Knowing Computer Viruses

Do you have a good anti-virus program? Do you keep it updated regularly? If not, your computer is bound to contract a virus of some type. Even if you do keep up with healthy computer habits, it is sometimes still possible (unlikely, but possible) for a virus to attack your computer.

Is It Really A Virus?

You may suspect that your computer has a virus, but how can you really tell? Viruses often cause erratic behavior. Smiley faces may pop up, the screen may turn blank, the computer may crash, or it may constantly reboot. The trigger that activates the virus can be almost anything. For instance, the virus can be activated the minute it is installed. Or it may start its dirty work the next time you start your computer. In some cases, a virus can reside inside your computer in an inactive state, waiting for a certain event (like a certain date) to happen.

From the moment the virus infiltrated your computer to the time that it made itself known to you, you could have innocently spread the virus to others. A very disconcerting sign that you have a virus is when friends call or e-mail to let you know you have sent them a virus-infested e-mail.

A Scan Is Necessary

So you suspect your computer has a virus. How can you find out for sure? You scan your system for viruses with a software program. If you already own an antivirus program and your computer is operable, you can start your antivirus program and initiate a scan of your entire computer. However, chances are if you contracted a virus, the virus definitions that your program is using are out-of-date. So first, visit the Web site of your antivirus manufacturer and update your antivirus software by downloading the latest definitions.

If you don't have antivirus software, you can purchase it online or you can use Panda Software's free ActiveScan. This software will scan your computer and report any infections.

Use Your Antivirus Manufacturer's Web Site

If the virus scan finds an infection, it will give you the name of the virus or viruses that you have contracted. If your computer is contaminated, you need to take immediate action. Depending on the severity of the virus, the health of your computer, as well as the security of your computer data, may be at risk. Look up the virus at one of the antivirus manufacturer's Web sites. Symantec, McAfee, and, Panda Software are all informative sites. Sometimes the manufacturers will have a software program that you can download for the removal of the virus. Removal instruction may be offered as well. Viruses vary in severity. Some are easy to eliminate and repair. Others can be very nasty, and repairing their damage could involve some complex reprogramming. If you are lucky you may be able to remove the virus yourself. If, however, you have contracted an invasive virus, don't hesitate to leave the work to a local computer professional.

Spyware Acts Like a Virus

A different type of vicious programming has started to invade computers around the world. Spyware (sometimes called Adware) is uninvited software that is transferred to your computer without your explicit knowledge. It often piggybacks on software that you download from the Internet. Spyware causes erratic behavior in a computer that is very similar to the behavior caused by viruses. Often spyware is characterized by unusual windows popping up on your computer, but your computer can be infected by spyware even if there are no annoying pop ups. If your virus scan shows no viruses, but your computer is still acting weirdly, you should suspect spyware. Use a free spyware detection program like Ad-aware or SpyBot Search & Destroy to find and eliminate spyware.

Develop Healthy Computer Habits

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Be sure you have a good antivirus program installed on your computer and update it regularly. You will also want to make sure that your Internet browser and operating system have had all the necessary security patches applied. Prevention is the name of the virus game, and you do need to make friends with a good antivirus program. My earlier tutorials will fill you in on details about What a Computer Virus Is, How to Update your Antivirus Software and How To Update Windows.

Don't forget to download a good spyware prevention program, as well. A recent Earthlink report showed an average of 28 spyware programs on each of the computers they scanned. Spyware and viruses can both be dangerous and can cause computer users a lot of aggravation. So be careful out there and be sure to keep your computer free from both viruses and spyware.