All of these tips should be used regularly. Your computer is like a car; you need to change the oil, replace the tires, and clean the interior frequently to ensure that your vehicle is running smoothly, that it keeps you safe, and remains clean.
Cleaning Your Computer of Viruses:
I can assume that most of you have heard of computer viruses before. For those who haven’t, a computer virus is a program created by highly advanced programmers worldwide to harm your computer in so many ways. Viruses can infect your computer, delete important files, corrupt your hard drive, or even make your computer unusable. Viruses can mean death to your computer. We are all subject to a virus attack; millions of computers are infected with some form of virus right now. As you read this, your computer may be one of those infected.
Ways To Get Infected With A Virus:
- 1) – Firewall is not activated
- 2) – No anti-virus software
- 3) – Spam Email attachment
- 4) – File transfer via a messenger service
- 5) – Copying files from an infected CD or Floppy disk
- 6) – Network of computers sharing files
A virus can infect your computer through any of the methods above. Prevention is the key to ensuring you don’t keep your computer from such attacks.
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How To Prevent Viruses From Coming In:
1) Activate Your System Firewall:
You want to make sure that your firewall is active. A firewall blocks hackers from finding loopholes within your computer that give them a gateway (doorway) in. A firewall can help to stop most hackers, but not all of them.
Activating your firewall:
- Windows systems: START > CONTROL PANNEL > INTERNET CONNECTIONS > WINDOWS FIREWALL > “On (Recommended)”.
- Mac Users: APPLE MENU > SYSTEM PREFERENCES > SHARING PANE > FIREWALL > START
- There you go; your firewall is now active!
2) Scan Your Computer With An Anti-Virus Software:
Installing anti-virus software is key! Anti-virus software will help to monetize your computer for viruses. Anti-virus software will also help to perform a system-wide scan of your computer for already infected areas. Most newer computers have installed anti-virus software; all you need to do is run the program.
Here are some of the top PAID anti-virus software:
- Norton Ani-Virus By Symantec
- McAfee Ani-Virus
Here are some of the top FREE anti-virus software:
- AntiVir Personal Edition Classic 6.32
- Active Virus Shield (AOL)
- Alwil Software Avast Home Edition 4.6
- Grisoft AVG Free Edition 7.1
Once installed, launch the program, and find a button that says “update virus definitions.” This will help to make sure your virus definitions are up-to-date. Virus definitions have the most recently found viruses that just came on the market. Up-to-date reports are key to finding newer, more powerful viruses. Once you’ve updated your reports, close all running programs and perform a “full system scan.” Depending on your computer’s size and speed, the scan can take up to a couple of hours to complete. Once complete, hit a button that will say something like; “Quarantine Files,” “Delete Infected Files,” “Clean Up Files,” and “Remove Infected Files.” This process will remove all files flagged as a virus and do this safely without harming your computer.
Things to know:
- Once a virus scan is complete, reboot your computer.
- Some viruses cannot be caught while your computer is running; they may have to be removed after a reboot (which should be automatic).
- You can set up a full system scan at midnight every night.
- Scan your computer at least once a week if connected to the internet.
You’ll probably start to notice that your computer is running faster because the viruses there before are no longer using your computer’s memory to run consistently. Some viruses are extremely resilient and cannot be removed from a simple virus scan. Going through (Part 2 & Part 3) will help to attack these harder-to-find viruses.
3) Don’t Open Suspicious Email attachments:
So many viruses are activated by people like yourself who open email attachments they don’t recognize. Most viruses are distributed this way. Part 6 – “Useful Email tips & fighting spam” from this mini-series will go into greater detail on fighting spam, but for those of you who won’t get to read that article, I must mention a couple of things here:
- Do NOT open an email you don’t recognize or didn’t ask for!
- Do NOT open an attachment with the extension “.exe.”
- Immediately delete emails from people you don’t recognize
- Do NOT save emails on your computer that you don’t recognize
- Spammers will try to trick you into thinking they are your friend.
- Pay close attention to each email’s person, email, and content.
- Do NOT click “Unsubscribe” from a spam email; this will do the opposite.
- Do NOT reply to an email you don’t recognize
- Do NOT forward an email that you don’t remember.
- Report ALL spam to your internet service provider.
I just mentioned that these email tips are necessary for fighting spam and ensuring you don’t inadvertently activate a malicious virus on your computer.
4) Avoid Using Messenger Services:
Messenger services, or “chat programs” on your computer, are like leaving an open gateway directly to your computer. Messenger services like “MSN Chat” or “Yahoo Chat” connect two computers to talk to each other repeatedly. This allows the two computers to give and receive information through the software.
An Example of What Can Happen:
Many viruses have infiltrated millions of computers through this easy-to-hack service by disguising themselves as “your chat friends” and sending you a link to a virus file to open on your computer. The problem is, you have no idea what kind of file you’re opening because it seems the file came directly from your friend (who is infected with this virus), and it looks as though they are simply trying to send you a photo of themselves. Personally, no one is allowed to have messenger chat software installed on any of our computers. They are too easily misused and can give a hacker a passport to your laptop.
If your children use such a service, let them know what can happen if they accept others’ files. Tell them that it’s better to send files via an email attachment rather than through a messenger chat script. At least this way, an email can pass through various firewalls and anti-virus software before getting to your computer. This also ensures that you know exactly who is sending you the file.
5) Copying Files From An Infected CD or Floppy Disk:
We’ve all done it, taken a disk from a friend or co-worker, and inserted a disk into our computer to copy all the files from the disk. Did you ever think to scan the disk for viruses before reproducing files? Viruses come in all shapes & sizes, passed along from one computer to another. The person who gave you the disk could have had a virus lurking within their files, and they may have copied it onto the disk they just gave you. It happens all the time. An easy way to protect yourself from viruses is to launch your anti-virus software and scan your disk drive with the cd or a floppy disk. It takes only a couple of seconds to prevent a disaster.
6) Sharing Files From A Network of Computers:
Many companies network their computers together to share files easily between the two instead of always copying files onto a disk. The same thing happens at home when two computers are networked together. Make sure you have your firewall in place (step 1 above), and make sure your anti-virus software (step 2 above) is keeping an eye on your “shared folders” section. This helps to prevent viruses from jumping from one computer to another. Again, always perform a virus check within your “shared folder” when you receive files from others.
There you have it. You now have a good knowledge base to help prevent viruses from getting into your computer. Make it a habit to double-check everything to ensure you don’t leave an open doorway directly to your computer. When using software like chat scripts, make sure not to accept files via your chat script. Never read or open emails you don’t recognize, and always make it a habit of scanning your disks,, and email attachments before something terrible happens.