Category Archives: Viruses

Free Anti-Virus – The Best Way to Protect Your PC

Summary Difficulty Rating Time to complete
Replacing your existing Anti-virus with a free alternative.   20-30 minutes

As I mentioned in my last post, the first question I ask is whether people have a backup.   The second question ask is whether they have up-to-date anti-virus software installed.

A shocking number of people fall into the group of having anti-virus software that hasn’t been updated since their trial period ended, and yet still believe they are protected.

Let me make this clear – if your subscription has expired then you are NOT protected.

But who can blame them?  Anti-virus software is expensive, isn’t it?

If you go with what arrived on your PC then, yes, it is expensive.  PC manufacturers make extra money by including software (known collectively as Bloatware) because vendors pay them.  Norton and McAfee fully expect you to sign up when the trial period runs out because you don’t know that you have a choice.

But there are companies that offer great anti-virus solutions for free!  Why?  Well, some do it for philanthropic reasons while others (e.g. Microsoft) do it because they need Windows to appear secure if they want people to buy it.

Replacing your existing anti-virus with a free alternative is a relatively painless procedure involving 3 easy steps.

  1. Remove your existing anti-virus
  2. Install the new anti-virus
  3. Configure your anti-virus to automatically update and scan your machine

Here we will cover installing Microsoft Security Essentials.  Why MSE?  Well, as I see it, Microsoft know more about their products than anyone else and have a vested interest in presenting Windows as virus free.  Unlike the big boys in the virus world, it is not in Microsoft’s interest to have you worrying about viruses.  I have also found MSE to take less CPU than some of the other offerings.

Let’s get started.

1. Removing your existing Anti-virus

Since most PCs come with Norton or McAfee installed the first thing we need to do is remove that, because running multiple copies of AV software is really bad news.  Normally this is a simple affair, however do not take this step until you are ready to complete step number 2, otherwise you will be left completely naked – and for some of you that isn’t going to be anything we want to see!

To remove your existing software click the Start button and select “Control Panel”.  Depending on which version of windows you are running you will then take one of several options:

  • Windows XP:
    Select the option “Add or Remove Programs”  
  • Windows 7 or Windows Vista:
    Select the option “Uninstall a program” 

Wait for the list of programs to populate and then then locate your current AV software.  Click on that program name to highlight it and then click Remove (Windows XP) or Uninstall (Vista/Windows 7).  Follow the prompts to uninstall the software.  Make sure that you reboot your machine after uninstalling to be sure it completes this process.

During this step you will most likely receive warnings that your PC is unprotected.  Don’t worry – we will fix that in step 2.

Note: If you already have a paid subscription then uninstalling the program will not stop future payments - many companies default to charging your credit card each year "for your protection" and you will need to contact them to stop future payments. 

2. Installing Microsoft Security Essentials

Now we are ready to install the Microsoft anti-virus software on your machine.  To do this open a browser and visit this link – Microsoft Security Essentials.  Select the Free Download link and select the version for your Operating system.

If you are given the option to Run the software – take that.  If not, download the program to somewhere you can find it later, open that folder and (once the download is complete) and double-click to start the install.

Follow the instructions on the screen (which involves clicking Next a couple of times, plus agreeing to the software license).

3. Configure your anti-virus to automatically update and scan your machine

Once the install is finished take the option to scan your machine for threats.  Doing this will automatically download the latest virus definitions are part of the scanning process.  Your PC will continue to show an “at risk” status until this first scan is complete.   This first scan can take a while, depending on how large your machine is, however you can continue to use your machine while this is working.

Finally, you are going to want to set up your anti-virus to automatically scan your PC on a periodic basis.  This allows the scanning (which can slow your machine) to occur while you are not using the machine, and because it will download new definitions before each scan.

To set this up run the software (it will already be running if you are following on from above) by clicking on the little castle in the toolbar.  Select the Settings tab and set up a time when your PC will be on but not in use.  Make sure that the option to check for the latest virus and spyware definitions box is checked.

That’s it!  Now you can continue to enjoy the use of your PC free from viruses and without fear that your subscription will run out.  Better yet, you have just saved yourself  $50 per year, all for 20 minutes work.


Filed under Free Software, PC Problems?, Viruses, Windows

Protect your PC with Linux (Dual-boot)


Difficulty Rating

Time to complete

Install Linux alongside Windows to provide additional virus protection  and access your data if Windows becomes inoperable


Less than 1 Hour

Installing Linux alongside Windows provides a number of benefits, even to novice users. Benefits to installing Linux alongside Windows (a practice known as dual-boot) include:

  1. The ability to run virus scanning software from outside of Windows – more on that later.
  2. Should the Windows system become unusable for any reason you can still boot into Linux to access and backup your files before any drastic action is taken with the Windows partition.
  3. If all you are doing is browsing the web then Linux will boot faster and be significantly more secure that Windows.

