Computer Viruses, How to Detect, Remove and Prevent Them

by : Derick Nigro

Today I want to talk a little about the dreaded computer virus. The goal of this article is to teach you, the home user, the fundamental skills needed to help detect, remove, and most importantly prevent viruses from infecting your computer. As the owner of a computer consulting business, I have seen 1st hand how much damage computer viruses can do. To help protect yourself from a virus attack, it will be necessary to understand exactly what a virus is. A virus is essentially a software program designed with malicious intentions, to copy itself and spread from one computer to another. What makes a virus so dangerous is what they are designed to do.

A virus, once installed on your computer, can easily corrupt or delete data from your computer. This can be anything from your latest Word document to the irreplaceable pictures of your loved ones. We will get into exactly what a virus can do later in this article. Now that you have an idea of what a virus is and what it can do to your computer, lets discuss how your computer gets infected. I have heard countless times from people, " But I did not open any email attachments, how can I be infected?" While it is true that a majority of viruses are hidden within email attachments, they can also be downloaded into our computers in the form of images, videos, or even instant messages. I have personally removed a virus from Cd's, jump drives, and floppy disks.

Lets talk about ways to help protect your computer from viruses. To protect your computer from these threats it is vital that you have an anti virus program installed and up to date. I have seen many times in the field computers that have anti virus programs but still are infected with a virus. Let me point out that not all anti virus programs are equal. I will not discuss in this article which anti virus program you should or should not use however email me and I will be happy to help you in that aspect. Your anti virus program will do you little good if you do not keep your definitions up to date. New virus are being identified all the time so it is vital to keep your anti virus program up to date on the latest threats. Another proven method is to use a firewall.

A firewall is essentially software or hardware that is designed to filter out information that is being sent to or from your computer. Think of a firewall as a Guard at the end of your driveway, before anyone enters your home they must first pass a set of rules or security checks you have given before they are allowed to enter your home. Some of the software-based firewalls include Norton Internet Security, Zone Alarm and Trend Micro. You may be using a hardware firewall and not even know it. If you have a LAN (Local area network) then chances are you have a router of some kind. Most routers come built in with a firewall, which is very effective at protecting your computer from viruses. Another technique used to help prevent viruses is to keep your computer up to date. If you are using a windows based PC, check Windows Update often for any security patches that are released.

Do not open email attachments if you do not know the sender, this is asking for trouble. Lets move on to identifying infected computers. As a PC technician, it is my responsibility to quickly identify the signs of virus infections. Computers with virus infections will often show some of the following symptoms. Please note, that the issues listed below may be caused by several problems, such as spyware, and are not specific to viruses. Your computer may be slow to start or shut down. You may be missing data on your hard drive or, in worst case scenarios, lose all data on the drive. You may experience strange error messages or you computer will shut down unexpectedly. Your fonts may be distorted and overlap or you may experience difficulties in printing.

These are just some examples of the harm viruses can do. Now the most difficult part, removal. This is a topic worthy of its own article as there are many different procedures in virus removal. I will discuss with you the very basics. If you think you are the victim of a virus do a thorough scan of your computer. It may also be beneficial if you scan your hard drive while in safe mode. This is usually accomplished by tapping F8 at start up, but refer to your computer's manual for instructions to be certain.

If you do not have an anti virus program, first thing to do is get one! In the meantime you may use the services of an online virus removal tool. Many of the popular anti virus programs offer this service. My intent of this article was to help inform you of the dangers virus threats can pose, as well as giving you the knowledge to help detect, remove and prevent these threats. I hope I have accomplished this, and you can walk away after reading this article, feeling more confident of your abilities to protect your computer from virus threats.