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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Anti-virus Software and You

Okay, so we all know by now (one would hope) to have a good, solid anti-virus program installed on your computer, whether you use a MAC (heaven forbid!  Just kidding!) or a PC.  If anyone has taken the time to read up on reports throughout the tech world, you'll know that hundreds of viruses are created every day that can have devastating impacts on your computer, and your wallet.  As a computer tech, I know the risks involved not having in place a software program to protect my PC, so I make sure to have one installed and active at all times.

Some people have asked me repeatedly what good antivirus programs they should use.  Naturally, I tell them what I use, and people seem to go with it.  Is that enough, though?  Are you asking the right questions to your computer technician when it comes to your computer?  The average person will settle for something that is "out-of-the-way" at a reasonable cost, and does its own updating on its virus definitions/database.  For the advanced users, like myself, we tend to go with products that allow for more control, flexibility, and above all reliability.  If the antivirus program doesn't detect things that could harm our computer, we don't want it.  That's numero uno on our list!

There are many good programs to use out there on the web. Some are free to use, and some have a try-then-buy string attached. Whatever you decide on using, there are some good ideas to keep in mind before using a new antivirus program, or switching your existing program for another.  What I'd like to do is go over some brief points to consider.  Please keep in mind these are guidelines.

1) Price - I'm sure most of us will agree that price is usually at the top of anyone's list.  Obviously, we'd all like our software to be free, but free isn't always effective.  After shopping online and in stores, I've found that most antivirus programs are between $25-$50 depending on where you shop.  Some of them are really reasonable, and offer relatively good protection.  There are a few that, even after purchasing, you have to purchase a separate subscription to get updates.  So it's up to you how far you are willing to go to protect your computer.

2) Features - A lot of programs offering antivirus protection also offer many side-benefits such as anti-spyware, malware protection, etc.  Some are packaged as a suite of security products that include a firewall, parental controls, and it just goes on.  This is where you should write down what your computer needs and compare those needs to what features are offered.  Obviously, if you are single and have no kids, you really don't need parental controls, unless you're that much of a control-freak that you have to control your own movements. 

3) Reviews - These can be both good and bad.  It should be noted that not all reviews are created equal, so do your own research, and read carefully what these reviews tell you.  Maybe what one person experienced won't apply to you, or maybe it will.  It's almost like movie reviews.  Sometimes, critics will rave about a movie that you absolutely hated, but give poor marks to a movie you simply loved, and would see again and again.  My advice is to never go off of reviews alone, even professional reviews.  In my view, reviews are just biased ways of altering the public's perception of a product, regardless of the intent.  I've even read some that go as far as to bash a program-maker, i.e. McAfee, Norton, Microsoft, Avast, etc.  I know, they don't go and outright bash those companies, but if you read carefully the reviews, it can be more obvious than a turd in a punch-bowl.

4) Simplicity or Complexity - This is sort of related to number two.  Do you want a simple program to just locate, quarantine and destroy unsanitary files, or do you enjoy fiddling with settings like an amateur advanced user?  For some, a simple yet effective program is all they need for their computer's protection needs.  Others want a more advanced, fully-featured, complex program where they can actually manipulate how the program behaves when a virus or other potentially harmful file is found.

I could go on and on about some of the other guidelines, but these are the four core ideas.  When asking a tech to give you a recommended product, make sure they know what you use your computer for.  An obvious thing would be to avoid telling the tech how much you love internet porn!  Yes, believe it or not, I've heard that one unfortunately.  Also, let the tech know if you have children who will be accessing the computer as well, since this could mean the difference between your computer running smoothly, and the kids downloading something... errr... not-so-safe.

Just a little note from me (the author), I've used many different antivirus programs over the years, and one thing that I can say is that there's always going to be an anti-virus program that seems bigger, better, and more advanced than the last, but remember that all good things do come to an end.  I can't begin to count how many times I've had to switch my anti-virus program because it became outdated very quickly.

Again, don't just go off of what the tech tells you.  Do your own research, and find out what program is best for you.  Remember that cheap isn't always a good deal, and all the fancy features aren't for everyone.  My best advice would be to talk with tech friends who have experience with such dilemmas, and ask them what their best anti-virus experience was. 

Have a comment? Suggestion? A topic you'd like to have discussed on my blog? Email me at And if I don't know the answer, I'll post up information on who to ask, where to go, or what to do to get your answer. :) Until then, have a great day, and I hope you've enjoyed reading my computer tips so far!