One of the first articles I wrote for the Herald Express focused on new Anti-Virus software that was available on the market and the benefits that they could provide to the average user. As an alternative to going out and buying the software I briefly mentioned a website I’d recently discovered that allows you to scan your PC for free over the Internet. This website was put at the back of my mind for the last year or so until last week when I had a customer whose PC had a virus but as a result the machine wouldn’t allow me to run Norton Anti-Virus. Although there are a number of workarounds such as a Norton Rescue Disk I soon remembered this website and so fired up Internet Explorer to try and re-locate it via a search engine.
Once discovered it took around 10 minutes for the software to be loaded up into Internet Explorer but once there it made pretty easy work of checking the hard disk and quite successfully located and deleted the virus present in memory and the copy on the hard disk.

So, what are the advantages of scanning for viruses online rather than buying a piece of software? First off, and probably the one that will carry the most weight for the average user is the fact that it’s completely free of charge; there aren’t even any pop-up adverts to annoy you. Secondly, the list of viruses that the scanner can detect is constantly being updated so as new viruses are released and discovered, the scanner is able to keep up with this. You don’t have to worry about installing these updates yourself as every time you visit their website the latest version is automatically loaded up. Obviously if you were to buy an off the shelf product then you’d have to buy the latest version every year in order to qualify for the virus updates which could prove to become quite costly especially if you work for an organisation with a number of computers.

The only real disadvantages to the website is obviously that you have to be connected to the Internet to use it, although for those of you with free Internet access this shouldn’t be a problem with the other disadvantage being that the software doesn’t run in ‘real-time’. Essentially this means that unlike programs such as Norton Anti-Virus and Mcafee that stay running constantly in the background looking for viruses whenever you receive an e-mail, open a file or look at active content on an Internet, this website can only scan your computer when you ask it to. This would make it possible for you to download a virus one day and have it sat on your computer working away for a number of weeks until next time you do a thorough check online.

To make use of this free service point your browser towards and simply follow the onscreen instructions. The program will ask you which drives you wish to scan and in most instances you will only require to scan your ‘C’ drive (Hard Disk) although if you suspect that another drive has a virus on it; a floppy disk for example then you can specify that the program scan that instead.

With the current rate that viruses seem to be created at the moment and the number of computers that fall every year as a result I find it astonishing that very few users run regular virus checks. Personally I tend to pick up half a dozen or so a year but luckily since I know the tell tale signs of a virus I am able to prevent them from actually being installed on my system. Even if you have a virus checker, it is possible that it is out of date and so will not be able to detect the latest variants and so I recommend that all readers visit the site and get their computers checked out.

It is only if everybody ran these checks on a regular basic that we would be able to eradicate these viruses, some of which have been hanging around for over a decade from the wild once and for all.

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