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Wise Tech Tips

Protect Your Computer with Free Antivirus Software

By: James Wise
web posted July 9, 2009
TECH TIPS – There are a number of things everyone should do to keep their computer running problem free. These things include applying operating system updates, using antivirus software, using antispyware software, defragmenting your disk drive, etc… Fortunately, these things can be done easily and there are a number of free options for these items. Today, we’ll talk quickly about a few free antivirus programs.

Antivirus software protects your computer from computer programs which seek to make your computer do something you don’t intend it to do. Sometimes, these programs can be pretty harmless but that isn’t always the case.

Viruses can spread in a number of ways. Many “infections” can be avoided by using common sense. For example, be very careful with email attachments. Many people say, DO NOT OPEN EMAIL ATTACHMENTS FROM ANYONE!!!! I don’t go quite that far. Generally, I just say to avoid opening attachments from people you don’t know. However, it is possible that someone you know gets a virus that emails itself to everyone in their address book. So, just take care with attachments and think before you open them.

As an extra layer of protection, I also recommend people use an antivirus program. If you buy a new PC, chances are that it comes with some antivirus software pre-installed on it. Often, these programs are not free programs and only work (or at least get updates) for a year or less without you paying extra for them. Perhaps worse still, it is common for antivirus programs to have a yearly licensing fee requiring you to purchase them again each year. There are certainly some great paid programs out there and I won’t go over all those programs for now. If you want avoid buying one of these programs, there are also some good free options out there (at least for personal use). Here are a few of the more popular free antivirus programs that I know of.

http://free.avg.com/ - AVG offers a free edition which I’ve used on my own PC. Unlike some paid antivirus programs, AVG seems to have a “small footprint” meaning it doesn’t take up a lot of memory or system resources causing your computer to slow down.

http://www.avast.com/eng/avast_4_home.html - I’ve also used Avast for protection my own PCs. In fact, my Vista PC is using Avast currently. So far, I’m very happy with it.

http://www.clamwin.com/ - I haven’t used Clamwin myself, but I’ve read some good things about it.

http://www.cloudantivirus.com/ - I haven’t used Cloud Antivirus yet either but I recently read about it. It uses an interesting new approach where virus definitions are constantly updated based on information from every other computer running the software.

Microsoft is working on a free antivirus/antispyware application called Microsoft Security Essentials. This is in testing now and should be out soon so this might be another good option in the near future.

One very important item is that you need to make sure you keep your virus definitions updated. New viruses are created everyday. I believe all the above programs will automatically update after you install them. You might want to double check that from time to time as well. Usually there is an “about” option within the program that will allow you to confirm the date of your last antivirus update (which should be less than a week old in most cases).

You should never use more than one antivirus program. Multiple antivirus programs could conflict with each other and cause problems. So, be sure to uninstall any existing antivirus program before installing a new one (using start, control panel, add/remove programs). If you do have a problem or want to run an extra scan just to be sure, there are also some “online” virus scanners you could run manually even if you have an antivirus program installed on your computer. These are probably only good options for those with high speed Internet connections:

Do you want to test if your antivirus software is working? If so, a quick, no risk test is the EICAR test file. All you have to do is run notepad (start, run, notepad) and copy the following line into the file:


Save the file to your desktop (using file type “all files” instead of “text document”) with a .com extension (test.com for example but any name will do). Your antivirus software should catch this file and trigger a virus alert. Don’t worry, it isn’t a virus. Just delete the file. You can read more about this here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eicar_test_file

I was on vacation this past week so today’s tip didn’t go into a lot of detail. If you have questions about how to install or run any of the programs I’ve mentioned above, please email me (EdgefieldTechHelp@gmail.com) and I’ll be happy to help.

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