Most computer users are running computers with a Microsoft Windows operating system. That, all by itself, makes a computer susceptible to a virus or other dangerous or malicious software ("malware").
I'm not trashing Microsoft; I'm stating a fact. Microsoft Windows is so prevalent that it's a target for those that create viruses or other malicious software.
It's common for many computer users to get a virus. The most common reason is a lack of proper protection. That involves not having good, up-to-date security software. It also involves careful computer habits.
It's not always nice to share
Without fail, almost every virus-infected computer I've encountered has, at the time of infection, used a file-sharing service, such as LimeWire or Kazaa. This is not to say that LimeWire is bad. But think of it as alcohol. Some can use it safely. Others can't. Me? I'm a Baptist. No alcohol. And no LimeWire. If you can use alcohol safely, fine. But don't expect sympathy if you get picked up for drunk driving. Likewise, no sympathy if you get a virus while using LimeWire, Kazaa, or other such.
The reason I put so much importance on behavior is: bad behavior can overcome good protection. Consider electricity in your house. If everything is installed properly, you should have no troubles. But using a toaster in the shower is bad behavior, and can result in problems.
The catch with file sharing services is that you may not always know what's good behavior and what's bad behavior. You can learn from experience, of course. I, though, find no use for file sharing, so I can't help with defining good or bad behavior. I consider file sharing bad behavior, and I don't do it. I don't want to hear anything about all the wonderful things you can do with file sharing services. If you want to extoll their virtues, give me your phone number, and when someone using a file sharing service gets a virus, I'll have them call you, so you can help them. Otherwise, I don't want to hear it.
Now that's I've beat that horse to death, let's talk about protective software.
Because of the plethora of viruses for Windows computers, there are many anti-virus solutions available. I've not used them all, but I've found some that I like, and some that I don't like.
I like Norton Anti-Virus. Me and Norton Anti-Virus go back to when Peter Norton actually run the company. It's had some hiccups over the years, related to clunky interfaces. But for protection, it's top-notch. The update process, I've found, isn't the smoothest. It keeps you up to date, certainly, but the background updates can slow down your system during the actual update process. Not much can be done about that. But Norton Anti-Virus is one I have, and would, spend money on.
McAfee Anti-Virus is good, but I don't like it. Oh, it works. Does exactly what it says it'll do: keep your computer safe. But it's hard to remove it. It doesn't like to be removed, the instructions for removal are contradictory, and their customer support people that I've spoken with can't help remove it. Don't get me wrong; I CAN remove it, but it's such a pain.
Why would I want to remove it? Because I'm cheap, and I would use whatever quality anti-virus package was cheapest. If it was time to install or renew a security suite, I'd buy whatever was cheapest. If McAfee, fine. But if a year later, Norton had a special running, it was a pain to remove McAfee to install Norton.
Bottom line on McAfee: good quality protection, horrible interface. I've spent money with them, but don't expect to in the future.
I also like Kaspersky. I've purchased packages with that protection. I've used it, and I have been very happy with it. I have no complaints. None.
I would spend money for their security package, simple as that.
Microsoft Live OneCare
I actually like the Microsoft Live OneCare package, too. What I don't like is that they'll sell you an operating system, then turn around and sell you something so that you can keep your operating system safe. Why they don't include it as part of the operating system is beyond me. Okay, it's not. It's so that they can make money off your decision to use their vulnerable products, rather than make the product less vulnerable.
Still, OneCare s a good product. It has the smoothest interface, in my opinion. And it should, they built the operating system it's designed to work with.
I've spent money for this product, and would again in the future.
The grand-daddy of all free anti-virus packages, AVG is good stuff. It's not the smoothest, it's not the fastest, but it's good. And, I've seen it outperform other packages. And, it's free.
They also have a paid version as part of a complete suite of protection. Is it worth the money? I think so.
There's another free package that I've found to be of good quality: Avast!. They also have a Professional Edition that is reasonably priced and has a few extra features, including a better interface and the ability to schedule tasks, among other features.
I like Avast! Simple as that.
There are other packages, to be sure. I do NOT recommend the CA package. It actually buggered up my computer. Others' computers, too.
There are many others that I haven't used: BitDefender, F-Secure, Panda, TrendMicro... the list goes on and on. I'm not saying stay away from them. I just haven't used them, so I can't speak of any experience with them. Before you try any -- including any I've recommended (Norton, Kaspersky, Microsoft, Avast, AVG) -- check out others' experiences. Read the reviews.
But, by all means, have something running. And keep it up to date. If it's about to expire, either renew it, or get another package. Do no leave your computer unprotected.
Is running quality, up-to-date security applications enough to keep your computer safe?
No. You've also got to be safe with your computer habits. File sharing, for instance, opens you up to exposure.
Sure, the security suites will step in and notify you of potential problems, but it won't keep you from saying "go ahead and let it through." And if you let something bad through, you're hosed.
Still, safe computer habits and security software is enough, right?
Wrong. Nothing is enough.
Nothing will protect you 100%.
You can only reduce the risk.
Safe habits will help. A lot. Good security software will help. A lot. Between the two, you've done just about everything you can do. It's not 100%. Nothing is. But it's the best you can do.
And that makes it enough.