The True Key Virus: What It Is and How to Remove It

A pesky irritant of a virus

A conceptual illustration of the True Key virus destroying a laptop computer.

Theresa Chiechi / Lifewire

Did you agree to download extra software while installing a seemingly innocuous program? Or misclick on a spam email? You may have ended up infected with the True Key virus

True Key only affects Windows-based PCs. It also infects web browsers including Microsoft Edge, Google, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari (on a Windows-based PC).

What Is the True Key Virus?

True Key isn't a 'proper' virus exactly. Instead, it's an irritating form of adware/malware that forces your web browser to show multiple pop-up ads, redirects, and notifications. It's also known as a PUP—a potentially unwanted program. 

Alone, it's merely irritating rather than dangerous, but it can open your computer up to the risks that come from viewing unsafe advertisements such as more nefarious viruses. 

True Key should not be confused with the McAfee True Key password management tool (by Intel Security) that's of the same name. 

How Does True Key Work?

True Key forces your browser to show multiple pop-ups and notifications for advertisements with those advertisements often being suspicious and malicious. It can also try to push you into downloading sponsored freeware in a bid to make money for itself. 

On the surface, it's not as dangerous as a 'true' virus or form of malware, but it is very annoying. It also leaves your system less secure as if you're faced with multiple banners and advertisements, you may end up misclicking and accidentally opening one more easily than without the virus on your computer. 

It's important that you delete the threat quickly so that the problem doesn't escalate and get worse.

How Do I Know I Have the True Key Virus?

True Key is quite easy to spot because it inundates you with pop-up banners and advertisements. These ads tend to be for unfamiliar sounding websites that sound suspicious. On older computers, you may find it slowing the system down and even making it crash if there are too many browser windows to contend with.

Often, you'll be asked to download other pieces of software which can be malicious in nature. Such software also slows your computer down. 

While it's quite obvious when you have True Key on your PC, it's still important to run regular antivirus software scans or use malware detection tools to spot any potential issues before they get worse. 

How Did I Get The True Key Virus?

True Key typically comes bundled with free programs that you've downloaded. It ships with numerous software utilities that are available through download managers. It suggests it's a useful assistant for shopping online but is far from helpful. 

It's not exactly a 'true' virus so it can hide among a number of notifications asking you to install extra pieces of software, seeming innocuous.

How Do I Get Rid of the True Key Virus?

The most effective way to get rid of the True Key adware virus is to use antivirus software, as well as a malware removal app. 

Antivirus software can take several hours to complete the process, depending on the speed of your computer, but it also offers you the best methods in which to remove the malicious files. 

It's also worth installing a malware removal tool which helps detect malware like True Key and delete it before it causes any problems.

Like antivirus software, malware scanning can take many hours depending on the size of your computer's hard drive, as well as its speed. 

You can also use System Restore to return to an earlier point on your computer before you picked up the True Key virus. Be sure to pick a time period where you know you definitely didn't already have the virus on your computer. 

Unlike some other viruses and malware, it can be possible to manually remove True Key by uninstalling specific apps related to it. Windows has a clear way to uninstall apps you no longer want to use.

Look for unusual sounding program names that you don't recognise installing yourself. 

It's highly unlikely that you'll need to reformat and reinstall your computer, but it is the best guarantee that you've completely deleted True Key from your system. 

Reinstalling and reformatting can take a long time to do and requires a certain amount of knowledge when it comes to setting your computer up. Don't rush into the decision and try all other methods first. 

How Can I Avoid Getting the True Key Virus Again?

There are a few key ways in which you can lower your chances of being re-infected with True Key (or receiving any other virus). There are also specific tips that relate directly to True Key.

  • Update your antivirus software and malware protection. Keep your antivirus software and malware protection up to date. New virus definitions are released regularly and these keep your PC informed on what to look for with new virus and malware based threats. 
  • Be wary of new programs. It's important to know the source of the programs and apps you've downloaded. Less reputable sites bundle in extra add-ons that you don't require such as True Key. Don't just click yes or agree to everything when installing new software. 
  • Stick to well known websites. Clicking on the 'wrong' link can lead to you downloading True Key. Be careful on websites such as torrenting sites. 
  • Don't click on banner ads. When a pop-up banner appears when browsing a website, don't click on it. Often, it's safest to go to a different website than stay on a site that inundates you with pop-up adverts.