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Written by:
Brian Starkey
5 Star Support Forums Administrator

Why do I need Anti-Virus software installed on my computer?

Put it this way. If you haven't then your machine may start to behave in a very strange manner and could be very costly. Virus's come in many disguises and have different capabilities. They can completely mess up your computer by:

  • Destroying data on your hard drive.
  • Reflashing the BIOS, (this is responsible for booting your pc), rendering your computer useless.
  • Causing your operating system to behave erratically or run slowly.
  • Displaying annoying messages.
  • Sending email to everyone in your address book(s) in an effort to spread itself to other computers.
  • Stealing passwords and important data such as credit card information and Banking details. Thieves then use your details to purchase services/goods and/or withdraw money from your Bank account.
  • Allowing hackers to have complete control over your computer.

Imagine your computer as being your own home. If a stranger calls at your home for any reason then you would not immediately invite him/her into your house. You would be suspicious and initially assess the person by asking relevant questions before allowing access. If you already know the caller then you would not hesitate to allow access to your home.

All anti-virus programs work in a similar manner. They allow access to all files on your computer but disallow access to those files it knows to be harmful or alerts you to any suspicious behavior i.e. the stranger calling at your home. It recognizes these files by what is called a virus signature. All of these signatures are stored in a database incorporated in the anti-virus program itself. The writers of anti-virus programs are the persons who create and update this database.

The database is commonly referred to as 'Virus Definitions'.

When you first install or download any anti-virus program it does not mean that the database is fully up to date. Most anti-virus programs have a facility that enables you to check for any updates that may be available from the manufacturer. This is normally identified by a visible link marked similar to 'check for updates'. Clicking on this link takes you to the manufacturer’s website. Your computer is then automatically examined to identify the status of your database. If updates are available then you will be given the opportunity to download and install the new 'Virus Definitions'. If your database is fully up to date then you will be notified that no new 'Virus Definitions' are available.

Some anti-virus manufacturers incorporate a facility to check for any new updates automatically without you having to click on any link. This is called scheduling. You simply set up how often you wish your anti-virus software to check for new updates. When and how this happens is a matter of choice. You can set it up to check for updates at a particular time on any day within a specific time period e.g. 1600hrs daily or 1600hrs on a Thursday of each week.

Having anti-virus installed does not guarantee that you will never be infected with a virus. New virus's appear on a regular basis and begin to spread from computer to computer. The anti-virus manufacturers will not necessarily be aware of these new viruses until it is reported to them by someone who has discovered the existence of the virus. As a result all computers would be vulnerable to the new virus because no 'virus definition' for that particular virus has been written and updated to the manufacturers’ database to be included in the database stored on your computer. However, you will be protected from the thousands of previously released viruses. Therefore not having any anti-virus software installed would be extremely foolish because you would be leaving yourself wide open to infection by every virus that has ever been written.

Once you have an anti-virus program installed please remember to check for updates on a regular basis by visiting the manufacturers’ website and downloading any found. Failing to do so would make your machine vulnerable to infection because your virus database will not be up to date.

Run the anti-virus program on a regular basis to ensure that your machine is clean.

Happy computing and safe surfing.

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