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Despite your best efforts to prevent a virus or worm infection, sometimes one slips through the cracks. Perhaps you were in a rush to try this new program that you downloaded, or weren’t careful while reading your e-mail. Regardless, it just takes one misstep to launch malicious code. Of course, you may incidentally download an infected file but never run it. In this case, the virus or worm remains dormant on your system until someone runs it. Either way, you don’t want viruses in your computer whether they’re active or not, so you’re going to have to remove them.
The only way to remove a virus is to first detect it. The only way to detect a virus is to embark on a virus scan. As the logic follows, you’ll have to download or purchase a virus scanner in order to do this. Of the major anti-virus developers I recommend either Norton Anti-Virus or McAfee virus scan. Though there are free scanners out there, the paid ones have more frequent updates.
Virus scanners have two main components: the scanning algorithm and its virus definitions. The scanning algorithm determines how fast a virus scanner can do a sweep of your computer, how accurate it is in detecting viruses from the definition file, and whether or not it can predict the presence of new viruses that have not yet been identified. You should always look into the scan settings to optimize the scanning process. By default, most scanners are set to scan EVERY file on your computer. If you have a lot of programs, games, music, and movies, this could take as much as 30 minutes to an hour! You can speed the scan time up by restricting the scan to executable files with certain extensions. This is the best way to speed up a scan by over 50% since most files on a computer are not executable (and hence not susceptible to virus hosting).
The virus definition file is the scanner’s database of virus characteristics, codes, and patterns. If a file that is scanned meets a certain criteria as set out by the definition files, then it will be marked as infected and the scanner will attempt to scrub out the malicious code. If the file cannot be cleaned (and this is often the case for more advanced viruses) the file will be moved to a ’quarantine’ where it will not be allowed to run. From there, you will usually have to delete the file and re-install whatever software it was associated with.
If you’re running a real-time scanner, you won’t have to choose any options, as it will handle things automatically. Most real-time protection scanners run regularly schedule virus scans in addition to scanning every file that is created on your system by downloading, installation of software, or incoming e-mail attachments.