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Aug 14th

2012

What Are Computer Viruses?

What is a Computer Virus?
Computer viruses are destructive programs that delete or corrupt files, interfere with your computer operations and reproduce themselves to fill disk or RAM space on your computer. There's typically a piece of code that causes an unexpected and usually malicious event (or "payload") to occur. Computer viruses are often disguised as games or images with clever, inviting titles such as "Pictures of ME".
What are computer viruses? How do I protect against computer viruses?
  • Don't download files from unknown sources, either from your email or the web.
  • Scan all new files with virus-scanning software before opening.
  • Don't download attachments (e.g., pictures, games, electronic greetings) unless they're from someone you know.

How do I know if my computer problem is actually virus related?
These days, it's easy to blame any computer problem on a virus. Below are common problems NOT caused by a virus:
  • Hardware problems. There are no known viruses that can physically damage computer hardware, such as chips, boards and monitors.
  • The computer beeps at start-up with no screen display. This is usually caused by a hardware problem during the boot process. Check your computer documentation for the meaning of the beep codes.
  • The computer does not register 640K of conventional memory. This can be a sign of a virus, but it is not conclusive. Some hardware drivers such as those for the monitor or SCSI card can use some of this memory. Consult with your computer manufacturer or hardware vendor to determine if this is the case.
  • You have two antivirus programs installed and one of them reports a virus. While this could be a virus, it can also be caused by one antivirus program detecting the other program's signatures in memory.
  • You are using Microsoft Word and it warns you that a document contains a macro. This does not mean that the macro is a virus.
  • You are not able to open a particular document. This is not necessarily an indication of a virus. Try opening another document or a backup of the document in question. If other documents open correctly, the document may be damaged.
  • The label on a hard drive has changed. Every disk is allowed to have a label. You can assign a label to a disk by using the DOS Label command.

What do I do if my computer has a virus?
All is not lost. If you think you have a virus, we recommend using antivirus software to run a scan. If you don't have a solution in mind already, you can download antivirus programs like Norton 360 or McAfee's latest antivirus software.