How Do I Get Free Antivirus on my Personal Computer?

Let's say that you somehow have ended up with malware on your computer. Don't beat yourself up too badly - it happens to the best of us. The good news is that there could be a way to fix the problem and rid your machine of whatever is infecting it.There are many trusted programs available for purchase/free download. Be wary when selecting a program, however, as some of these "programs" are actually disguised malware designed to prey upon people's desire for protection from malware. With this in mind, here are some programs we've used and had success with: 

NOTE: All campus computers are already equipped with an antivirus program. The following programs are recommended for use on personal computers. 

Sophos

Sophos offers a free antivirus program for students. It can found here.

Other antivirus options available: 

For Windows PC:

Avast Free Antivirus 
AVG Free
McAfee Norton Antivirus for PC

For Mac:

Avast Free Mac Antivirus 
ESET Cyber Security Pro
Norton Antivirus for Mac

MalwareBytes

MalwareBytes is a program built to scan for and detect viruses. It is a powerful protection tool; however, it is limited in the sense that it will only scan for viruses when you prompt it to do so. Therefore, you must be diligent and proactive when using MalwareBytes to scan for viruses. To download a free version of MalwareBytes, click here or go to http://www.malwarebytes.org and download the program.


What are the Threats to My Computer? 

So what exactly are you trying to protect your computer from, anyway? The three most common threats to your (or anybody's) computer are: 

  1. Viruses.
  2. Spyware.
  3. Malware.

How Do Threats Get on My Computer? 

You can wind up with threats on your computer by: 

  1. Downloading free software or illegal content (music, videos, programs) from file sharing and bitorrent websites.
  2. Opening unsafe emails.
  3. Visiting unsafe websites on the internet.

How Do I Detect Threats on My Computer?

Your computer might be infected by a virus, spyware, or malware if:

Your computer is running slower than usual.
You receive errors in your internet browser (e.g. Internet Explorer or Firefox) when on the internet.
Your computer crashes often and unexpectedly.
You are receiving peculiar error messages or pop-up advertisements.


How Can I Prevent Them? 

You can minimize your risk of virus infection by: 

Using common sense. Companies use spyware to pay for "free programs." Do not trust people who post free illegal content. Be wary of emails from people you do not know.
Keeping your anti-virus and spyware/malware removal programs up-to-date.
Doing weekly scans of your computer.
Patching/updating third-party programs.

NOTE: On campus we do this automatically for you. At home you should consider using something like FileHippo Update Checker.

NOTE: If you're ever unsure about the validity of a prompt to update, disallow the update and visit the vendor site directly to see whether you have the current version.


How Often Should I Back Up My Computer Files?

Anything can happen in the world of technology. That being the case, it is vitally important that you back up your files constantly in order to prevent the loss of important documents, should a virus strike your computer. You can back up your files by saving them in many different forms, including:

Cloud-based File Storage Services  
External hard drives ("thumb drives")

NOTE: Thumb drives can become corrupted and carry viruses from one computer to the next. Use a program like Sophos to regularly scan your thumb drives for viruses.