I live in an adult community with 200 homes with computers. I’ve installed
free protection software on many of their computers that have XP, Vista, and
Windows 7. The most commonly asked question is: How often do I run complete
scans with AVG, Spybot, Malwarebytes, Superantispyware, CCleaner? Can you
recommend a schedule? Daily, weekly, monthly, when?
In this excerpt from
Answercast #77, I look at the types of virus and spyware protection software
that needs to be running automatically on the typical computer.
How often to run scans?
Well, unfortunately, there really isn’t a blanket answer to that. It really depends more then anything else on exactly how the computer is used – and the savviness of the person using it.
If I had to pull a number out, I would say weekly with daily partial scans.
In other words, the way I have my software configured on all of my machines is that the Microsoft Security Essentials performs what they call a “quick scan” every night. That does a good job of ferreting out anything that may have happened during the day and, in a way, localizing the damage.
If I were concerned about more extensive malware of some sort, then yeah, I might run a full scan weekly.
In fact, I don’t run a full scan at all. I only run them as needed: if I’m actually tracking down a problem. So the short answer is that:
The automated stuff, that happens automatically by these tools – typically daily is fantastic.
It’s not something you ever have to think about – it’s just something that happens.
Manual scans or more complete scans on top of that are something that you need to judge based on: how the machine is being used, whether or not the person using it has a good sense for what kind of trouble they might be getting themselves into, and then knowing how to steer clear of it.
What tools do you need?
The other comment I want to make here is that you’ve got a lot of stuff on your list: AVG, Spybot, Malwarebytes, Super Anti-Spyware, CCleaner. That’s a combination of tools that I’m hoping you’re not trying to run on each machine.
AVG is anti-virus and I think they have an anti-spyware component.
Spybot is, of course, anti-spyware.
Super Anti-Spyware is anti-spyware.
Between those three, you may have three anti-spyware tools. You don’t need to run all three at the same time. You need to pick one and have it running continuously. I would then perhaps pull out another one as a tool to use in case of problems.
Malwarebytes is in that same category. I actually recommend that people have it – but they don’t really need to run it unless they’re tracking down a problem. It certainly gives you an added layer of security if you do enable its automated tool.
I’d pick that one, I guess, at weekly. Once again, I don’t run it all unless I’m running into a problem or trying to diagnose something.
CCleaner doesn’t actually fall into those categories at all. CCleaner is a clean-up utility – not really an anti-malware kind of a tool. Once again that boils down to how does the person use the computer?
CCleaner, I’ll just pull again, “once a week,” out of the air. It is one of those things where I don’t run it in a regular fashion. I run it when I have a problem – or what I consider to be a reason to run it.
So in my case, that happens to be very rarely. And in fact, for most people whose computers I set up, I also don’t recommend that they run it on a regular basis. For most people, the manual running of CCleaner isn’t necessarily a simple thing.
It is possible to do damage with CCleaner in addition to cleaning things up. So that’s one of those judgment calls. I’ll say I’d probably put it on their machine to have it, if needed – but I’ll actually not recommend that it be run on a regular basis. Again, your mileage may vary. Your users may vary. How they use their computers may vary, but those are the kind of rules of thumb that I throw out.
What Leo runs
So to be break it down once again what I do on my own machine is:
I run Microsoft Security Essentials – which is one anti-virus and one anti-spyware tool and then I actually don’t run anything else on any regular schedule.
MSE does a nightly scan; keeps itself updated – nightly at least and that’s good enough if you’re computer savvy, if you’ve got a good head about what’s going on.
If I need extra tools, the tools that I reach for then are things like Malwarebytes and CCleaner (as needed) to do cleaning up.
You may want to run more things and that’s fine, but it’s really hard to throw out a good rule of thumb.
(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)
Next from Answercast 77 – Which is better for computer longevity, turning it off when not in use, or leaving it on?