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Frequently Asked Questions About Antivirus Software

Q.

What is antivirus software?

A.

Antivirus software is a program that either comes installed on your computer or that you purchase and install yourself. It helps protect your computer against most viruses, worms, Trojans, and other unwanted invaders that can make your computer "sick." Viruses, worms, and the like often perform malicious acts, such as deleting files, accessing personal data, or using your computer to attack other computers.


Q.


Why should I use antivirus software?

A.

You can help keep your computer healthy by using antivirus software. Remember to update your antivirus software regularly. These updates are generally available through a subscription from your antivirus vendor.


Q.


How do I tell if I already have antivirus software on my computer?

A.

Check the Programs list on the Start menu and look for an antivirus program. Many major computer manufacturers include at least a trial version of a popular antivirus software package, such as McAfee, Symantec, or Norton. But just because the software is installed, doesn't mean it's "turned on," or being updated regularly.


Q.


What if I don't have antivirus software installed?

A.

If you don't have antivirus software installed, you can get it from one of several companies. The companies below are offering special pricing on popular antivirus packages:

Q.

I already have antivirus software installed, but I want to install an antivirus program from a different company. Can I do that?

A.

If you already have antivirus software installed, but you want to install a new product from a different company, be certain to uninstall your current product before installing the new one. Leaving the previous version installed can cause conflicts on your system.


Q.


How do I keep my antivirus software up to date?

A.

Out-of-date antivirus software means ineffective antivirus software. Antivirus software relies on regular updates to help protect against the latest threats. If you aren't subscribed to these updates, your computer may be vulnerable to attacks by malicious software. Here are some tips for making sure your antivirus software stays current:

  • Purchase an annual subscription from your antivirus software company to make sure your antivirus software stays current and effective. If you have purchased a subscription, most antivirus software will update itself when you are connected to the Internet.
     

  • To ensure your software is up to date, open your antivirus program from the Start menu or the taskbar notification area and look for update status. If you still aren't sure if your antivirus software is up to date, contact your antivirus software provider.


Q.


I want to install a new software program, but the installation process is telling me to turn off my antivirus software. Is that safe?

A.

Sometimes, when you install a new software program, you may need to turn off your antivirus software during installation. Be sure you turn your antivirus software back on again when you are finished.


Q.


I disabled some settings on my antivirus software, and now I'm not sure I should have done that. What are the most important settings to enable?

A.

The following settings should be enabled by default when you install the software and shouldn't be disabled for extended periods of time. If you do have to disable these settings to install a new software program or for any other reason, be sure to re-enable them as soon as possible.

  • "On-access" or "real-time" scanning should be enabled. Disabling this option can leave you vulnerable to threats. An icon should appear in the notification area of the taskbar to indicate that this setting is enabled. If you click the icon, you may see details about your antivirus software settings. (Clicking the icon for your antivirus software in the Programs list on the Start menu should give you the same information.)
     

  • Antivirus software should be set to perform a scheduled scan of your hard disk.
     

  • Antivirus software should be configured to scan e-mail by default.


Q.


Where can I get more information about antivirus software?

A.

Visit the Antivirus Information page on the Microsoft site for more details about antivirus software.



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