How to remove ransomware

Cybercriminals often encrypt individual files or entire computers and demand a ransom. Fortunately, you can eliminate ransomware using specialized software and then create backups to safeguard your data.

What does removing ransomware mean?

Ransomware poses not only a significant nuisance but also a threat to your device and data. When an attack happens, malware infects your system, encrypting individual files or even the entire operating system, thus denying you access to it. Cybercriminals typically demand payment to unblock the affected areas for you. These infections are often initiated through methods like emails, special downloads or problematic websites. Fortunately, there are many recommended methods you can use to protect yourself from ransomware. However, in the event of an infection, it’s crucial to know how to remove the ransomware.

How to detect ransomware

Before tackling the removal of ransomware such as WannaCry in the first place, it’s essential to know how to detect it. In the worst-case scenario, ransomware becomes evident when it locks your system’s vital areas and leaves a ransom note. However, early detection and preventative action are preferable. The following signs can serve as indicators of a potential attack:

  • Suspicious scan: While a reliable antivirus scanner can detect and remove most common ransomware, there’s still a possibility of infection if the scanner is bypassed
  • Usefulness: If you notice that your system is under unusually intensive load, individual programs suddenly run significantly slower or there are more crashes, this may be an indication of ransomware.
  • Changed file names: If files suddenly have new names or the file extensions have been changed without your intervention, this can also indicate an infection.

Should you respond to the demands?

In the event of such an attack, you may consider paying the demanded ransom; however, this solution is strongly discouraged. Firstly, it can be costly, and secondly, there’s no guarantee that paying will result in the extortionists decrypting your data. In fact, they may make additional demands or cut off contact altogether, leaving your data encrypted. Therefore, it’s always advisable to focus on removing ransomware.

Removing ransomware when individual files are affected

If individual files are infected, these are the steps you should take to remove the ransomware and recover the files:

  1. Disconnect from the internet: In order to avoid the malware spreading further in your network and to make it harder for the extortionists to gain access, first disable all connections to the internet. This includes not only any LAN connection, but all wireless connections, clouds, external hard drives or other devices.
  2. Reboot: Now turn off your computer and then boot it up again. While it’s unfortunately unlikely that this step is enough to remove the ransomware, you should at least try a reboot.
  3. System scan: Now launch your antivirus software and run a complete scan of your system. At this stage, a potential infection can be detected, and the program can proceed to delete the affected files or at least quarantine them, preventing further damage. Other Trojans are also removed in this way.
  4. Decryption software: When files are already infected and standard antivirus tools prove ineffective, you have the option to utilize specialized decryption software to remove the ransomware. These tools are designed to combat new threats and boast a high success rate in undoing the encryptions.
  5. Use backup: If you have created a backup of your data, you can now restore from it. However, if you haven’t utilized a backup method, you might need to recreate some of the infected files. In either case, after resolving the issue, it’s crucial to perform another scan to ensure that all problematic files have indeed been removed.

Removing ransomware when the entire system is locked

Unfortunately, there is also ransomware that doesn’t just target individual files but encrypts the entire system. In many cases, you’ll receive the ransom note directly on the startup screen, rendering you unable to access other programs, including antivirus software. One approach to still remove the ransomware is to utilize safe mode. When you start your computer in safe mode, the malware often can’t interfere yet, allowing you to delete it from the system using the methods mentioned earlier.


Learn how to start Windows 11 in safe mode or start Windows 10 in safe mode in our Digital Guide.

How to protect yourself from ransomware

Ransomware is continually evolving, making complete protection against an infection elusive. Nevertheless, if you:

  • always keep your system up to date
  • do not open unknown files,
  • create regular backups, and
  • have a strong security system,

at least, the threat can be reduced as much as possible. With such precautions, it’ll be easier to remove ransomware and not lose any files in the process.


The best protection for your computer is MyDefender from IONOS. You get automatic updates, regular scans and other useful security tools, and can choose from different plans. Select cybersecurity from Germany!

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