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You're probably aware of the existence of malicious programs called viruses and the importance of keeping your computer protected from them. Viruses or malware as they are also referred to are often created with the intent of stealing information from your computer or sometimes just to mess with your computer by erasing important files. As a Windows user, you can downloaded and install free antivirus software from Microsoft's web site by opening your web browser and going to microsoft.com/security_essentials.
All you have to do here is to click the Download Now button to start downloading this free antivirus software. And while you are here, you can also watch a video on how to download and install the software if you need help. I've already installed this software, so I'll close my browser. And once you've installed the software, you can find it by going to the Start menu and you'll see it here in the main Start menu, Microsoft Security Essentials, or you can also go to All Programs and you'll find it in here as well. Now generally, all antivirus software programs function pretty similarly.
So even if you use something other than Microsoft's software, you'll get pretty much the same kind of protection. How it works is once a week the antivirus software scans your entire computer looking for any viruses you might have picked up. Since new viruses or malware are always being discovered, the software also checks with an online database for new virus definition files, so it's always up-to-date with the latest new viruses that have been found floating around on the Internet. So basically, once you've installed the antivirus software, there is not much you have to do with it, unless you want to change when and how often it scans your computer, which you can do by clicking the Settings tab.
Here you can select options in the left column and change those settings to the right. For example, with Scheduled scan selected, you can see that the default setting is to scan your computer Sundays at 2 AM. If you happen to always be using your computer at 2 AM on a Sunday, you can pick another time when you're not likely to be at your computer. And it's no that you can't use your computer while the antivirus software is running. It's more that you probably don't want to have other programs actively doing things while you're working on your computer. Here under the History tab, you'll see reports of previous scans, what malware has discovered, if any, and what action was taken.
Under the Update tab, you can see when the last virus definitions were downloaded, and you can click the big Update button if you want to manually check for and download the latest updates. And under the Home tab, you can perform a manual scan by clicking Scan Now. You have the choices of Quick, Full and Custom. A Quick scan is going to check the places where viruses are most likely going to be hidden. The Full scan checks every file and folder on your computer and could take a couple of hours, depending on the size of your hard drive and how full it is. And you can also choose a custom scan to specify particular folders you want to scan. For example, if someone sends you a file attached to an email, you might want to scan that file before opening it.
And that actually leads me to another important point about keeping your computer protected. You have to play an active role as well and you shouldn't just rely on antivirus software. Antivirus software attempts to catch malware once it has already gotten onto your computer. By being vigilant you can take steps to prevent malware from getting into your system in the first place. First of all, never open files or click links attached to emails from people you don't know. Often times, these will take you directly to malicious web sites that may attempt to install malware on your system. And if an email seem suspicious, don't forward it to other people, especially people who might not be aware of how to protect themselves from viruses or malware.
By forwarding emails, you're doing exactly what the virus creators want you to do, spreading the virus. When you're browsing the web, don't click the links to any pop-ups ads that appear. Again, these can start the process of installing malware. And when it comes to installing software, ask yourself if it's coming from a reputable source. There's a lot of great free software out there, but free software can also often carry malicious code. So do your research, see if anyone else you know has used the software you're thinking of downloading. See if you can find out anything about the software somewhere other than the web site you're thinking of downloading it from. And just like any other parts of life, if something is too good to be true, it probably is.
Offers of free money and huge discounts on products often lead to viruses. So, those are just some things to keep in mind concerning keeping your computer and your information protected. You can find out more information on the Microsoft Security Essential site we looked at earlier, and if you're on an office or school network, you can also contact your network administrator to see what security measures they have in place, and what, if any, specific settings you should apply to your own computer.
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