The Memz Virus: What It Is and How to Remove It

The perfect example of what can happen when a prank goes wrong

A conceptual illustration of the Memz virus destroying a laptop computer.

Theresa Chiechi / Lifewire

Sometimes computer viruses are created for the pure and innocent purpose of helping developers or, as in the case of the Memz Trojan for Microsoft Windows, created as a flat-out joke. However, Memz has proliferated into much more than a joke and is now considered dangerous malware.

The Memz virus can attack Windows operating systems XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 10.

What Is the Memz Virus?

Memz is a custom-made Trojan that was created for a YouTube series as part of a parody. A twist on the word meme, the creator claims that it was only intended for fun with a limited audience but that someone in that audience leaked it out onto the internet. After that, the source code was made available to the public through free developer sites such as Github and hackers began attaching it to a variety of spam and freeware downloads.

How Does the Memz Trojan Work?

When Memz hits your computer, it's in the form of an executable or batch file. It works by overtaking your system in a variety of ways, depending upon the variant involved. While the good news is that the virus is not meant to seek out your personal information, the bad news is that Memz can wreak havoc on your system.

Its primary goal is to corrupt the boot sector of Windows. It attacks the first sector of your computer's hard disk, which affects the Master Boot Record and requires advanced troubleshooting. Ultimately, Memz can and does render your computer basically unusable until repairs are made, which makes it not a very funny outcome for the average person. Although it doesn't actually destroy your system since it doesn't wipe the BIOS, that's little consolation if it winds up on your computer.

How Do I Know if I Have The Memz Virus?

Some versions of the virus show warnings that let you know the file is on your computer before it propagates but, most of the time, you will not realize you have it until you see this or a similar Notepad window warning:

Memz virus warning message

Then the chaos begins: Your web browser will open without warning and display odd, random queries such as 'what happens if you delete system32?' or 'Internet Explorer is the best browser.' You might notice your mouse cursor moving on its own, start seeing error messages, or even hear beeping sounds. After that, Memz will invert your display colors and take snapshots of your screen,then displays them in a tunnel effect at growing speeds.

If you attempt to reboot your system, that will trigger the final payload and you'll see a message like 'Your computer has been trashed by the Memz Trojan. Now enjoy the Nyan Cat.' You will see The famous Nyan Cat animation and sound will begin to play and you'll essentially be unable to use your system.

Nyan Cat

How Did I Get This Trojan?

The Memz virus is spread through email attachments, software downloads, and infected websites. Perhaps you clicked a link in an email that silently downloaded Memz onto your system or accessed a pop-up ad on a website that triggered the virus to launch on your computer. The use of peer-to-peer networks (eMule, torrents, or similar tools), free file hosting sites, freeware sites to obtain downloads, etc. also puts you at high risk for contracting this or other malicious software programs.

How Do I Get Rid of Memz?

The most immediate relief from Memz is to open command prompt and run the taskkill /f /im MEMZ.exe command to stop the Trojan. That, however, will not actually remove Memz from your system, so you'll need to perform additional steps to remove and then rebuild your computer.

  1. Use a bootable antivirus scanner that can check your system for the virus and remove it.

  2. Next, you'll need to fix any Master Boot Record problems the virus caused.

  3. At this point, you should be able to use System Restore to return to an earlier point on your computer before you picked up the Memz virus. Be sure to pick a time period where you know you definitely didn't already have the virus on your computer. 

  4. If these steps don't work, it's time to get help from Microsoft.

How Can I Avoid Getting This Virus Again?

There are a several ways in which you can lower your chances of being re-infected with Memz virus (or any other malicious program).

  • Be proactive. Use multiple methods to protect your computer from a virus.
  • Keep antivirus software updated. Always use antivirus software designed for Windows and be sure that it's kept up-to-date.
  • Be careful when you download new programs. Always confirm the legitimacy of the source of the programs and apps you download.
  • Block PUPs. In your antivirus software, turn on the option to detect Potentially Unwanted Programs. That helps you avoid accidentally installing add-ons that you don't want alongside the ones you do want.
  • Don't click on pop up ads. If a site inundates you with pop-up advertisements, leave the site immediately; don't attempt to close those ads!