Have you ever opened up an email attachment, even from someone you know and trust, and suddenly Bam! You’ve got a virus. Your computer stops functioning properly and you spend a few moments punching the keyboard trying to get it to work. There is always that moment of panic as you suddenly realize what is happening. There may be some vindictive programmer sitting in his basement with his computer laughing at you but viruses and computer spyware are no laughing matter. They can cause any amount of grief, frustration, and can be expensive to fix. The worst case is you have to shell out some big bucks for a new system.
If you have ever been hit by a computer virus (or just want to avoid it) you need to ask yourself “how do I prevent viruses on my computer”? There are several ways to protect yourself. This article will take a look at some of the more common methods.
How Do I Get Infected With A Computer Virus
To be protected against computer viruses, you need to know what they are. A computer virus is a program created to do harm to another computer. Once inside your computer, the virus replicates itself into several copies and spread throughout your system and files. The damage inflicted depends on the nature of the virus. Some viruses can crash your entire system. Other viruses can destroy files, create havoc in your registry, or cause damage to some of your hardware and software.
The most common source for catching a virus is the internet. Viruses are always hidden (who wants to purposefully catch a computer virus?) so most infections come about from emails and attachments. They can even be passed to you from people you know who do not realize their email is infected. Another way to get a virus is through downloads. You might be on an unreliable site and want to download a file. The virus can be hidden in the file.
Your computer can also get a virus through a network such as at a university or place of business. Viruses can rapidly spread from one terminal to the next through a network, leaving behind a number of infected machines. Viruses in a network can be difficult to track down and quarantine because they could be in any computer that has access to the network.
Prevent Viruses From Infecting Your Computer
The number one way to prevent viruses from infecting your computer is to have an anti-virus software on your computer. This type of software can detect and block viruses before they have a chance to cause any harm. A good anti-virus program can scan for viruses on your internal and external hard drive or any program, files, or documents. If it finds any viruses, it can quarantine them and delete them safely from your computer. Because there are new viruses that are created on an almost daily basis, your virus protection needs to be updated regularly.
Another good way to protect your computer is to make back up copies of important documents and files. This way if your computer should ever get hit by a virus and corrupts some of your system, you will have a back up copy available. You can even set a system restore point anywhere from a week or a month earlier. This will allow you to restart your computer using an earlier configuration before you got infected by the virus. This method is not always reliable but it is something that you can try.
An important rule of thumb is do not open attachments in emails from people you do not know. You have no idea what those attachments might contain and no idea who sent them. You should also be careful about opening attachments from people you do know if you are not sure what the attachment is about. Attachments are a good way for viruses to sneak into your systems.
If you use a computer at work or a public computer, run a scan before you save any files that you may use on your own computer at home. This way you will know that the files are clean and you are not transporting any viruses.
Downloading is a good way to catch a computer virus. It’s like opening the door and saying “Come on in!” Yes, if your virus protection is updated, it will hopefully catch the virus. But then again, it might not. When downloading, make sure the site you are downloading from is reliable with a lot of traffic. Stay away from unreliable sites that have few visitors.
When you save a file to your computer, either from a download or from another computer, always run a scan on it to make sure it is clean. Not all viruses act immediately. Some may wait for a trigger such as shut down or reboot. Anything that you put on your computer from another source should be scanned for potential threats.
Your operating system should be continuously updated. Whether your computer is a PC running Windows or a Mac, an updated system can help fight off potentially harmful programs. Operating systems that are old and not updated are more prone to infection.
As a last option, you can always try to use a firewall. They are more for preventing intrusion from an outside source but some firewalls may be able to block some viruses. Operating without a firewall is risky anyway so you should always have one activated.
Getting Rid of a Computer Virus
Getting rid of a computer virus is delicate work. Despite all of these precautions, your computer may still end up getting infected with a virus. If this happens, don’t panic and make the situation worse. Your actions will depend largely on what type of virus you catch. If you are able to, use your anti-virus program to locate and contain the virus. If the virus has affected your computer’s active memory, you can try to reboot from a back up disk and then use your anti-virus program. If it works, try to locate and eliminate all traces of the virus. Also, if anyone has used your computer to save files, you should warn them about a potential threat to their own system.
Most viruses can be eliminated if your virus protection is up-to-date. If the virus prevents you from doing anything, then the only thing you can do is to shut your computer down and take it to a computer repair center.