Correctly setting up and running an antivirus scan on your computer is one of the best starting defenses for keeping your system free of malicious software. In these days of widespread malware — email viruses and dubious websites that can infect your computer — a strong defense begins with selecting an antivirus solution for your computer and understanding how to get the most out of it.
What a Virus Scan Does
A good antivirus product has tools that will help you to schedule a time for a regular virus scan to take place automatically. It will monitor your system and check for viruses introduced by email attachments or through your browser actions, like when you click on links for downloading. It will create log reports that will give you information about what it has found, and if possible, it will attempt to repair any damage that the virus has done. A comprehensive antivirus protection product will automatically download and install the latest virus definitions prior to executing a scan, ensuring that you are protected from all currently known Internet threats. This proactive protection helps by recognizing malicious behaviors that may signal an attempt to infect your computer, and neutralizes them from the start.
Tips for Running a Virus Scan
One of the current problems with malware is its persistence. In the old days, computer viruses and malware were "one and done," meaning that they were discovered, cleaned up, and then you were done with it. Modern-day malware is persistent, capable of hiding in registries or startup services, and capable of reinfecting the computer on reboot if the malware isn't completely eradicated. So part of running a scan is being prepared for persistent malware and understanding how best to combat it. With that in mind, here are some tips to consider:
Begin by backing up your computer files. It's good practice to run a regularly scheduled backup so that in the event that you do pick up a particularly destructive virus, you may have a clean foundation to roll back to. That said, you should always clean your backup files by running an antivirus scan before restoring any file.
If you are evaluating antivirus options, you can start by downloading free antivirus trial software. A free trial can give you sufficient time to become familiar with the tools and level of protection offered by the product.
Before installation, execute a critical scan of major system components like the registry and startup services. If a problem is found, follow all steps to completely remove the problem before attempting to complete the installation of the antivirus software. If the computer is already compromised, many antivirus products won't be able to be installed or updated until the malware is removed completely. The best programs scan critical-system components at the time of initial download and remove any malware prior to installing the software.
Be prepared to turn off Internet connectivity if you have been compromised. This will prevent any malware on your computer from communicating to a remote system that could further disrupt your computer.
Once you have an uncompromised, pristine system, completely install your chosen antivirus software. Verify that all security updates are downloaded, and execute a full virus scan. This will scan hard drives, removable media, system memory, email and the like for viruses.
Before restoring any data from backup, clean them first by executing a virus scan.
Be sure to manage your settings. Don't stop at a single full scan — set up future automatic virus scans. It's important to maintain a schedule of routine scans to ensure your computer is always protected.
Periodically review scan reports. It's easy to skip reading the results of a scan, but the reports are a good source of information about vulnerability and viruses. Follow any instructions given for dealing with or removing quarantined items.
Keeping your computer protected from viruses and malware maintains the integrity of your system and prevents you from unknowingly infecting other systems. A good antivirus solution is a small price to pay to safeguard what you've invested in your computer.