Updating Your Anti-virus Software

Keeping your antivirus software up to date is very important, but why does it need updating and how often should you do it? In the past, most people never updated the software on their PC once they bought it, however anti-virus software is different.

Why do I need to update it

Every day new viruses are being written and let loose, usually on the internet. Anti-virus software works by looking for the particular signature of a virus in all of the programs and documents on your computer. Without up to date details of new viruses, your anti-virus software is having to rely on heuristics to guess if a program is a virus or not. With updated virus definitions it doesn't need to guess whats a virus and what isn't, but can spot new viruses immediately.

How often should I update

Some new anti-virus software will check for new virus definitions every time you go online, which is the safest option. It only downloads those virus definitions that it doesn't already have, so should only need to download a small amount, which should not interfere with your internet access at all.

Most anti-virus software however will prompt you once a week or fortnight to download new virus definitions. You should not ignore these requests, but download as often as possible. For most home users once a week should be enough, but some new viruses can spread very rapidly across the internet, however these usually get national press coverage, so update your anti-virus software before checking your email, when there are major virus threats.

If you receive a lot of emails and spam, or are a business with a lot of computers, then it is worthwhile checking for updates to your antivirus software every day. With more email and more users on your systems you are more likely to get a virus infection sooner after a new virus is released. This is why many viruses are released at the end of the week so they have the weekend to spread before IT departments spot them.

Related Links
What is a trojan, virus and worm
Antivirus Guide
Why You Need Anti-virus Software
Choosing Anti-virus Software

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