Many people use their computers for months or years without ever knowing it's infected with a virus. An infected computer runs slowly and and the overall user experience can be frustrating. Luckily, you can keep your computer virus free if you practice vigilance.
1. Install an antivirus software as soon as you get the computer. If you purchase a used computer with an existing Windows installation, start by reinstalling Windows. A clean computer and a good antivirus program can keep your computer virus free.
2. Run antivirus updates and scans at least weekly. These won't prevent any virus infections, but it will alert you if there is a problem. Early intervention is key to cleaning a virus infection effectively.
3. Enable real-time protection. The real-time protection feature of your antivirus software will scan files as they download. This protection can slow your computer's performance, but it detects any infected files before they can infect your computer.
4. Keep Windows updated. On Windows XP or Vista, enable automatic updates. On all other versions, run Windows Update weekly. A virus spreads by exploiting an error in software. By fixing those errors, you can close any holes the virus might use to infect your computer.
5. Keep other programs updated, as they can have the same problems as Windows. Periodically check for updates to the programs you use most often, especially if those programs don't have automatic update features.
6. Use webmail instead of downloading your email. One of the most common ways a virus can spread is by email, so one of the largest benefits of using a webmail service is isolation from the actual email files. Online webmail services often have additional virus and spam protection.
7. Run only known files. Files from people you don't know or unexpected files from someone you do know shouldn't be run or opened. Ask the sender what the file is. If the sender says he didn't send it, his computer is probably infected with a virus which sent the file to you.