How To Protect Your Computer From Infection For Free [Windows]

Getting a virus on a Windows machine today is very easy to do but there are some things you can do in order to help reduce the risk of getting infected whilst online.

I’ve been using Windows in one form or another since Windows 1995 and in that time I can’t remember a single time were I have had a significant infection on any of my machines. That’s great huh? But you want to know the best thing about it…I’ve never bought a single piece of Anti-Virus software in my life. McAfee – no thanks, Norton – maybe next time, Kaspersky – I’ll keep my cash thanks.

In this article I’m going to tell you how to keep your Windows machine as safe as possible whilst your online. Disclaimer - I’m not saying that following these steps will prevent virus’ all together. What I am saying is that if you follow these steps, you will be far more protected than your average ‘Joe user’.

Anti-Virus

Anti-virus (AV for short) is probably the single most important piece of software on any Windows machine (in my humble opinion of course). If I’m ever doing a build for someone, AV is always the very first application I install and update on the device.

There are numerous paid for and free AV packages available and whilst the paid for versions are fine, I don’t think they offer up any notable protection over their free counterparts. Personally I tend to stick with either Avast free edition or Microsoft Security Essentials. Avast is free for personal use and MSE can be used for business as long as your company has fewer than 10 machines.

Tip: If you’re going to use Avast free, make sure you turn the sound off in the settings menu as they’re very annoying!

So we have our AV installed, what now? There are two important things that you need to remember to keep your AV running smoothly, these are:

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  • Always make sure that your AV is fully up to date.
  • Run regular scans.
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Updating your AV is very simple, generally all you need to do is right click on the little icon by your clock and select “Update”. Most AV programs will complain and give you a popup if there is an update available - do not ignore these popups. I know they can be annoying but it’s extremely important to stay up to update.

Scanning is done in much the same way as updating but you can also schedule your AV program to run regular scans on your machine. AV programs do have a live scanner that scans files as they are accessed, but some items can be missed. Scheduling regular scans of your hard drive means that these files that slip through the net are captured. Personally, I schedule mine for a Monday morning at 02:00 am. I just make sure I keep my machine tuned on over night on a Sunday.

Anti-Malware/Spyware

Malware & Spyware are different than virus’ they tend to do annoying things like give you fake AV popups and change your wallpaper. But they can also be malicious and get things from your computer like passwords or text as you type it in like credit card and address details.

The free AV tools above (and most paid for ones) don’t really handle Malware & Spyware all that well. For this I would recommend a free tool called Super Anti Spyware (SAS) free edition. Like AV you can schedule regular scans and it will run in real-time just in case.

As before, it’s essential that you keep SAS up to date and run regular scans. I schedule mine for 04:00 am on a Monday morning. This way it runs after my AV scan and it doesn’t interrupt my working day.

Windows Updates

I can’t stress how important these are. If Microsoft find a vulnerability in Windows then they usually write an update which fills the security hole or problem. Hence the name ‘patch’ because the updates patch holes in Windows.

You can check if Windows Updates are turned on by going to Control Panel > Windows Update. If they are not on then I suggest you turn them on and run updates right now. As with AV and malware scans, Windows updates can be scheduled to run regularly. Yes, you guessed it – mine run on a Monday evening.

Windows Updates can be very annoying asking you to reboot your machine when they have been installed or, at times just restarting your machine all by itself. Unfortunately this is a necessary evil if you want to keep your machine in tip top condition and protected against infection.

Conclusion

Computers can become infected very easily but running some simple scans on a regular basis can prevent this from happening. Unfortunately this can have annoying side effects like prompts for updates and reboots but I’m sure you would rather that than your machine getting infected and possibly losing all of your personal data.

There are of course other options like Ubuntu that replace Windows and are a lot less likely to be hit by infection, in fact, I don’t even run AV or anti-malware on my Ubuntu machines. But scheduling regular scans when you’re tucked up in bed are a good way to reduce the hassle in looking after your computer.

Think of it this way – if you don’t service your car regularly then you wouldn’t expect to get as much life out of it would you? The same thing applies to your computer. If you look after your machine then it will serve you for many, many years to come.

How To Protect Your Computer From Infection For Free [Windows]
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  • wont matter

    it will still get viruses and malware, it’s windows.

    • http://www.refugeeks.com/ Kev Quirk

      Whilst no machine is 100% fool proof when it comes to infection these steps will help to prevent the likelihood of infection.