Anti-Virus Software

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Anti-Virus Software

Anti-virus software indentifies and removes viruses from computers and networks. Anti-virus software can also scan for malware and spyware, which are programs that impair security, functionality, and speed. Spyware, malware, and viruses can infiltrate systems automatically. You might not even know how badly unwanted programs are cluttering your system. Anti-virus software works around the clock to alert you of problems, block unwanted files, and keep your system clean.

Viruses are deceptive. They might be embedded in a picture or music file, or they may come as an e-mail attachment as an executable (.exe) file. The Internet has sped up the rate at which viruses infiltrate consumers' computers.

Anti-virus software is available for both personal and business users. Some high quality programs are also available for free.

Free Downloads

It is important to choose an anti-virus program that is reliable and high quality. For the most part, software is relatively expensive and involves subscription fees. For some consumers, the fees are worthwhile. Businesses especially must trust their network security infrastructure.

At the same time, businesses and consumers need to save money, and it is sometimes difficult to justify the high cost of an anti-virus package. When considering a subscription, be sure to take advantage of free trial offers before enrolling.

There are many reputable free applications that can help keep your computer or small network safe, regardless of whether you are a residential or small business consumer. Some guides even recommend using multiple anti-virus protection packages since no one program is always comprehensive.  

When you research free software, it is important that you have an eye for scams and viruses. Some viruses actually mask themselves as anti-virus programs. The following guides provide tips to get you started on a productive search for anti-virus software:

  • McAfee is a company that sells subscriptions to virus scanning software. McAfee has a team that is constantly working on discovering new viruses and improving products. McAfee offers plans for total protection for three personal computers, complete protection for home networks, and online backup storage. Subscriptions last for a year and can range in cost between $60 and $100 annually. McAfee offers free trials of many of its home products. Download the product for free, and try out unlimited featured for 30 days. If you like the program, you can sign up for a subscription package.
  • AVG anti-virus is available for free download. There is a paid version, but the free version is sufficient for basic home needs. AVG's free edition is always free, so you will never have to pay a subscription fee. Home users can use the software without limitations.
  • Avast! Home Edition is available for free download and non-commercial use. The program also comes with spyware protection. The program also has P2P and instant messaging protection.
  • ClamWin is an anti-virus package that is released under an open source license. It is available for residential and commercial use. It is important to note that with ClamWin, the user needs to manually scan files. There is no option for automatic or real-time scanning.


Anti-virus programs scan everything on your computer and network. When you install an anti-virus program, the software will automatically update what is called a virus "definition," which is a list of all viruses in existence. Anti-virus companies spend significant time researching viruses that have been and are likely to be developed. Most virus protection software companies including Trend Micro, McAfee, Norton and Symantec update their virus definitions on a daily or weekly basis. As soon as your software downloads the latest definition, your system will undergo a scan.

Anti-virus programs examine all files on your computers from document files to image files to registry entries to small pockets of data. The anti-virus scan can identify all possible patterns of programs that can cause problems. Once the scanner identifies a threat, it will either delete or quarantine a file. You have significant control over how your virus scanner treats infected files.

How It Works

Normally, virus protection programs detect malicious software based on patterns and what is called a "virus signature," which is a snippet of program code is essential for a virus to function. Anti-virus programs search files in whole and in pieces for signatures. Anti-virus programs must constantly update the virus signature files to keep their programs running properly, because new viruses appear daily. Some virus authors get around signature detection by encrypting the viral code to disguise it as normal code, which is sometimes effective against certain virus protection programs.

Another monitoring technique is file emulation. The virus scanner will execute a file and then monitor how the system reacts to that file. If something appears damaged, it is flagged as containing a virus.


Reputable anti-virus companies include Trend Micro, Bit Defender, Webroot, and AVG. Make sure that you research the reputation of your virus scanners. In many cases, spyware, malware, and viruses disguise themselves as anti-virus scanners.Trend Micro, Bit Defender, Webroot, and AVG. Make sure that you research the reputation of your virus scanners. In many cases, spyware, malware, and viruses disguise themselves as anti-virus scanners.

Last Updated: December 28, 2011
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