Turn on & Activate Your Antivirus
Most new systems come with an antivirus program installed and a license that's good for 90 days or so. If yours didn't include one, visit the Microsoft Windows Security Center Antivirus Partners (www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/updates/sp2/antivirus/default.mspx) page. From this page you can get a free 12-month subscription to the eTrust EZ Antivirus (www.my-etrust.com) from Computer Associates - the same company that supplies the antivirus component of the well-regarded ZoneAlarm Security Suite. This page also offers a 6-month free subscription to F-Secure Anti-Virus (www.f-secure.com), as well as shorter trials of several other products.
Just because an antivirus program is installed doesn't mean it's actually protecting you. Dig into the program's configuration and familiarize yourself with its options (for more on antivirus setup and options, see "Keep Your PC Safe," http://go.pcmag.com/keeppcsafe). Find the option to update the program's virus signatures and do so immediately. Out-of-date protection is no protection at all. As with Automatic Update, set the program to install new updates automatically as they become available.
Make sure that the antivirus program is configured to scan files when you open them - this might be called on-access or real-time scanning. If necessary, change its configuration to scan all files rather than just specific types. Set it to scan inside ZIP archives if that option is available. Finally, perform a full manual scan. Your brand-new computer isn't likely to have a virus, but there's no point in taking chances.
Don't let your antivirus subscription run out; new viruses and variations appear constantly. And as we mentioned, an out-of-date antivirus tool is worthless. As long as the product is working well for you, renew its subscription. Otherwise, replace it with a different product. Try another of the free trials mentioned above. If cost is an issue, consider one of the free-for-personal-use antivirus products, such as AntiVir (www.free-av.com), avast! antivirus (www.avast.com), AVG Anti-Virus (www.grisoft.com), or ClamWin (www.clamwin.com). ClamWin is in the process of adding real-time/on-access scanning. I recommend scheduling frequent scans if you use this one. There's no excuse for going without an up-to-date antivirus program.
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