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How to Clean Your Phone of Viruses

With over six billion smartphone users worldwide today, your mobile phone is just as vulnerable as your desktop or any internet-connected device. From large-scale information systems and desktops to mobile devices, hackers have evolved, stealing from them. 

Mobile data mining and virus infections are escalating, and their impact varies. For some, it can be as devastating as bringing down an entire business. Hence, phone virus infections can be ‘deadly.'

Signs Your Phone Has Viruses

A virus on your device (usually without your knowledge) can track and manipulate your online activity, steal your information, mine cryptocurrencies, and make unauthorized payments.

Hence, responding fast to remove the virus is critical to mitigating damage. To do so, be aware of suspicious telltale signs of any virus infection:

  • Battery drain – virus works in the background as it creates havoc in your phone; this eats up your battery. 
  • Phone overheats and is slow – virus runs nefarious tasks in the background repetitively, using up a significant amount of phone resources; your phone heats up and slows down. 
  • Unfamiliar apps – apps you did not install are a big red flag. Pay attention whenever you see any unwanted apps popping up on their own.  
  • Excessive app crash – If the app repeatedly crashes for no apparent reason, you could have a virus in your phone. Unusual behavior is usually the first warning of a virus. 
  • Data usage spikes – a virus eats into your resources, including your data plan; a sudden spike in data usage can signal a virus.
  • Sudden phone bill increase – certain viruses continuously send SMS messages from your phone, perform in-app purchases and unauthorized payments, driving up your phone bill.
  • Your contacts receive spam/ strange messages – a virus in your phone can hijack your messenger service, construct messages with infected links, and spam your contacts. 

Cleaning Your Phone of Viruses

A doctor can advise and prescribe the correct medication only if the doctor knows what you have. The same applies to your phone viruses. Steps to remove and clean your phone of the virus typically depend on its nature. 

Viruses are there in your phone for different reasons. Hence, they behave differently, causing your phone to act differently.

The best way is to scan your phone for viruses regularly with antivirus software; they can help remove the virus and resolve the issue. However, other steps mentioned below help with cleaning your phone of viruses.

Cleaning Viruses on Android Phones

Android devices are known to be more vulnerable to malware attacks as compared to iOS; this is due to their open-source code. If you’re an Android phone user, antivirus software is essential as it is a fail-safe way to protect your phone from viruses. Use it to scan your Android phone for security threats and remove identified malware.

You can also follow the steps below to clean your Android phone of viruses:

1. Backup Your Phone

It’s always a good practice to back up your phone data before troubleshooting and manually removing viruses from your phone. A simple USB file transfer to your desktop will do. Connect your phone to your desktop and transfer all data to it.  

2. Clear Cache 

Locate the browsers that you usually use. Browsers will have varying ways to clear cache and downloads. On the whole, the steps will mostly stay the same. Hence, follow the steps to each browser to clear your cache and storage. Sometimes, suspicious links are embedded inside these dubious websites. As such, clearing your browser's cache helps.

3. Reboot the Phone in Safe Mode

Booting in safe mode halts third-party apps (including viruses) and helps you troubleshoot your phone better. If your Android device runs on version 6.0 or newer, you press and hold the power button until the power options appear. Tap and hold ‘Power Off’ until you see Reboot to safe mode, and tap on the prompt.

Take note that the exact wording of the prompt may vary depending on the manufacturer, but the steps should be the same. Wait for your phone to restart. The apps and widgets should gray out. You have access to only the first-party features. Doing this step helps you troubleshoot better to pinpoint the issue's origin. 

4. Locate Suspicious Apps

Go through the list of apps on your phone to locate unfamiliar apps.

When you’re in Safe Mode, you need to find any suspicious and unfamiliar apps. Start by perusing through those recently installed. Go to ‘Settings’ > ‘Apps'. Peruse the drop-down list of installed apps. Once you identify the culprit, tap it, and the app information appears. Tap ‘Force stop’ and then tap ‘Uninstall'. 

Doing this may not completely remove the virus, but it helps to prevent it from spreading further and wreaking more damage. Continue to look into other apps that could be infected. Repeat the uninstall steps above for these apps. Then, restart your phone.

5. Change Your Google Account Password

Always change your Google password whenever in doubt. 

Since a phone virus can hijack your Google account and compromise security, you should change your account password immediately. Go to your Google Account page. If you’re not already signed in, please do. Locate ‘Security' in the left panel. Select ‘Signing in to Google’. Select ‘Password’ (you may need to sign in again). Key in your new password and then click ‘Change Password’. 

This step is not about cleaning your phone of viruses but mitigating security risks.

