Pin Me

A Beginner's Guide to Antivirus for Windows

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Brian Nelson•updated: 12/30/2008

Antiviruses are now a staple of Windows computers - but why is it that your favorite little PC friend needs so much protection? Find out inside.

  • slide 1 of 1

    To Catch a Virus

    Viruses used to be a small part of what computers were all about - but in the modern Internet landscape, viruses are what it's all about. Companies shell out millions upon millions of dollars to combat these threats to our civilized way of life. We, as a consumer base spend up to $80 every year just to protect ourselves from viruses. But why? And what are your best choices for protection?

    First of all, a virus is a particularly malignant program that tries to subvert the activities of your PC. A virus sneaks in when you least expect it and wreaks havoc on your PC's most important components - much like a Gremlin gone bad. A good antivirus program makes sure that only you are the one changing anything on your computer.

    Which brings me to an important point: how did the virus get in in the first place? There are a few key ways, but in my travels I've found that people receive viruses either via email (typically an attachment that should've never been opened), or via Internet (typically a link that should've never been clicked). Therefore, a good firewall can prevent the virus from getting word back home that it's successfully made it into your PC.

    PC's are particularly susceptible to viruses when not protected by an antivirus software or when using the default Internet Explorer 7 browser. I've outlined three things you need to do in order to protect your computer from viruses before installing that antivirus.

    1. Ditch Internet Explorer

    Not only is this program slowing you down when surfing the net, but it's full of security holes - leading some to call it the swiss cheese of Internet browsers. My personal recommendation is Google Chrome, as it has shown me the fastest speeds of any browser I've tried. Of course, others have great luck with Mozilla Firefox, or even Opera. It's up to you to know which browser suits your needs best.

    2. Install an Anti-Spyware Program

    Two Words: CCleaner and Spybot. Install those two, update them, and start running them. You'll be surprised.

    3. Install a Firewall

    Arguably more important than the antivirus software is the firewall. It stops many virus programs dead in their tracks - unable to access the Internet, the virus will have a hard time downloading more junk into your computer. Of course, even with a firewall, it's advised that once you contract a PC virus, you go ahead and unplug your computer from the Internet, at least until the problem is solved.

    And there you have it. Now, for my two picks for best paid and free antivirus softwares:

    Top Paid Antivirus Software - NOD32

    For many years, I used F-Secure, an antivirus program that was incredibly good, but also a little on the big side. If there's one thing I've learned in my many years of PC maintenance it is that software should be as small as possible. The smaller the software, the more likely it is that it'll run well and not give you problems. Such is the case with NOD32. System startup isn't slowed down, it detects viruses fast, and it runs silently in the background. Virus definitions are updated daily and it only costs $40 per year - a worthwhile investment if there ever was one.

    Top Free Antivirus Software - AVG Antivirus

    Until recently, I thought that free antivirus softwares were complete nonsense. After all, who really cares about your protection if they're giving you the software for free? Turns out the fine people at AVG and Avast! do - I however, prefer AVG for its no-nonsense interface and for the mere fact that I'm getting free antivirus protection with updates daily. After all, it's very rare that you get a free lunch in this life.

    Follow these guidelines, download an antivirus software and be cautious and I guarantee you'll see your computer running better and faster than ever before.