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Viruses are a massive nuisance. At best they disrupt or slow down the use of your computer, and at worst steal or corrupt your data. It is important to remain vigilant in keeping your computer secure from these threats. What follows are basic essential steps to take to maintain a high level of security for your computer.
Microsoft regularly provides updates for Windows and its other software, such as Microsoft Office, to not only fix issues, but also to block security holes that can be exploited by viruses or hackers.
These updates are mostly done automatically but you should be vigilant and check that they have been carried out.
For Windows XP Users In Internet Explorer select "Tools" then "Windows Update". This takes you to the Windows update website. Install any software that it asks of you and then you get the options for "Express" or "Custom" setup. Express setup will give you the simplest solution to update every important update, whilst "Custom" you can choose which updates and add some recommended updates too.
For Windows 7 or Vista users Go to Control Panel which should be in the start menu. Select "System and Security" followed by "Windows Update". If you have any updates waiting for you it will have the option to "Install updates". If it doesn't, click on "Check for updates" then if necessary install any new important updates.
Try and have the latest Anti-Virus Program. Do not just renew your subscription to your antivirus and keep using the outdated software. Since you are technically paying for the license, it will cost the same to get the new version of the Antivirus.
So try and update the program to the latest version (i.e. currently 2012) as that is the one that works best against the current crop of bugs and hackers.
If you have bought a 2010 Anti-Virus and you still have a few months to go, most companies allow you to use that same code and use up your remaining time on the new 2012 version.
Keep your Anti-Virus program updated
Don't rely on the automatic updates. Open the Anti-Virus program, check when the last update was performed and if necessary check for updates manually. Make sure the program and the virus definitions are both constantly updated.
Try to keep all your software updated
Every program nowadays has an online connection, which can mean a gateway for spyware adware etc to get in.
This is mostly true for browsers. So make sure you have the latest version of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome or safari installed.
Microsoft Office is a program that also needs regular updates. These can be checked alongside the Windows updates mentioned above.
Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) is a utility that can check which programs you have on your computer that need updating.
Don't click on links sent to you by e-mail
Even if you receive an e-mail from a friend or what looks like your bank, or facebook try and avoid clicking on the link in that e-mail as this is a common way for malicious website to hook you in. Go through the browser, and type in the websites name in directly.
Avoid the obvious "warez" sites, adult sites, piracy sites and file sharing sites. Any website where you get a continuous number of pop up pages on any link you press or is generally bad and should be avoided.
Always research any programs you wish to install. Do not install a program just because it appears to suit your needs. If it is a good program there will be many reviews and recommendations.
Avoid clicking on pop up advertisements. If you're careful and you know the website is legitimate then it can be okay, but a lot of the time they're not and are to be avoided. Specifically ones that say they will improve your computer. Avoid installation of all registry repair software, at best it's pretty useless, and at worse a waste of money and a trojan virus.
If you get a windows pop up that looks like it's scanning your hard drive for viruses or errors, yet you have never seen this program before close it instantly. Do not click on anything else. If it refuses to close, bring up task manager by pressing "Ctrl+Shift+Esc", select the dodgy program in the Applications list and click on "End Process". Run a virus scan to make sure nothing leaked in.
Most antivirus programs have a scheduler that will schedule a regular scan of your computer. Make sure this is enabled, and check regularly to see if it has been run.
Plus follow the steps in our Virus removal guide even if it doesn't appear that you have a virus. This will make sure that your system is completely clean.
IT Consultant based in Central London