6. Use Google Play Protect

Assuming you already have antivirus software installed on your phone, you can enable Google Play Protect as a secondary protection measure. Launch the Google Play Store app and open the menu under your avatar. Activate ‘Play Protect' to scan your device for security threats.

7. Reset Phone to Factory Settings

Performing a factory reset should always be your last resort.

If you find that you have exhausted all your avenues and the problem persists, you’ll have to consider resetting it to its factory settings. The steps to do so may differ depending on your Android device. 

However, you can go to ‘Settings' > ‘General Management> ‘Reset' > ‘Factory data reset.' Then, restore from a previous backup, preferably before the issues started. 

Cleaning Viruses on iPhones

The iPhone operating system is overall secure, but viruses can still break through your jailbroken iPhone. Like Android devices, employing reliable antivirus software for iOS is the best way to not only remove viruses but also help protect your device from possible future infections.

1. Backup Your iPhone

Keep a backup of your phone data before doing anything further to your iPhone.  

Use the Finder, a macOS feature for browsing and accessing content on your computer. Again, connect your iPhone via USB to your desktop and transfer all data. You will need macOS 10.15 or later to use Finder to back up your phone. Earlier versions of macOS require iTunes.

Click ‘General’ at the top of the Finder window screen. Select ‘Back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac.' Click ‘Back Up Now.'

2. Update iOS

Ensure your iOS version is always up to date (Source: Apple Support).

It is crucial to keep your operating system and software updated as they come with security fixes. Viruses prey on vulnerabilities in outdated iOS versions. Hence, ensure your iOS version is kept up to date to plug these security holes and remove any viruses.

You can update your iPhone iOS version to the latest wirelessly. Go to ‘Settings' > ‘General' > ‘Software Update.' There may be a list of more than one update available. Select the one you want and tap ‘Install Now.' 

However, if you see ‘Download and Install,' tap it, enter your passcode, then tap ‘Install Now.' 

3. Delete Suspicious Apps

Unfamiliar apps on your iPhone are ground for suspicion and could be malicious. Hence, deleting these suspicious apps can help remove an iPhone virus. Scroll through your iPhone and try to identify all apps downloaded around the time the issue began.

Once you identify the app, touch and hold the app on the Home Screen. Then tap ‘Remove App' > ‘Delete App' to delete it from your iPhone.

4. Clear Browsing History and Data

Regularly clear your history and website data on your Safari (Source: Apple Store).

Clicking an infected link on a website can infect your iPhone with a virus. You need to clear the history and data from the browser concerned. To do so, launch Safari and head to Settings. Tap ‘Clear History and Website Data.' Clearing your history, cookies, and browsing data from Safari will not alter your AutoFill information.

5. Restore your iPhone

Restoring your iPhone to a previous backup state can help remove the virus. However, you must have older backup versions for this step to work. Hence, locate an earlier backup version before the issue. 

To restore from a backup on iCloud:

  1. Erase the content in your iPhone.
  2. Set up your iPhone. Go through the onscreen steps.
  3. At the ‘Apps & Data' screen, tap ‘Restore' from iCloud Backup.
  4. Use your Apple ID to sign in to iCloud.
  5. Go through the list of backups available and select the relevant one.
  6. The transfer will start.
  7. Sign in with your Apple ID to restore your apps and purchases.
  8. Transfer starts and may take some time. 
  9. Complete the setup.

To restore from a backup on your computer:

You can restore your iPhone from a backup via your desktop (Source: Apple Support).
  1. Depending on the macOS version, you use Finder or iTunes to back up.
  2. Plug your iPhone into your desktop via a USB cable. 
  3. Locate your iPhone from the window screen.
  4. Click ‘Restore Backup.'
  5. Find the relevant backup version.
  6. Click ‘Restore.'
  7. Once restore completes, keep your device connected after it restarts.
  8. Syncing with your computer will start
  9. Wait until completion.

6. Change Your Apple ID Password

With a virus in your iPhone, you should change your Apple ID password since you do not know if your Apple ID password has been compromised. Go to ‘Settings.' Locate your name > ‘Password & Security.' Then tap ‘Change Password.' 

Again, this is more of a precautionary measure than a step to clean your phone of a virus.

7. Reset Your iPhone to Factory Settings

Think twice before resorting to factory resetting your iPhone. However, if all fails, you’ll have to consider wiping your iPhone clean and reset to its factory settings. You will need to erase your iPhone to remove all your iPhone’s content and settings.

Erase via Settings:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap ‘General'.
  3. Tap ‘Transfer or Reset iPhone.'
  4. Tap ‘Erase All Content and Settings.'

