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Anti-Virus Software

Computer viruses are a fact of modern, internet-connected life. At best,
they’re annoying performance sucking beasts, but at worst … kiss all your
data good bye.

We all need to take steps to make sure that our computers
are safe, or we risk infection. Complacency is not an option.

And yet, even after all the news, and all the warnings, and after all this time …

complacency remains all too common.

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There are four important steps:

1. Install and Run an Anti-Virus Program

There are many out there.

Personally, I run Computer Associate’s eTrust
. It was the corporate standard solution where I
used to work
, and has served me exceedingly well for several years now. I
have it scheduled to update signatures and scan every night.

I’ve also heard good things about Panda Antivirus,
AVG Anti Virus, and Kaspersky
. Norton AntiVirus, now owned by
Symantec is also very popular. In particular,
Symantec maintains one of the best reference sites
for virus related security issues.

Free and On-Line Virus Scanners: I’ve learned that not all virus
scanners catch all viruses. I recommend having a selection of free virus
scanners to run as a “second tier”. AVG has a free
product. Trend Micro’s Housecall, and Panda’s Active Scan are on-line scanners that download as
an ActiveX control in your browser. Most downloadable virus scanning solutions
often include free trial periods that can also come in handy as one-time
second-level scans.

Download and install the package of your choice. Now. Before you forget.

2. Update the Anti-Virus Database

Your first step should be to update the virus signature database that came
with the installation. New viruses are being created every day, and the
databases that the anti-virus programs use are being updated as well. You need
to get the latest database for your program right away.

Most of the programs have update functions that will locate, download and
install the latest databases automatically. Make sure that this is enabled.

3. Run Regular Scans

“We all need to take steps to make sure that our computers are safe, or we risk infection. Complacency is not an option.”

Most of the anti-virus programs work automatically. Once installed they are
configured to scan all incoming and outgoing files, and often hook into your
email in some way to double check that your received email is clean as

Unless you know what you’re doing, make sure that this “real time” scanning
is enabled.

I also recommend periodically running scans of your hard disk(s). Certainly
when you first install the software you should run a full scan. Then, depending
on how heavily used your machine is, you should run a scan periodically as

Some programs will allow you to schedule such a scan to happen
automatically. In my case, for example, since my computers are on 24 hours a
day, I schedule full virus scans nightly, while I’m asleep.

4. Keep Windows Up-To-Date

Visit Windows Update regularly,
or simply enable the automatic update feature in Windows XP.

All software has bugs. Some of those bugs are used to create the
exploits that virus writers take advantage of to create viruses that can infect
your system. As these bugs are found, Microsoft fixes the affected components
in the operating system, and makes those fixes available for download and
install using Windows Update.

The “problem”, is that even once the bugs are discovered and publicized, and
even when the fix is available, virus writers get busy writing viruses that
still exploit them. Why? Because they know not everyone stays
. (As an example, one of my most popular articles here on Ask Leo! is being read by
thousands of people each month who are still being affected by a virus using an exploit
that was patched close to two years ago.)

Keep Windows up-to-date. Let someone else have the “fun” of being infected
with the latest viruses. Visit Windows
weekly, or enable automatic update.

Additional Notes

Sadly, there is no “best” anti-virus program. Each may miss some something
that the other’s catch. That’s one of the reasons I list several. The best
advice is to use one, any one, and have the others “on call” for those cases
when spyware sneaks past the one you use regularly.

If you do install more than one package, you should not
enable the “real time” scanning for more than one at the same time – they will
conflict with each other, and will cause unpredictable results.

Do this

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7 comments on “Anti-Virus Software”

  1. We’ve used and been a reseller for Norman Virus Control for the past 4 years. Its been a wonderful product. One of the key features is Norman “SandBox” and its ability to detect unknown viruses using a “virtual computer” enviornment. Anyone want more info email me at

  2. This part of information is really useful to mass of people,who use their PC at home.I thank you for this.Hope i will get such good information in future from yr end.Once again thanks

  3. After problems (very long story) with various makes of PCs over the past 15 years, I make it a practice to remove Symantic stuff and put McAfee products in. The McAfee Security Center is easy to use, everything from Shredder, to Defrag, to Scan to update, etc. is right there. Times when viruses made it tough to get to Symantec to update and remove have never happened with McAfee. Plus, it comes with my comcast internet.

    Based on what I hear here on Ask Leo! I now avoid the all-in-one packages like Symatecs or McAfee’s. People seem to have better results and more stable operation by picking the best individual solutions for spyware, viruses and the like.



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