Protect Vista PCs from Viruses

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A computer virus can be much worse than a physical sniffle. A particularly creative and nasty virus, Trojan horse, or worm can harvest your e-mail inbox so an unscrupulous e-marketer can spam your friends. That's embarrassing, but some viruses may damage your hard drive and data. A Trojan horse program could conscript your PC into an army of zombies used to attack a server somewhere, possibly at some future date.

The fact is, every PC needs security protection that includes antivirus software today. So, if you've loaded up Vista (or plan to), you need to be aware of these particular security issues with Microsoft's newest operating system. Microsoft promotes Vista as among its most secure products, but its handling of antivirus functions may surprise you.

Vista and Viruses

How is Vista set for antivirus software?

It doesn't have any.

How to Find Protection

Will my existing antivirus software work on Windows Vista?

Probably not. Vista is different enough from previous versions of Windows that antivirus software written for older versions of the operating system won't work on it.

You'll need a version written or rewritten specifically for Vista. Symantec and other makers of major antivirus software have announced Vista versions of their programs.

Why didn't Microsoft include an antivirus tool in Windows Vista?

The reason is open to debate. According to some people, Microsoft feared that including one would expose it to antitrust problems, particularly in Europe. Others say that it wasn't included because Microsoft wants to be able to sell you a copy of Windows Live OneCare, which has an antivirus program as its centerpiece.

I don't like having to pay extra for an antivirus program for Vista. Are there any good free ones?

Yes, several are free for home, noncommercial use. One popular choice is Avast, which is "lightweight" and thus makes relatively low demands on system resources. Avast was among the few antivirus programs--free or otherwise--that worked with Windows Vista throughout its beta cycle.

Next: Protecting your Vista system against phishers and other pests.

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