Malware (viruses, Trojans, spyware, worms) is one of the Internet’s, and your computer’s, worst afflictions. It causes millions of dollars worth of damage every year. To limit the damage to Windows-based systems, Microsoft has developed the Malicious Software Removal Tool. When Windows Update is enabled on your computer, it downloads automatically. However, you must not use it as a replacement for an anti-virus program. Microsoft’s tool is meant to seek out specific threats only, so you must have a trustworthy anti-virus program in place to protect your computer’s entire system. Microsoft updates the Malicious Software Removal Tool each month.
If you have disabled Windows Update, you can still download the Microsoft tool to run as a separate program. It will then scan your computer in the background as you work. If it finds any malware, it will remove the threats and report it to Microsoft. If you don’t want to report to Microsoft, you can disable the reporting function.
When a computer is affected by malware, the consequences can be very obvious and bothersome. Internet connections become sluggish and the computer can slow down significantly. Internet searches are often sent to irrelevant web pages and pop up ads for anti-virus programs are common. Spyware can even trawl your computer for passwords and bank account numbers.
Your anti-virus program will eradicate most malware, but only if you keep the program up to date. Regular updates to your protection programs are the only way to keep pace with new malware that turns up repeatedly on the Internet. Outdated anti-virus programs are useless in identifying new malware.
Online scanners are another way to check your computer for malware. However, use them with caution, as some of the scanners are bogus, especially the free ones. Bogus scanners alert you to false malware and recommend that you download their anti-virus program, which then turns out to be a virus itself! Be very certain that the scanner is trustworthy before using it, doing just a few google searches will tell you what you need to know.
If you have installed a few anti-virus programs, run them one at a time. Running more than one at a time can cause them to return errors and will slow down your computer and Internet connections considerably. On the other hand, it is a good idea to scan your computer with more than one anti-virus program, just not at the same time. Where one program may miss a threat, another one will find it.
Regularly scan your computer’s entire system. I prefer to run scans overnight because they slow down your computer and may take awhile. If only part of your computer system appears to be infected, you can scan the suspect part only. If you’re using a free program, check that it eliminates the malware it has identified. Some of these free programs will identify the threats but require you to buy the program in order for it to remove the infection. In my opinion these particular programs should be deleted and replaced by programs that have full functionality.
Read more here: The Basics of Virus and Malware Protection