Anti-virus software is almost as important as a firewall. While you may be able to avoid most computer viruses, Trojans, and other forms of malware through careful Web surfing habits, the truth is sometimes things slip through. All it takes is one mistake for you to end up with an infected computer. A robust anti-virus program can help keep your computer safe.
Anti-virus software isolates and neutralizes malware. Most anti-virus software searches for viruses by comparing the applications on your computer against a huge database of malware. If something matches, the software alerts the user and attempts to neutralize the program. For anti-virus software to remain effective, it's important that you keep it up to date. Many programs have an auto-update feature that will download new virus definitions on a weekly basis.
Many of these programs have active scan modes that will help you keep an eye on your computer in real time. Others may require you to set up a scanning schedule or run a scan manually. It's a good idea to run scans on a regular basis - at least once a week.
Other useful applications to look into are anti-spyware or anti-adware programs. Like anti-virus software, these programs search your computer for applications that can affect your network's security. Spyware and adware can track your online activities and send information to another computer. While they sound similar, these programs don't necessarily perform the same function as standard anti-virus software, though they are often bundled together as part of a standard security suite.
There are dozens of different anti-virus software products available to buy. Each program has its own strengths and weaknesses; some even get better or worse over time. As with any product, we recommend shopping around and doing some quick research. Some of the more popular programs include:
Most of these products will cost between $18/mo and $50/mo, depending on extra added features. If this does not fit within your budget, don't worry, most of the listed programs offer a basic anti-virus product for free. For Windows users, Windows provides Windows Defender. This program was originally introduced as an anti-spyware program in Windows XP, but over time, it enveloped Microsoft Security Essentials and now functions as a stand-alone multi-function product.
While no product is perfect, it's always better to have at least some level of basic anti-virus protection rather than no anti-virus protection.