Anti-virus and computer viruses 


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 unauthorized location.

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 store.  

I recommend that you purchase the software on CD unless you are familiar with downloading files, saving them, and installing them from your system.

What then? 

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.

Which software 

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. 

Keeping virus-free  

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. 


Notice/Disclaimer:  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 use.




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