How Antivirus Software Works and What it Does

Jan 16 00:36 2005 Eric Koshinsky Print This Article

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How Antivirus Software Works and What It Does
Eric Koshinsky
http://www.antivirus-report.com

Antivirus software is essential on any computer that is connected to the internet or has multiple users who use floppies or other removable media on a regular basis. While most decent antivirus software is not really all that complicated, it certainly can’t hurt to have a clearer understanding of how they work, and what they do for you behind the scenes to keep your PC clean and safe.

Antivirus software works by checking files, programs, emails and disks for viruses, worms and Trojans, and more recently, spyware. What it is actually doing is comparing what it finds with a list of known viruses – this list is a virus file or virus definitions file. The software will unpack files to look at and check them, and it then repacks them if they are safe. If the files contain viruses they will be destroyed or placed in a quarantine zone. Most antivirus software will also attempt to repair any files that have been damaged by a virus.

If you have antivirus software, you will (hopefully) keep it updated, or set the program to auto-update. When the update takes place what it’s actually doing is updating the virus file so it knows what to look for when scanning. This is why the update is essential – without it the antivirus software won’t be sure what it’s looking at! Some of the best packages also look for the suspicious behavior that’s associated with viruses, so there is some additional protection against unknown viruses.

Most antivirus software works in the background (i.e. you barely notice it when you’re using your computer). What it’s doing however is scanning all the activity on your computer. Some software packages also automatically check downloaded files for viruses, and virus-check your incoming and outgoing E-mail. When a virus is found, it is often removed automatically, without interrupting your work.

There are a number of companies that provide software solutions to virus, Trojan, and internet worm attacks. It can be really confusing when you compare three different software packages from five different companies trying to find the one that is right for you. With that in mind, there are several very important things that you need to consider when choosing antivirus software:

1)How often and how fast are the virus definitions updated. You want the answer to be “As soon as a new threat is found”.
2)Are the virus definitions updated automatically by the software? You want the answer to be “YES”.
3)Can you configure the software to check for updates every time you go online? You want the answer to be “YES”.
4)Is the software “smart” so that it can find viruses it doesn’t even know about yet? You want the answer to be “YES”.
5)Can it scan incoming and outgoing email automatically? You want the answer to be “YES”
6)Can you configure it once to perform automatic scans of your entire computer on a regular schedule? You want the answer to be “YES”.
7)Does it provide a way to ‘clean out’ any viruses etc. that are found? You want the answer to be “YES”.
8)Are upgrades to the software package performed automatically, regularly, and at no cost? You want the answer to be “YES”.

Understanding the basics of antivirus software should help you understand why you need it, why you need it kept up to date and give you some clues about how to check you are buying or have a good package. You probably want something that makes the whole task as easy as possible – that usually means automating everything. It’s usually a good idea to add a bit of personal knowledge to the mix. Knowing what your software does helps you know what you should do!

To learn more about effective, easy to afford and use PC protection tools, visit http://www.antivirus-report.com

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About the author:
Eric Koshinsky created the layman’s guide to antivirus and PC protection after helping too many people deal with simple PC problems. Find out exactly how to protect your computer from harmful internet attacks at http://www.antivirus-report.com. The comprehensive antivirus report is available at no cost. Find out how to block trojan horses, spyware, computer viruses, and other malicious software quickly and easily in one place.
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About Article Author

Eric Koshinsky
Eric Koshinsky

Eric Koshinsky created the layman’s guide to antivirus and PC protection after helping too many people deal with simple PC problems. Find out exactly how to protect your computer from harmful internet attacks at http://www.antivirus-report.com. The comprehensive antivirus report is available at no cost. Find out how to block trojan horses, spyware, computer viruses, and other malicious software quickly and easily in one place.

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