Remove Start ransomware from your operating system

Also Known As: Start virus
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Severe

Start ransomware removal instructions

What is Start?

Belonging to the CrySiS/Dharma malware family, Start is malicious software, which is categorized as ransomware. This malicious program was discovered by Jakub Kroustek. Start operates by encrypting data and demanding ransom payments for decryption. During the encryption process, all files are renamed with a unique ID number (generated for each victim), developer's email address, and the ".start" extension. For example, "1.jpg" might be renamed to a filename such as "[].start", and so on for all affected files. After this process is complete, a text file ("FILES ENCRYPTED.txt") is stored on the desktop and a pop-up window displayed.

The text file informs victims that their data has been locked and, to retrieve it, they must contact the cyber criminals behind Start. The pop-up window provides more detail. The message states that all files have been encrypted, and to decrypt them, users must send a message to the email address listed. Should no reply from the criminals arrive within 24 hours, victims are urged to use an alternative email address. The message must contain the victim's unique ID number in the title/subject. The ransom size is not stated, however, this will depend on how quickly users establish contact. The payment must be made in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. Once the transaction is made, victims are promised decryption tools/software. To 'prove' their ability to decrypt data, developers of Start offer free decryption of one file. The file must be no larger than 1 MB (non-archived) and contain no valuable information (e.g. databases, backups, large excel sheets and similar). The ransom message also includes warnings. Users are instructed not to rename encrypted files or to try decryption with third party software - this will result in permanent data loss. Most ransomware-type programs use strong encryption and data can only be decoded with the software originally used for encryption. Therefore, only the developers of ransomware can recover the data. Regardless, you are strongly advised against meeting the ransom demands and/or contacting cyber criminals. If victims pay, they receive none of the necessary decryption tools. Therefore, their files remain encrypted and permanently damaged. Removing Start will not restore the compromised data, however, it will prevent this ransomware from further encryption. The only possible way to restore files is to recover them from a backup, provided one was made prior to the infection and stored separately.

Screenshot of a message encouraging users to pay a ransom to decrypt their compromised data:

Start decrypt instructions

NakwHdmrFuxSocy ENCRYPTOR, and Kronos are just some examples of malware similar to Start. Most ransomware shares common traits, mainly data encryption and ransom demands. These malicious programs differ by cryptographic algorithm they use (symmetric or asymmetric) and size of ransom, which typically range between three-digit and four-digit sums (in USD). Digital currencies (e.g. cryptocurrencies, pre-paid vouchers, etc.) are preferred by cyber criminals, since these transactions are difficult/impossible to trace. Unless ransomware is still in development and/or has certain flaws/bugs, manual decryption (without the involvement of the developers) is impossible. To protect files against data encryption and damaging infections, keep backups on remote servers and/or unplugged storage devices. Ideally, multiple backup copies should be stored in different locations.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

Ransomware and other malware has several modes of proliferation. Spam campaigns are used to send out thousands of infectious emails. This mail is often deceptively highlighted as "official", "important", "urgent" and similar. The emails contain dangerous attachments (or web-links leading to them), which come in a variety of formats: archive and executable files, PDF and Microsoft Office documents, JavaScript, etc. When the attached files are run, executed or otherwise opened, they infect systems by downloading/installing malicious software. Trojans are malicious programs that spread malware and cause chain infections. Fake updaters exploit flaws of outdated software and/or simply install malware, rather than updates. Program "cracking" tools infect systems similarly by downloading/installing malware, rather than activating licensed products. Malicious content is also proliferated through untrustworthy download sources including, for example, P2P sharing networks (BitTorrent, eMule, Gnutella, etc.), unofficial and free file-hosting websites, various third party downloaders and similar channels.

Threat Summary:
Name Start virus
Threat Type Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker.
Encrypted Files Extension .start (this ransomware also appends filenames with the victim's unique ID and developer's email address).
Ransom Demanding Message FILES ENCRYPTED.txt and pop-up window
Cyber Criminal Contact and
Detection Names Avast (Win32:RansomX-gen [Ransom]), BitDefender (Trojan.Ransom.Crysis.E), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/Filecoder.Crysis.P), Kaspersky (, Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)
Symptoms Cannot open files stored on your computer, previously functional files now have a different extension (for example, my.docx.locked). A ransom demand message is displayed on your desktop. Cyber criminals demand payment of a ransom (usually in bitcoins) to unlock your files.
Distribution methods Infected email attachments (macros), torrent websites, malicious ads.
Damage All files are encrypted and cannot be opened without paying a ransom. Additional password-stealing trojans and malware infections can be installed together with a ransomware infection.
Malware Removal (Windows)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Malwarebytes.
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To use full-featured product, you have to purchase a license for Malwarebytes. 14 days free trial available.

How to protect yourself from ransomware infections

Do not open suspicious, unknown or irrelevant emails. Also do not open attachments or links found in them, since this can result in an infection. Research content carefully and download only form official and verified sources. Software activation and updating should be done using tools/functions provided by legitimate developers. Do not use illegal activation tools ("cracks") or third party updaters - these are high-risk. Have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and kept updated. Use this software for regular system scans and removal of detected threats. If your computer is already infected with Start, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Text presented in Start ransomware pop-up window:

All your files have been encrypted!
All your files have been encrypted due to a security problem with your PC. If you want to restore them, write us to the e-mail
Write this ID in the title of your message 1E857D00
In case of no answer in 24 hours write us to theese
You have to pay for decryption in Bitcoins. The price depends on how fast you write to us. After payment we will send you the decryption tool that will decrypt all your files.
Free decryption as guarantee
Before paying you can send us up to 1 file for free decryption. The total size of files must be less than 1Mb (non archived), and files should not contain valuable information. (databases,backups, large excel sheets, etc.)
Do not rename encrypted files.
Do not try to decrypt your data using third party software, it may cause permanent data loss.
Decryption of your files with the help of third parties may cause increased price (they add their fee to our) or you can become a victim of a scam. 

