Computer viruses are very common, and can quickly spread over the Internet or another network. As the name implies, a virus can be very harmful, and can cause significant problems unless it is stopped. Some viruses steal personal data, which others corrupt files and cause computers to crash. Luckily, there are many different tools available for detecting and eliminating a virus.
Computer Virus Symptoms
In some ways, a computer is similar to a human body. When an infection occurs, signs and symptoms can provide a warning that something is wrong. The most obvious signs of a computer virus are strange changes or unwanted behaviors. Examples of these changes include new programs or popup windows that you do not recognize. Many viruses also cause the computer to begin running slowly, or to crash unexpectedly. A sudden and unexplained slowdown of the device can indicate that malicious programs are active. System error messages are also a good indication of trouble. If any of these symptoms are present, it is a safe idea to assume that a virus may be responsible.
Native Removal Solutions
The first line of defense against a computer virus is generally a native solution. A native solution is a utility that is included with the computer's operating system, or published by the operating system's manufacturer. All types of computers can become infected with a virus. However, the majority of viruses are designed to attack Windows-based systems. For this reason, a native removal solution from Microsoft is often a smart first step. Users who suspect a virus should run the Windows Update utility. This program can be accessed from the Start menu. A search for "Windows Update" from the menu should display the utility. Click "Check for Updates." The latest security updates will be automatically installed onto the computer. Several other native solutions are also available. The Security Essentials package is a free application that can be downloaded from Microsoft. This program runs in the background, and constantly searches for threats. Similarly, Microsoft Safety Scanner is a free solution for on-demand virus scans. Links to both of these solutions are available in the "Resources" section of this article.
Additional Removal Solutions
Additional virus removal solutions may be necessary when a native tool is unable to solve the problem. Several free and low-cost antivirus options exist. These tools can detect many common computer threats, and either eliminate or isolate the offending virus. AVG Antivirus offers both free and premium software. The free version has a five-star rating by the editor's of CNet's Download.com, and is also recommended by PC Magazine. Avast Free Antivirus is another program with a very good reputation, along with a five-star rating. Both AVG and Avast can be set to automatically scan the computer on a set schedule, and can monitor the system for problems. These third-party solutions can be used alongside native utilities to track down and eliminate difficult virus infections.
Once a virus has been detected and removed using a utility, steps should be taken to reduce the chances of another infection. A firewall is always a good idea. This technology creates a virtual barrier between the computer and the Internet. Firewalls monitor and control the connections to outside sources. If an unknown or suspicious connection is made, the firewall can prevent harmful data from being transferred. Most computer operating systems include a firewall. In Windows, users can enable the firewall by clicking the Start button to expand the Start menu and choosing Control Panel. Click "Windows Firewall" and ensure that this feature is active. Reliable antivirus software can be set to run every time the computer starts. Programs such as AVG and Avast can often detect a threat as soon as it appears, and stop an infection from spreading. A reliable antivirus program should be installed on every computer that is connected to the Internet.
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