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Top 10 Tips to Keep Your Computer Virus-Free

10. Use common sense. It’s always better to err on the side of safety. If you’re unsure about an attachment, delete it. Especially if it’s from a source you don’t recognize. If there are tempting animations on a site that look highly unprofessional, don’t download them.

9. Scan files for viruses before using them. This is always important, but especially if you are using a disc or flash memory to carry information between one computer and another. You could easily pick up a virus from a corrupted file and introduce it into your system. Running a virus scan before launching any of new files will prevent infection.

8. Don’t share data CDs. Even a well-meaning friend may unknowingly pass along a virus, Trojan horse, or worm. Label your discs clearly so you know they’re yours and don’t loan them out. If a friend passes you a foreign disc, suggest an alternative method of file sharing.

7. Don’t boot from an unknown data CD. Data CDs are one of the most common ways viruses are transmitted. If you are using a data CD while working on your computer, remove it when you shut the machine off or the computer may automatically try to boot from the disc, perhaps launching or installing bad programs or files on your computer.

6. Don’t download programs from the Web. Unreliable sources such as Internet newsgroups or Web sites that you haven’t heard of may be willing providers of viruses for your computer. Avoid downloading files you can’t be sure are safe. This includes freeware, screensavers, games, and any other executable program—any files with an “.exe” or “”.com” extension, such as “coolgame.exe.” Check to see if the site has anti-virus software running on their side. If you do have to download from the Internet, be sure to scan each program before running it. Save all downloads to one folder, then run virus checks on everything in the folder before using it.

5. Update your anti-virus software frequently. An antivirus software program is only as good as the frequency with which it is updated. New viruses, worms, and Trojan horses are born daily, and variations of them can slip by software that is not current.

4. Get immediate protection. Configure your antivirus software to boot automatically on start-up and run at all times. This will provide you back-up protection in case you forget to scan an attachment, or decide not to. And in case you forget to boot up your antivirus software, configuring it to start by itself will ensure you get immediate protection anyway.

3. Scan all incoming email attachments. Be sure to run each attachment you plan to open through the anti-virus check. Do this even if you recognize and trust the sender; malicious code, like Trojan horses, can slip into your system by appearing to be from a friendly source.

2. Don’t automatically open attachments. Be sure your email program doesn’t automatically download attachments. This will ensure that you can examine and scan attachments before they run. Refer to your email program’s safety options or preferences menu for instructions.

1. Install reliable antivirus software. Antivirus software scans files regularly for unusual changes in file size, programs that match the software’s database of known viruses, suspicious email attachments, and other warning signs. It’s the most important step you can take towards keeping your computer clean of viruses.

Just in Case. . .

In case a virus finds its way to your computer, due to carelessness, an accident, or anti-virus software that hasn’t been updated since you got it for your birthday last year, at least be prepared. Use PC backup software such as Norton Ghost to create a backup copy of your computer’s hard drive. This way you can revert to the clean, undamaged version of your computer.

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