Google Redirect Virus – Step-by-step Manual Removal Guide
Are you facing problems with your web browser getting automatically redirected to strange and suspicious-looking websites? Are these redirects mainly pointing towards an e-commerce site, gambling sites? Do you have many pop-ups coming up displaying ad content? Chances are you might have a Google Redirect Virus.
Google redirect virus is one of the most annoying, dangerous, and toughest infections ever released on the internet. The malware may not be considered deadly, as the presence of this infection is not going to crash your computer and make it useless. But it is considered annoying than deadly because of the unwanted redirects and pop-ups which may frustrate anyone to no end.
Google redirect virus not only redirects Google results but is capable of redirecting Yahoo and Bing search results as well. So don’t be surprised to hear Yahoo Redirect Virus or Bing Redirect Virus. The malware also infects any browser including Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc. Since Google Chrome is the most used browser, some call it Google Chrome Redirect virus based on the browser it redirects. Recently, malware coders modified their codes to create variations to escape easy detection from security software. Some recent variations are Nginx Redirect Virus, Happili Redirect Virus, etc. All these infections come under redirect virus, but variation in the codes and mode of attack.
According to a 2016 report, the Google redirect virus has already infected more than 60 million computers wide, out of which 1/3rd is from the US. As of May 2016, the infection seems to have made come back with an increasing number of reported cases.
Why is Google Redirect Virus tough to remove?
Google Redirect Virus is a rootkit and not a virus. The rootkit gets itself associated with some of the important windows services which make it work like an operating system file. This makes it difficult to identify the infected file or code. Even if you identify the file, it is difficult to delete the file because the file is running as part of an operating system file. The malware is coded in such a way that it creates different variants from the same code from time to time. This makes it difficult for the security software to catch the code and release a security patch. Even if they succeed in creating a patch, it becomes ineffective if the malware attack again which contains a different variant.
Google redirect virus is tough to remove because of its ability to hide deep inside the operating system and also its ability to remove traces and footprints on how it got inside the computer. Once it gets inside, it attaches itself with core Operating System files which makes it look like a legitimate file running in the background. Even if the infected file is detected, at times it is hard to remove cos of its association with the operating system file. As of now, not a single security software in the market can guarantee you 100% protection from this infection. This explains, why your computer got infected in the first place even with security software installed.
The article here explains how to handpick and manually remove the Google redirect virus. From a technician’s angle, this is the most effective method against this infection. Technicians working for some of the biggest security software brands are now following the same method. Every attempt is made to make the tutorial simple and easy to follow.
How to Remove Google Redirect Virus
1. Try tools available online or go for a professional tool
There are plenty of security tools available in the market. But none of these tools are developed specifically for removing the google redirect virus. While some users had success in removing the infection using one software, the same may not work on another computer. A few end up trying all different tools which create more problems by corrupting OS and device driver files. Most of the free tools are hard to trust as they have a reputation for corrupting operating system files and crashing them. So take a backup of important data before trying any free tools to be on the safer side. You can also get help from professionals who specialize in removing this infection. I am not talking about taking your computer to a tech shop or calling geek squad which costs you a lot of money. I did mention a service before which you can try as a last resort.
2. Try to remove google redirect virus manually
There is no easier way to remove an infection other than running a scan using software and fixing it. But if the software fails to fix the problem, the last resort is to try removing the infection manually. Manual removal methods are time-consuming and some of you might find it hard to follow instructions cos of its technical nature. This method is very effective, but failure to follow instructions properly or the possibility of human error in identifying the infected file can render your efforts ineffective. To make it easier for everyone to follow, I created a step-by-step video explaining details. It shows the same exact steps used by virus removal experts to remove virus infection manually. You can find the video towards the end of this post.
Troubleshooting steps for removing Google Redirect Virus manually
Unlike most infections, in the case of Google Redirect Virus, you will find only one or two files which is related to the infection. But if the infection is ignored initially, the number of infected files seems to increase over a period of time. So better get rid of the infection as soon as you find redirect problems. Follow the troubleshooting methods mentioned below to get rid of the Google redirect virus. There is also a video below.
1. Enable hidden files by opening Folder Options
Operating system files are hidden by default to prevent accidental deletion. Infected files try to hide among the OS files. So it is advised to unhide all hidden files before starting troubleshooting:
- Press Windows Key + R for opening Run Window
- Type Control folders
- Click View tab
- Enable show hidden files, folders and drives
- Uncheck hide extensions for known file types
- Uncheck hide protected operating system files
2. Open Msconfig
Use the MSConfig tool to enable bootlog file.
