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

This program seems harmless but can be dangerous for both PCs and Macs

An illustration of the Pokki virus on a laptop computer.

Lifewire / Theresa Chiechi

 

Is your computer running slower than usual? Does random text turn to hyperlinks? Maybe your browser is redirecting you to unwanted sites or you're seeing weird search results. You might be experiencing the negative impact of an adware program commonly known as the Pokki virus.

The Pokki virus typically impacts the Start menu on Windows computers but it has also been found on Macs running OS X. Windows 8 and 10 are particularly vulnerable to it, although it can impact any version of Windows.

If you're running antivirus software that detects any version of the following names, you've got the Pokki virus: Win32/Pokki; Win32/Pokki BrowserModifier; Win32/Pokki Start Menu.

What Is the Pokki Virus?

It's a bit of a stretch to call this program a virus because it's technically adware, a legitimate application that installs code to feed advertising to your computer. That advertising is typically delivered through pop-up ads or the installation of a toolbar on your web browser. Because of its aggressive nature, however, many antivirus programs now classify Pokki adware as at least a medium danger to your system.

Spyware and adware are not the same. While spyware is always malicious in its attempts to monitor your computer to look for sensitive private or financial information, adware is generally more of an annoyance. Both, however, can cause problems for your system.

How Does the Pokki Virus Work?

Pokki.com is actually a legitimate site that sells an advertising tool that can be used to change a Windows start menu so that it acts more like a mobile app interface.

Because it is typically bundled with other software, you might not realize you are even downloading it to your machine. Plus, it aggressively installs updates for itself automatically and, in doing so, downloads other potentially unwanted programs (PUPs). As part of this process, it can cause browser redirects to dangerous download sites.

Both are reasons why more and more antivirus applications are now classifying it as a medium danger. While it does not harm your operating system or files, it can display potentially dangerous content which increases your chances of contracting a serious virus.

Because of the way this program so aggressively updates itself, it is often referred to as the Pokki Update Virus.

How Do I Know I Have the Pokki Virus?

As with any true virus, it's not always easy to tell you have the Pokki virus on your hands. You might see the usual virus symptoms on your system, such as a suddenly very slow response to commands. Windows startup processes, too, can be suddenly slowed due to the adware's ability to change menu items and enable other components during startup.

More often, however, you might suddenly see a message on your computer that 'Pokki has been updated to the latest version update' or 'The Start Menu Updated'.

You could also see an increased amount of pop-up ads, display banners and annoying ads that redirect you to misleading websites. Search results from any browser also might send you to fraudulent sites or links when you click them. Additional browser tabs could also appear out of nowhere.

Antivirus providers are cautioning people to remove this adware as soon as you suspect you have it so it doesn't continue to upload additional harmful programs to your computer.

How Did I Get the Pokki Virus?

You probably downloaded the Pokki virus in an otherwise harmless download of legitimate software. Pokki works with a variety of app developers, claiming that it has partnerships with computer manufacturers and can promote new programs through Game Arcade, app stores, and the Windows Start menu.

Lenovo, a popular manufacturer of laptops, even pre-installed Pokki software in 2013 on thousands of computers using Windows 8. Called shovelware or bloatware at the time; it was considered harmless.

It is also possible that you clicked an email attachment that didn't look suspicious or an ad that appeared appropriate and safe. Even if you did nothing else, that click could have silently downloaded Pokki.

However you contracted it, the Pokki virus can hide among a number of installation notifications asking you to approve extra pieces of software. In an effort to speed installation of some other program along, you probably quickly clicked OK or a similar button and didn't carefully check every software notification to confirm whether or not it was truly safe to download. It's also possible that the software you downloaded simply never notified you of the extra programs it included.

Pay close attention when you install any kind of software since you never know when a good program has somehow loaded in seemingly harmless adware like the Pokki virus. During installation, you can sometimes deselect unwanted programs from the software it's bundled with. This is usually an option when you choose a Custom or Advanced installation method; the program is preselected for inclusion and you can often spot it there and simply uncheck the option to include it during installation.

How Do I Get Rid of This Virus?

The most effective way to get rid of any sneaky software on your computer is to use a strong antivirus software program that can tackle a wide variety of problems, including adware like the Pokki virus. This process can take several hours but these programs are the most comprehensive ways to remove these types of programs. Try an antivirus program that specifically targets Windows computers to ensure the strongest protection.

Other options include the following:

  1. If you prefer to tackle removal on your own and you're confident you know what to look for, follow these tips to remove adware.

  2. It might be possible to manually remove the Pokki virus simply by uninstalling specific apps and files relating to it. Both Windows and MacOS have clear ways to uninstall apps you no longer want to use.

  3. In cases where you suspect the Pokki virus has given you another virus, you also can try removing the virus without using an antivirus application. In most cases, however, both antivirus and anti-malware software will be needed to remove these types of infections.

  4. If your version of the Pokki virus has hijacked your browser, the first step is to remove suspicious add-ons and extensions from your browser. The process varies a little for removing extensions from Safari and disabling extensions in Chrome. And in Chrome, you also have the option to use the Chrome Cleanup Tool.

  5. If the problem is on a mobile device, you may need to try different techniques to remove the virus from Android.

  6. If none of those steps solve the problem, you can use System Restore to return to an earlier point on your computer before you picked up the Pokki virus. Be sure to pick a time period where you know you definitely didn't already have the virus on your computer. 

Always scan your computer with antivirus software after any removal attempts to ensure the threat is gone.

How Can I Avoid Getting This Virus Again?

There are a few key ways in which you can lower your chances of being re-infected with Pokki virus.

  • Update your antivirus software and malware protection regularly. New virus definitions are released regularly. Only current protection can keep your PC informed on what to look for in regard to new viruses or other threats like the Pokki virus. 
  • Stop PUPs from loading unwanted software. Turn on the option to detect Potentially Unwanted Programs in your antivirus software. This will help you catch programs that are attempting to slide past you when you download otherwise legitimate programs.
  • Be careful when you download new programs. Always know the legitimacy of the source of the programs and apps you download. Some sites include add-ons that you don't need; that's often where adware such as the Pokki virus can lurk. 
  • Don't use websites suggested by pop-up ads. The Pokki virus and other adware can sometimes infect your computer through the suspicious websites you might accidentally enter. Clicking on a seemingly innocent link can lead to you downloading a program you never wanted. Be careful of websites such as torrenting sites and try these tips to stop pop ups in your browser.
  • Don't click on banner ads. When a pop-up banner appears as you browse a website, resist the urge to click on it. If a website inundates you with pop-up advertisements, leave the site immediately.