Antivirus Software

How Does Antivirus Software Work?

The only true way to protect your computer from viruses is to run antivirus software on your computer. Since many times viruses will attach themselves to other host applications, or contain file names that look completely appropriate, it is impossible to scan for viruses yourself, without the aid of a specific antivirus software program.

There are two principal ways that antivirus software works. All antivirus programs have lists built into them of specific software programs known to be viral in nature. Whenever software comes onto the computer, whether from the internet, a cd, dvd, or anything else, this software is scanned to see if it contains any known viruses. Think of this like the x-ray machine at the airport. If the program sees something it recognizes as a virus, it quarantines the file, and alerts you to its presence. The second way is, when you run a scan for viruses on your computer, the antivirus software compares all the programs and files on your computer to previously saved templates of themselves. What this means is simple. Let’s say that you’re scanning your computer’s hard drive for viruses and it comes to the application “Microsoft Word”. Your antivirus program has in its memory a snapshot of what “Microsoft Word” should look like – it should be this big and contain these particular types of files. If a computer virus has imbedded itself in this particular program, it will show up as an anomaly in the program and be targeted for elimination by the software.

While there are several available programs that will scan your computer, there are two main ones that stand out as the best and most widely used: Norton Antivirus, www.symantec.com – and McAffe Internet Security, www.mcaffee.com. These two programs stand out as currently the best and most widely used in the computer industry. However, they are by no means the only ones, and many other antivirus software programs are available. Some computer experts actually recommend running side-by-side antivirus programs to ensure that at least one of the programs will catch the virus.

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