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What is Antivirus Software, and How does it Work?

So, you think that your computer has contracted a virus and the only solution is to install and run some quality antivirus software to get rid of the existing bug and prevent future infections to your computer system. If you are like most consumers, you probably want to know how your antivirus software operates --- how does antivirus software work? This basic guide will help you understand what anti virus software actually does, so that you can be more informed about what happens each time the “cure” for the “common computer virus” works its magic.

Understanding how antivirus software operates is slightly complex; no two antivirus software programs work exactly the same way. Each anti virus software solution employs different methods to get rid of computer viruses, spyware, and other nasty computer intruders. Yet, even though no two antivirus programs are exactly the same, there are families into which all antivirus software programs fall.

One family of antivirus software systems makes use of a dictionary to detect and destroy different viruses. These dictionaries contain lists of known computer viruses and codes that match each bug. When a new program is downloaded or installed, the antivirus software that is running the dictionary checks the viruses’ code against the list of known viruses. If a match is found, the antivirus software will then delete the offending program or isolate it, so that it cannot do any more damage to the host machine. Since new viruses are being introduced daily, this kind of anti virus software may need periodic updates, but once a particular version of antivirus software is purchased, these updates are typically free until a major new version of the same program is released.

Other answers to the question how does antivirus software work include the method of looking at a particular program and giving it a test run, before it is executed on the host machine. If this family of antivirus software detects any abnormities, the software will delete the intruder or warn the user that they may have downloaded a virus. This approach requires the end user to be knowledgeable about the websites that they visit and the kinds of computer programs they have installed on their machines. This type of anti virus software is recommended for those with an above average knowledge of computer software.

In any case, antivirus software is a sound and necessary investment for any computer user. And today with so many good free antivirus programs on the market there is no longer any excuse for not having one installed. A little preventive medicine will go a long ways to catch and eliminate computer bugs before the computer system is damaged and spreads the virus to others.

Article last updated May 11, 2011.

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