What does antivirus software do?
Find out all about antivirus software and how it can keep you and your computer safe.
22 May 2019
You must have heard it time and time again, “Make sure to update your antivirus software”, but do you know what it does?
Here’s how it keeps you and your computer safe from any unwanted visitors, and your private details away from prying eyes…
What is a virus?
For us humanoids, a virus is a biological agent that can infect you and make you unwell, and something similar can be said for computers (minus the biological part). For a computer, a virus is a piece of malicious code that can copy itself, usually with a detrimental effect to the machine.
There are some malicious people too who want to use viruses to access your private information, so it’s best to make sure you and your computer are protected with some top-notch antivirus software. That doesn’t mean you should go clicking on that ‘You’ve won an iPhone!’ banner though.
What is antivirus software?
Antivirus software is, in a nutshell, designed to detect and remove computer viruses. It scans your files and programs for anything that shouldn’t be there and will let you know if it finds anything, before helping you to get rid of it.
We entrust more and more of our details to our computers and unscrupulous attackers want to try to take advantage of this, but the good news is cybersecurity is tightening. Plus, there’s plenty of premium options when it comes to keeping you and your family’s details safe on and offline.
There are different antivirus software options available depending on the type of computer you have too, so you’ll be able to pick the one that’s perfect to protect you.
What features should I look out for?
It’s important to remember that not all these things are created the same, so here are some of the features that you should keep in mind when choosing the ideal antivirus software.
Make sure it’s compatible
Some packages are only compatible with certain platforms, so you need to make sure the one you choose will work with your computer.
You can protect pretty much all your devices, Windows computers and laptops, Apple Macs and Macbooks, and even your Android or iPhone. Just check you haven’t picked up the Windows version if you have a Mac!
How many devices can you protect?
Some licences will let you protect unlimited devices, while others will be limited – sometimes to just one device. Make sure to check how many devices you can cover using your chosen package.
Are the settings customisable?
Keeping you and your family safe while online is a top priority, so you’ll want to make sure that the package you’re choosing has some settings you can customise, such as inappropriate site blocking and settings time limits.
Then you’ll know that not only is the computer safe from attacks, but the kids won’t come across any inappropriate content.
Does it run automatically?
Some programs will need you to manually run a scan, while others will let you schedule automatic scans. The advantage of running them automatically is that you won’t have to worry about forgetting to do it, so you’re always up-to-date with your scans and nothing will be left vulnerable for too long.
How do I know if I’ve got a virus on my computer?
If you don’t have antivirus software at the moment, here are some signs that your computer might be infected:
Slow start-up or running sluggishly
Most of us have a rough idea of how long our computer takes to boot. Changes could mean something isn’t right, but Windows updates can make boot times longer too, so check that isn’t happening before you panic.
If your computer suddenly slows down or stops responding, it could mean that all the RAM (random access memory – the memory that programs run in) is being used. ‘Task Manager’ can show you which apps are running and using things up.
Apps crashing or freezing
This can include things like apps opening/closing on their own, operating system freezes where you can't do anything at all, and possibly even the dreaded "blue screen of death".
If they only happen occasionally, great, but more regular crashes are usually a sign of trouble brewing. Adding new hardware or software to your computer can also cause the same symptoms though, so if you’ve recently added something new, it might be worth checking that out before you assume the worst.
Hard drive spinning constantly
Your computer’s hard drive can also give you clues. If it keeps spinning when you’re not using the computer or running any apps, you might have an issue. Check your computer isn't doing something like a virus scan or update, but if it happens often, it’s worth a second look.
Watch for free space vanishing from the hard drive too. If you can’t save or download a small file, malware could be filling it with junk to make your system unusable. Get an idea of how much free space there is on your computer by visiting the ‘Storage Settings’.
We’re used to seeing adverts on websites, but if you see them when you’re not browsing too, it could be a sign that something’s wrong.
Pop-up adverts are often the first sign of an infection but can also have more malware inside them, just waiting for a click to install more malware. Sometimes they're just links to websites which pay the virus-maker when they’re clicked, but neither is good for your system.
'Free' software can contain hidden malware in the installer. Take your time reading each screen so you know what you're putting on your computer.
Something just doesn’t look right
Sometimes it’s the little things that can arouse suspicion. New desktop icons appearing from nowhere, toolbars installing themselves onto the taskbar or your browser, and unexpected voices from hidden adverts playing are all clues that your computer might be infected.
Now that you know what to look out for, take a look at our full-range of antivirus software to get one that’s perfect for you.