9 ways to help protect your computer from viruses

By taking the following precautions, you can help reduce the risk of your computer being infected by a virus:

  1. Use the default security settings in Microsoft Office Microsoft Office has safeguards in place to help protect your programs and data from viruses. We recommend that you do not change the Microsoft Office default settings to less secure security settings.
  2. Turn on the security features in the Microsoft Windows Security Center, and keep your computer updated The easiest way to do this is to visit the Protect Your PC site, which guides you on how to use the Windows Security Center to enable the following:
    • Internet firewall
    • Antispyware software
    • Antivirus software

For more information about antivirus software vendors that you can sign up with, see the Microsoft Antivirus Partners site.

    • Automatic updates from Microsoft Update

Tip To locate the Windows Security Center in Microsoft Windows, do the following:

    • In Microsoft Windows Vista, click the Start button type security center in the Start Search box, and then press ENTER.
    • In Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2, click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click Security Center.
  1. Try a subscription to Windows Live OneCare Windows Live OneCare is a round-the-clock protection and maintenance service that you can subscribe to. Windows Live OneCare helps protect and maintain your computer by providing all-in-one functionality including virus scanning, firewall, antispyware, PC performance tuneups, and file backup and restore capability. Visit the Windows Live OneCare site for more information and to sign up for a free 90-day trial.
  2. Find out whether you really have a virus Viruses often run without your knowledge. However, if your computer is acting strangely or if one of your programs is not working correctly, this does not necessarily mean that your computer has a virus. It is important to be aware of the specific symptoms that a particular virus causes. On the Microsoft Security Antivirus Information site, you can find information and alerts about the latest viruses, their severity, and the symptoms they cause.
  3. Check the Microsoft Security Bulletins regularly An up-to-date list of security issues that affect Microsoft products is available on the Microsoft Security Updates site. This site provides technical information about security issues that affect specific products. If you don't want to remember to check the site regularly, you can subscribe to get security bulletin e-mail notifications for free that let you know about important security updates from Microsoft. In the past, hackers have attempted to mimic these notifications to send bogus information. However, it is not difficult to determine whether a Microsoft security-related message is genuine, because authentic Microsoft security bulletin notifications are always digitally signed and never include software updates as attachments. Instead, the notifications always link to the update on the Microsoft.com Web site.
  4. Download files only from trusted sites When you download a file from a Web site, be sure you know the source! You should download only files that are from known, well-established companies. When in doubt, don't download the file. As an extra precaution, you can download files onto a disk separate from your hard disk, such as a floppy disk or a zip disk, and then scan the files with your virus scanner.
  5. Install only from authentic CDs In general, installing software from authentic, commercially distributed CDs is the safest method. For example, all Microsoft CDs have holograms to prove their authenticity.
  6. Back up your data regularly If a virus erases or corrupts files on your hard disk, a recent backup may be the only way to recover your data. Back up your entire system regularly. At the minimum, back up files that you can't afford to lose, such as documents, pictures, favorite links, address books, and important e-mail messages. For details about how to back up your specific program's data, search the Microsoft Office Online Web site. You can also use the System Tools in Microsoft Windows to back up your data, as follows:
    • In Microsoft Windows Vista, click the Start button click All Programs, click Accessories, click System Tools, and then click Backup status and configuration. Follow the instructions provided.
    • In Microsoft Windows XP, click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click Backup. Follow the instructions provided.
  7. Don't open suspicious e-mail messages or files Even though the Junk E-mail Filter in Microsoft Office Outlook helps to protect your Inbox from spam and phishing messages, it is a good idea to avoid opening any attachment in a message that you did not expect to receive, especially if the message is from a source that is unknown to you.