as discussed above, to exploit the software. A specialized virus removal tool may be needed to extract the virus from memory. In some cases, the services of an information technology professional may be needed to completely clear a computer of infection.

When a resident virus is identified by an antivirus company or a designer of operating systems, a patch is often released. This may be an update to an antivirus program which allows the program to remove the virus, or it may take the form of a virus removal tool which the computer user can run to get the resident virus out of memory.

Seeking out virus fighting tools can be challenging. Unscrupulous people may release programs which claim to fix viruses, but actually load more viruses or other malicious programs such as spyware onto a computer. Computer users should seek out reputable sources of advice and virus removal software such as official websites for operating system manufacturers or antivirus programs. It is wise to get into the habit of checking the browser's address bar to confirm that one is on the right site before starting a download or filling out information.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Potterspop — On Jun 13, 2011

I feel so angry whenever I read anything on this topic. My friend had only just got rid of the resident shield virus that was doing the rounds, when my computer went down with something.

What makes it worse is that I stupidly fell for the con attached, and paid about $80 for the download that would supposedly remove it. Of course this was a con, which I found out when rebooting meant nothing had changed.

If you think this is bad enough prepare yourself for the icing on the cake! After some Googling I found out that the virus I had got was affecting lots of people, and many had written about it on Internet sites.

I felt a bit better, and was excited to see helpful suggestions from people on how to remove this virus yourself. One was praised a lot so I tried it and all seemed good.

I wasn't very impressed that at the final stage it asked for a small fee to be paid for final removal, but that's hardly a crime so I pushed on. It turns out that this was another con! I paid and got nothing at all, except a computer that died completely.

The end result was it had to be completely wiped, and I lost everything. Stupidly I hadn't backed up any files so all my photographs were gone, along with word documents and things.

If you get a message which looks pretty much like it is from Windows, saying there are a lot of infections on your computer, please don't be tricked. Follow the advice given by others here.

By PinkLady4 — On Jun 12, 2011

I've been having some problems with what I think is a virus. I downloaded this music program. It was one where you can choose from many songs. It was taken off a children's activity site that I had used several times before. I didn't join the site by paying with credit card.

I couldn't get it off my computer. I called the site phone number and they said that they couldn't remove it from my computer. Well, I asked a friend to remove the program and it seemed to be gone. But then a few days later, it popped back into the system. It may be affecting some aspects of my system, or it may be the age of my computer that is slowing things down. I don't know. But I'd sure like to get rid of this annoying music site.

By SkyWhisperer — On Jun 12, 2011

@David09 - Some of the most insidious kinds of viruses are Trojan viruses. To get rid of these, I do everything that has been described so far, but I also go into Control Panel and remove any malware programs.

Some of these things are disguised as useful applications, like search tools for your browser. They may in fact be virus infected as well.

By David09 — On Jun 12, 2011

@hamje32 - I do several things to delete viruses of any kind. First, I run in safe mode like you said. Next I run the following three programs: Hijack This, a virus scanner and a malware program.

Hijack This makes a thorough clean of any subversive junk in memory or registry. The virus scanner will nail the viruses and the malware programs will delete the spyware.

With these three programs, I will have thoroughly cleaned my computer. This works for me even in the worst cases I’ve had of virus infections.

By Bertie68 — On Jun 12, 2011

Dealing with a resident virus is really a challenge when the user is a novice computer operator. I feel like my system is fairly safe when I have an antivirus software installed. Then it comes up with the message every so often that says: antivirus software hasI found a virus and fixed it.

Nevertheless, I'm nervous about downloading anything. I recognize the name, but I still don't feel good about downloading the program. It's unbelievable that viruses can actually attach to the antivirus software that is supposed to protect the computer.

I hope the experts can come up with some better ways to combat resident viruses and other kinds of viruses.

By hamje32 — On Jun 12, 2011

One of the best ways to get rid of a memory resident virus is to install a virus scanner, reboot your computer, and then run it in safe mode. If you’re running Windows you can do this by hitting F8 or some other function key repeatedly while the computer is rebooting.

This will put you in safe mode and you’ll notice that you’re screen is at its lowest resolution. In safe mode, a lot of the drivers and programs that are normally loaded into memory are not loaded. The only programs running are the bare minimum needed to run Windows.

Run your virus scanner in this mode, and it will delete viruses that attempt to insert themselves into computer memory. If you run the computer in regular mode, the virus is already in memory by that time and the virus check won’t do you much good.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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