The lowdown on antivirus software

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What is it? Antivirus software detects and announces virus threats and attempts to repair files or other programs damaged by viruses.

How does it work? At the most basic level, antivirus software scans an entire system for virus infections by identifying signature strings left by an attacking virus. It then announces this infection to the host user and attempts to automatically repair the damage. The best software provides automatic updates of recent virus information online at regular intervals and includes features that can be configured by the user.

When do I need it? Every time you turn on your computer.

When don't I need it? Read my lips: You always need antivirus software.

Must-know info? E-mail users are especially vulnerable to virus attacks. Simply being online doesn't make you susceptible to virus attacks, though. The only way you can get a virus online is to execute a program that you obtained over a network or via e-mail. But even floppy disks or shrink-wrapped programs can contain viruses. Antivirus software is the best PC security you can buy at prices around $50. Use all available features of your antivirus software for the best possible protection.

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