We hear about them all the time on
the news and frankly, they sound pretty bad. The Melissa virus, the
I Love You virus, and now the various versions of Klez. There
are new ones that come out every day.
But computers can be pretty
confusing... even to experts. So how is the average person
supposed to know if their computer is sick. And if it is, what
then? How do I get rid of it? Where did it come
from? And how do I make sure that I don't get it again?
Unfortunately, the answers are not
always terribly simple. But don't feel bad if you indeed do
have a computer virus. Everyone I know (including experts)
have had them.
There are certainly things that you
can do to protect your machine, but it is still possible to get one.
For the most part, proper precautions will keep your computer virus
free and keep you happy and content.
Okay, we all hear the stories of
computers crashing and becoming totally useless due to a
virus. Most viruses are not that lethal and there have been
some pretty strong security precautions that have been developed.
Some are on your system to help prevent that.
You can add to that protection by putting
antivirus software on your computer and keeping it up to date.
There is always room for argument as to which is the best one, and
as long as there are people that buy different products, there will
be different opinions.
For my money and most of the techies
that I know, Norton Antivirus gives you the best value for the
dollar and seems to be the most user friendly.
So what is a virus?
Simply put, a virus is a small piece of code that does two
things: (1) It causes some sort of an unwanted change to the
computer. (2) It is developed to spread itself to other
computers without the user's permission.
The types of changes that it makes
to the computer will vary from relatively benign to extremely disastrous.
Some viruses will embed themselves in the operating system and
others will make modifications and attach themselves to various file
types like MS Word document files.
Most of the recent viruses are set
up to spread themselves via the Internet, often sending themselves
to people that are either on your mailing list or people who have
sent mail to you.
Some viruses called trojans will
modify your system to allow an outsider to have access to your
machine or search out information and then send it to an
Do you have a virus already?
If you have been on the Internet very long and don't have up to
date virus software on the machine, it is very possible that you
could have a virus without even knowing it.
There may be some system
performance issues such as a computer that is very slow or won't do
what it is supposed to do. Perhaps some programs won't start
or your computer keeps shutting down. But changes such as
these are not always evident.
The only real way to know if you
have a virus on your computer is to install antivirus software such
as is available from Norton (available from Symantec),
McAfee, or Panda.
Visiting any of these sites will
give you a great deal of information and will allow you to download
their software and install it without making a trip to the
I recommend that you
purchase the software on CD unless you are familiar with downloading
files, saving them, and installing them from your system.
First the software must be loaded on your computer. If you
downloaded the software, you can install it simply by
double-clicking on the file that you downloaded.
If you purchased the software, then
it is a simple matter of putting the CD into your CD ROM. It
should start to install itself and will prompt you for certain
information such as your name, etc.
Second, antivirus software changes
periodically and there are new viruses that are discovered.
Therefore, your software must be updated. If you are not sure
how to do this, either review the manual that you got with the
software or click on the help tab.
Third, you must run a complete
system scan. The antivirus software will quickly check each
file on your system as well as your operating system to ensure that
no viruses are present.
If a virus is found, the software
will let you know and give you various options for cleaning the
virus off your computer.
This can be a touchy point with some people. Therefore, I
will couch my recommendation of Norton Antivirus with the admission
that this is only based upon my opinion that it catches the most
viruses. It is reasonably priced at about $70 and can be set
up to update itself without requiring the user to do anything.
Other antivirus software packages
are available as well and all seem to work pretty well. One
point worth noting however, is that you cannot run more than one
antivirus software package on a computer at the same time.
With good quality antivirus software on your computer that is
constantly running the in the background and kept up to date with
the manufacturer, it's very likely that you will be able to keep
your computer clean. That is not a guarantee, however.
Staying virus free also means being
careful about where you go on the Internet and keeping your security
settings in the medium range. If you don't know what that
means, then don't worry. Windows applications such as Internet
Explorer are automatically set up at that security level.
To be on the safe side, it is
better to not download any email attachments unless you know who it
is from. Antivirus software is pretty good, but it isn't infallible.
Neither SeniorMag nor its writers are affiliated with any company
mentioned herein, nor are there any financial considerations
provided. Product recommendations are based on personal
experience and opinions are provided for educational and
informational purposes only. SeniorMag does not warrant any
product of any manufacturer and makes no claims. You should
investigate any product and determine its suitability for your own