Erase via computer:

  1. Connect your iPhone to your computer (USB cable).
  2. Turn on your iPhone.
  3. Launch Finder for macOS 10.15 or later.
  4. Click the iPhone button in the Finder sidebar. 
  5. Click ‘General' at the top, and then click ‘Restore iPhone.'


  1. Update your iTunes to the latest version if you're on macOS 10.14 or earlier or a Windows PC. 
  2. Run iTunes.
  3. Click the iPhone button (top left).
  4. Click ‘Summary.'
  5. Click ‘Restore iPhone.'

Keeping Your Phone Virus-free

Keeping your phone virus-free is akin to safeguarding your physical health. Just as you want to stay healthy, so should you maintain your phone health too. Here are what you can do to ensure your phone stays virus-free:

Use Reliable Antivirus Software

Be it any phone you have, antivirus software can make a difference in protecting your phone from viruses. It is no doubt the best defense against mobile viruses. Regularly scan your phone so that threats are detected early. Ensure to update your antivirus regularly. An outdated antivirus is akin to closing the gate to your house without locking it. 

TotalAV antivirus
Example – Antivirus like TotalAV supports most regular devices like PCs, smartphones, and the like. Antivirus Pro costs $19/year (when you order with our special discount link) for the first year and helps you protect up to three devices.

Think Twice When Downloading Apps

Do not simply download apps from anywhere. Third-party apps can embed viruses that infect your phone. Hence, vet the apps thoroughly before you click ‘Download'. Both Google and Apple are vigilant in keeping their apps safe. 

Always download apps from either Google Play Store or Apple Store or verified sources only.

It is best to verify the app's safety and credibility, no matter what. It does not hurt to exercise extra precautions. Check out the reviews and independent evaluations, and take note of the download count. These are good footnotes to help with your decision.

Update your Phone Regularly

Developers often release updates to fix bugs and plug security holes found in previous versions. Hence, you must constantly update your phone’s operating system and apps with the latest versions. You’d want to arm your phone with the necessary to combat cyberattacks. 

Clear your Browser History, Cache, and Downloads

You never know what you may have inadvertently clicked. These suspicious links are in your browser history. Clearing your browser and data history will remove such suspicious links. As such, make it a habit to clear your browser history, cache, and downloads; there could be adware lurking in the browser.

Practice Safe Digital Hygiene

Always be vigilant when online. Only click something with due diligence. Viruses can come via suspicious links in emails, text messages, social media, email attachments, and others. Any unfamiliar links or messages are cause for an alert. 

You shouldn't jailbreak your phone. Stay rooted to allow necessary updates and patches to your operating system.

We Recommend These Phone Antivirus Apps

There are many antivirus software available, some free and others paid. You must do your due diligence and research the necessary antivirus software before committing. After all, an incompetent antivirus gives a false sense of security which does not bode well for you. Here is a few phone antivirus software that you can consider:

1. Bitdefender Mobile Security

Supporting Android only, Bitdefender Mobile Security contains a wealth of advanced security and privacy features. Bitdefender Mobile Security is claimed to be proven by independent test scores. It protects you from viruses and malware and also prevents you from link-based mobile scams. 

With minimal impact on your battery life, you enjoy VPN, Anti-Theft, and WearON (extends to smartwatch) features. There is an annual subscription fee. 

2. Norton Mobile Security

On Android, Norton Mobile Security is based on a cyber intelligence network system that effectively protects your phone against mobile cyber threats and online scams. Norton Mobile Insight, a proprietary app analysis system, crawls and analyzes app stores and running apps. It uses machine learning to understand Android app behaviors.

Norton’s award-winning, patent-protected app scanning technology proactively detects and protects your phone against mobile threats. Norton Mobile Security offers Wi-Fi protection, device, and SMS security. You’ll have to pay a yearly subscription fee. 

3. Avast Mobile Security

Supporting both Android and iOS, you cannot go wrong with Avast Mobile Security. Scan your device in real-time with Avast’s award-winning free antivirus for Android and its advanced security antivirus app for iOS. Avast Mobile Security strengthens your phone security and your privacy for free.

Avast Mobile Security for Android detects malicious apps before installing, blocks malicious links and websites, and flags suspicious websites. It also helps verify the Wi-Fi network’s security and has anti-theft features. 

Wrapping Up – Phone Safety Relies on You

No matter how careful and conscious you are when online on your phone, the chances of your phone getting infected with viruses are there. Don’t wait until your phone gets infected. Deploy prevention methods, including running reliable antivirus software on your phone, to help safeguard your phone from attacks.

Antivirus can also help remove the virus and clean the infections. However, if you have to do so manually, the above are steps you can undertake to clean your phone of viruses.

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Article by Timothy Shim

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