Note: The instructions below enable you to set up your machine as a dual boot device.  However if the unthinkable has already happened and your Windows PC is already infected with a virus then a simpler option is to create a bootable Linux virus scanner.  Both AVG and Kaspersky kindly provides the necessary disk image which can be found here and here will allow you to create either a bootable CD or USB drive.  As with the dual-boot option below, this runs in a Linux environment and should therefore be immune to whatever nasty things have infected your Windows environment.

My preferred version of Linux is Ubuntu, mostly because it has a great graphical interface, so that is the one that we will focus on here.

Official Ubuntu circle with wordmark. Replace ...

Image via Wikipedia

For those not familiar with it, Ubuntu is the most popular version of Linux available today.  It comes in several varieties (desktop, notebook, and server being the primary ones).  Ubuntu has a very ‘windows like’ interface (except server), comes pre-packaged with software such as open office (which is Microsoft office compatible even up to Office 2010) and is, of course, completely free.

Part 1 – Installing Ubuntu

There are several ways to install Ubuntu but here we are going to assume that most people have Windows and would like to install it alongside – providing a choice of operating system to run appearing at boot time.  I have personally installed it alongside Windows 7 and windows Vista, and I’m told it will happily work with Windows XP.

Important note:  Before you start, please take a backup of your system and make sure that you have Windows boot disk available.  I have not seen it wreck anything yet, but I would hate someone to send me an email describing how they lost everything.

There are detailed instructions on the Ubuntu web site for installing Ubuntu alongside Windows, including the necessary download links to Wubi (the windows Ubuntu installer).  These can be found here :  Since they will keep that up to date there is no reason for me to rewrite that here.

At the time of writing there is a bug in the current version  Wubi of where it sometimes tells you that a disk is missing and give you the option to Try Again, Cancel or Continue.  Apparently this is something to do with extra disks (e.g. USB drives) being attached and is very annoying because it won’t go away.  However the solution is very simple – just hit continue many, many times (about 30 or so) and the program will continue and work fine (sic).

If presented with the option to do a Demo and full installation or Install inside Windows, select the Install inside Windows option.

You should then be asked which drive to install to (assuming C:) how much disk space to allocate (you should select at least 5gb), and you will need to select a user id and a password.  Passwords are used a lot in Ubuntu for admin functions, so make sure it is something you can easily remember and do not leave it blank.

The install will start and, after a while, you will be asked to reboot.  Once you reboot you should be given the option to boot into Windows (which will occur automatically if you do nothing) or Ubuntu.  Select Ubuntu and the installation of Ubuntu will continue.  Once complete you will be able to boot into either operating system on system startup.

Extra notes:

– If you are using a laptop and Ubuntu doesn’t have a driver for your wi-fi card then try connecting to a wired LAN and running a system update (System –> Administration –> Update Manager).  That sometimes solves the issue.  If not then you will have to install a program called ndiswrapper and use that to install your driver (quite easy to do).

– I always run the update mentioned above anyway to make sure that I have the most up to date software.

Part 2 – Using Ubuntu as a Windows virus scanner.

Some viruses are smart and act protect themselves.  One common way to do this is to  start multiple versions that watch each other constantly. Should an instance be stopped by your anti-virus software, the other instances immediately reinstate it.  But if you don’t start Windows then the virus never runs in the first place.  As such running a scan from a Linux partition can be particularly useful with stubborn viruses.

To run a full virus scan from Ubuntu you will need to boot into Ubuntu and install two programs.  By default Ubuntu does not come with any Virus scanning software installed (which I think personally smacks of hubris).
To do this do the following.

From the menu bar at the top select – System –> Administration –> Synaptic Package Manager

– Search for ClamAV and mark that for installation by checking the box.  It will automatically add any other software needed to support that.  ClamAV is the virus scanning software.

– Search for ClamTK and mark that for installation by checking the box.  It will automatically add other software needed to support that.  ClamTK is the Graphical User Interface for the scanning software.

– Click on the Apply button and wait for the software to install.

Part 3 – Running the scan.

From the menu bar at the top select – Applications –> Virus Scanner

The first time you run it, it will probably tell you that the virus definitions are out of date.  Let it sit for a while, close the program and then open it again and you should find they are OK now (it updates when you run it).

Scan –> Recursive scan

Select the File System disk from the options available and click OK.  If you are not sure which disk needs to be scanned then select the largest drive available – that is usually your main PC drive.

The scan will start but it will take several minutes for any information to be displayed in the scanner software.  Don’t Panic!

The full scan can take a long time depending on the size of your disk.  If any viruses are found they will be displayed at the end as a list and you can right-click on each file to choose an action.

That’s it!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them here.


Filed under Free Software, Linux, PC Problems?, Viruses, Windows