Screenshot of Start text file ("FILES ENCRYPTED.txt"):

Start text file

Text presented in this file:

all your data has been locked us
You want to return?
Write email or 

Screenshot of files encrypted by Start (".start" extension):

Files encrypted by Start

Start ransomware removal:

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Malwarebytes is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
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Quick menu:

Step 1

Windows XP and Windows 7 users: Start your computer in Safe Mode. Click Start, click Shut Down, click Restart, click OK. During your computer start process, press the F8 key on your keyboard multiple times until you see the Windows Advanced Option menu, and then select Safe Mode with Networking from the list.

Safe Mode with Networking

Video showing how to start Windows 7 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 8 users: Start Windows 8 is Safe Mode with Networking - Go to Windows 8 Start Screen, type Advanced, in the search results select Settings. Click Advanced startup options, in the opened "General PC Settings" window, select Advanced startup. Click the "Restart now" button. Your computer will now restart into the "Advanced Startup options menu". Click the "Troubleshoot" button, and then click the "Advanced options" button. In the advanced option screen, click "Startup settings". Click the "Restart" button. Your PC will restart into the Startup Settings screen. Press F5 to boot in Safe Mode with Networking.

Windows 8 Safe Mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 8 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 10 users: Click the Windows logo and select the Power icon. In the opened menu click "Restart" while holding "Shift" button on your keyboard. In the "choose an option" window click on the "Troubleshoot", next select "Advanced options". In the advanced options menu select "Startup Settings" and click on the "Restart" button. In the following window you should click the "F5" button on your keyboard. This will restart your operating system in safe mode with networking.

windows 10 safe mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 10 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Step 2

Log in to the account infected with the Start virus. Start your Internet browser and download a legitimate anti-spyware program. Update the anti-spyware software and start a full system scan. Remove all entries detected.

If you cannot start your computer in Safe Mode with Networking, try performing a System Restore.

Video showing how to remove ransomware virus using "Safe Mode with Command Prompt" and "System Restore":

1. During your computer start process, press the F8 key on your keyboard multiple times until the Windows Advanced Options menu appears, and then select Safe Mode with Command Prompt from the list and press ENTER.

Boot your computer in Safe Mode with Command Prompt

2. When Command Prompt mode loads, enter the following line: cd restore and press ENTER.

system restore using command prompt type cd restore

3. Next, type this line: rstrui.exe and press ENTER.

system restore using command prompt rstrui.exe

4. In the opened window, click "Next".

restore system files and settings

5. Select one of the available Restore Points and click "Next" (this will restore your computer system to an earlier time and date, prior to the Start ransomware virus infiltrating your PC).

select a restore point

6. In the opened window, click "Yes".

run system restore

7. After restoring your computer to a previous date, download and scan your PC with recommended malware removal software to eliminate any remaining Start ransomware files.

To restore individual files encrypted by this ransomware, try using Windows Previous Versions feature. This method is only effective if the System Restore function was enabled on an infected operating system. Note that some variants of Start are known to remove Shadow Volume Copies of the files, so this method may not work on all computers.

To restore a file, right-click over it, go into Properties, and select the Previous Versions tab. If the relevant file has a Restore Point, select it and click the "Restore" button.

Restoring files encrypted by CryptoDefense

If you cannot start your computer in Safe Mode with Networking (or with Command Prompt), boot your computer using a rescue disk. Some variants of ransomware disable Safe Mode making its removal complicated. For this step, you require access to another computer.

To regain control of the files encrypted by Start, you can also try using a program called Shadow Explorer. More information on how to use this program is available here.

shadow explorer screenshot

To protect your computer from file encryption ransomware such as this, use reputable antivirus and anti-spyware programs. As an extra protection method, you can use programs called HitmanPro.Alert and EasySync CryptoMonitor, which artificially implant group policy objects into the registry to block rogue programs such as Start ransomware.

Note that Windows 10 Fall Creators Update includes a "Controlled Folder Access" feature that blocks ransomware attempts to encrypt your files. By default, this feature automatically protects files stored in the Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music, Favorites, and Desktop folders.

Controll Folder Access

Windows 10 users should install this update to protect their data from ransomware attacks. Here is more information on how to get this update and add an additional protection layer from ransomware infections.

HitmanPro.Alert CryptoGuard - detects encryption of files and neutralises any attempts without need for user-intervention:

hitmanproalert ransomware prevention application

Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware Beta uses advanced proactive technology that monitors ransomware activity and terminates it immediately - before reaching users' files:

malwarebytes anti-ransomware

  • The best way to avoid damage from ransomware infections is to maintain regular up-to-date backups. More information on online backup solutions and data recovery software Here.

Other tools known to remove Start ransomware:

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

QR Code
Start virus QR code
A QR code (Quick Response Code) is a machine-readable code which stores URLs and other information. This code can be read using a camera on a smartphone or a tablet. Scan this QR code to have an easy access removal guide of Start virus on your mobile device.
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