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What happens if my antivirus program finds a virus?

The million dollar question!

Ideally, you want your antivirus software to clean the infected files or remove them completely.

How it does that will be dependent upon which program you have installed but, in general, most security software will try and move suspicious files into a quarantine area to swiftly eliminate the risk of an infection spreading. Once there, the software will probably give you the option of trying to remove the infection or just deleting it altogether.

Will antivirus software slow down your computer?

Running any program on your computer will slow it down and antivirus software is no exception.

Whenever you run a scan, especially a thorough one, the program will use CPU cycles to get the job done. If you happen to be running other programs at the same time which, between them, are using a significant amount of processing power, then you may notice some slowdown.

Overall, the impact should be negligible, especially if you are using a modern computer, but some antivirus programs are bigger resource hogs than others. Fortunately, that is something we cover in our in-depth antivirus reviews.

How much maintenance does antivirus software require?

Nowadays antivirus programs are an extremely low maintenance option, requiring very little interaction from you in order to continue working effectively.

Assuming you’ve set it up correctly, the only tasks you should engage in on a regular basis are:

  • Checking the status of your antivirus program daily – many offer a colour-coded scheme to alert you to any issues. If the program says everything is ok then all is good. Otherwise, delve deeper to learn what the problem is and then rectify it
  • Manually run an in-depth scan on a regular basis, maybe once a week, or use the functionality of the antivirus program itself to schedule a detailed scan, perhaps at a time when you are away from the machine
  • Checking that the program is fully up to date. This should happen automatically but I would advise confirming that all updates have been downloaded and installed from time to time

It is also worth leaving a note somewhere prominent to remind you when your subscription runs out so that you never find yourself in the position of not having a valid license.

Is it true that antivirus vendors are responsible for writing the viruses they are trying to protect me from?

Elvis is dead, man did land on the moon and antivirus vendors do not write viruses.

This old nugget is a conspiracy theory that has been doing the rounds for quite some time now. Though it still makes us chuckle to think of the consequences if it were true, the fact that anyone still thinks it could be is also a source of extreme frustration.

There are, quite literally, millions of pieces of malicious code out in the wild and no company would have the time to write it all.

Criminals and other attackers are responsible for creating thousands of new viruses every day though and they do so with the aim of making far more money that an antivirus vendor could ever hope to from offering the cure to a problem some foolishly believe is of their own making.

The only conspiracy – or shady practice – surrounding the creation and use of malware is the way in which certain government agencies have deployed it, i.e. the US government’s use of Stuxnet to target nuclear centrifuges in an Iranian facility.

Why did my new antivirus program just detect something the old one missed?

For the most part, antivirus programs rely on databases of virus signatures to identify malicious code on your computer.

Even though these are now largely stored in the cloud rather than on your hard drive, they are still vendor specific for the most part.

Thus, one company may have identified a threat that another has missed.

The chances of a reputable company not having a signature for a new piece of malware for any length of time is slim but it does happen in the short-term.