Frequently Asked Questions - Home PC Users

Which anti-virus product should I use?

A large industry has grown selling products that claim to offer you "total security". It’s telling that none of these products actually comes with a guarantee of any kind. Locking your door does not eliminate burglary, it just makes it slightly more difficult for the criminals.

Virus scanners work by recognising threats and blocking them, but if they can’t recognise a threat because it’s new, they’re ineffective. The criminals develop new threats daily and virus scanners can only be updated to detect them after they have done the damage. Virus scanners are also notorious for slowing down computers and making them unreliable.

So is it worth having one at all? They can help, even if they’re not perfect. In a large organisation they can help to stop malware from spreading even if they can’t stop the original infection, but are less use on a single PC.

Microsoft Security Essentials is a good choice for Windows users. It's probably as effective as any, and appears to have much less impact on speed and stability than some. If you're a small business or home user, it's also completely free. But beware – having anti-virus software leads to a false sense of security whereas no virus protection makes people think twice, before opening things.