- Open Run window
- Type msconfig
- Click Boot tab if you are using Windows 10, 8 or 7. In you are using Win XP, select boot.ini tab
- check bootlog to enable it
- Click Apply and click OK
The bootlog file is only needed in the last step.
3. Restart Computer
Restart the computer for making sure that the changes you made are implemented. (On restarting the computer a file ntbttxt.log is created which is discussed later in troubleshooting steps).
4. Do a Complete IE optimization
Internet explorer optimization is done to ensure that redirection is not caused by a problem in the web browser or corrupted internet settings that connects the browser online. If optimization is done properly, the browser and internet settings are reset back to original defaults.
Note: Some of the internet settings found while doing IE optimization are common for all browsers. So, it doesn’t matter if you use Chrome, Firefox, Opera, etc., it is still recommended to do an IE optimization.
5. Check Device Manager
Device Manager is a Windows tool that lists all the devices inside your computer. Some infections are capable of hiding hidden devices which can be used for malware attack. Check device manager to find any infected entries.
- Open Run window (Windows Key + R)
- Type devmgmt.msc
- Click View tab on the top
- Select show hidden devices
- Look for non-plug and play drivers. Expand it to see the entire list under option.
- Check for any entry TDSSserv.sys. If you don’t have the entry, look for any other entries which look suspicious. If you can’t make up your mind about an entry is good or bad, then do a google search with the name to find if it is genuine.
If the entry is found to be an infected one, right-click on it and then click uninstall. Once the uninstall is complete, don’t restart the computer yet. Continue troubleshooting without restarting.
6. Check Registry
Check for the infected file inside the registry:
- Open Run window
- Type regedit to open registry editor
- Click Edit > Find
- Enter the infection name. If it is a long one, enter the first few letters of infected entry
- Click on edit –> find. Enter the first few letters of the infection name. In this case, I used TDSS and searched for any entries starting with those letters. Every time there is an entry starting with TDSS, it shows the entry on the left and the value on the right side.
- If there is just an entry, but no file location mentioned, then delete it directly. Continue searching for next entry with TDSS
- The next search took me to an entry that got details of file location on the right which says C:\Windows\System32\TDSSmain.dll.You need to utilize this information. Open folder C:\Windows\System32, find and delete TDSSmain.dll mentioned here.
- Assume that you were not able to find the file TDSSmain.dll inside C:\Windows\System32. This shows entry is super hidden. You need to remove the file using the command prompt. Just use the command to remove it. del C:\Windows\System32\TDSSmain.dll
- Repeat the same until all entries in the registry starting with TDSS is removed. Make sure if those entries are pointing towards any file inside the folder remove it either directly or by using the command prompt.
Assume that you were not able to find TDSSserv.sys inside hidden devices under device manager, then go to Step 7.
7. Check ntbtlog.txt log for corrupted file
By doing step 2, a log file called ntbtlog.txt is generated inside C:\Windows. It’s a small text file containing a lot of entries which might run to more than 100 pages if you take a printout. You need to scroll down slowly and check if you have any entry TDSSserv.sys which shows that there is an infection. Follow the steps mentioned in Step 6.
In the above-mentioned case, I mentioned only about TDSSserv.sys, but there are other types of rootkits that do the same damage. Let’s take care of 2 entries H8SRTnfvywoxwtx.sys and _VOIDaabmetnqbf.sys listed under device manager in my friend’s PC. The logic behind understanding if it is a dangerous file or not is mainly by their name. This name makes no sense and I don’t think any self-respecting company will give a name like this to their files. Here, I used the first few letters H8SRT and _VOID and did the steps mentioned in Step 6 to remove the infected file. (Please Note: H8SRTnfvywoxwtx.sys and _VOIDaabmetnqbf.sys are just an example. The corrupted files can come in any name, but it will be easy to recognize because of the long file name and the presence of random numbers and alphabets in the name.)
Please try these steps at your own risk. steps mentioned above won’t crash your computer. But to be on the safer side, it is better to take a backup of important files and ensure that you have the option to repair or re-install the operating system using OS disk.
Some users might find the troubleshooting mentioned here complicated. Let’s face it, the infection itself is complicated and even the experts struggle in order to get rid of this infection.
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You now have clear instructions including step by step guide on how to get rid of the Google redirect virus. Also, you know what to do if this didn’t work out. Take action immediately before the infection spreads to more files and renders the PC unusable. Share this tutorial as it makes a huge difference to someone facing the same problem.