Anyone running a Windows computer knows how important it is to have good anti-virus software — but you don't need to pay for good protection! If someone you know still doesn't have anti-virus software running, here's a quick guide you can send them to help them set it up.
This guide was originally published in 2011, but our recommendations have changed since then. Microsoft Security Essentials, our previous favourite, is no longer adequately rated by most antivirus tests. If you're an advanced user, Avast is our personal favourite antivirus program, but it requires some configuration. For beginners, I can't recommend Bitdefender's Free Edition highly enough.
Note: This guide is for Windows users. If you're on a Mac, we recommend installing Sophos instead.
Here's how to set up Bitdefender on your Windows PC:
- Head over to the Bitdefender's Free Edition home page (not to be confused with its premium offering) and download the software. Double-click on the installer to begin the installation process.
- Follow the wizard to install the software. If it asks you to remove your existing antivirus software, go ahead and do so — it's generally not advisable to run two antivirus programs at once. Accept the terms and agreements when prompted. All of the other default settings will be fine.
- During the installation process, Bitdefender will run an initial scan to make sure your system is clean.
- When it has finished scanning and installing, you'll have an option to create a Bitdefender account. Most antivirus programs require you to register (for free) within 30 days to continue using the program, so you might as well do it now. Click the "Create a new account" link, set it up, and log in when you're done.
From now on, you should see a little Bitdefender "B" icon in your system tray — that means Bitdefender is running in the background, monitoring your computer for any viruses that may come your way. Bitdefender doesn't have many options, which makes it incredibly simple: just leave the "Virus Shield" and "Auto Scan" options on and you should be well protected.
In many cases, Bitdefender will prevent you from visiting a web site if it detects malware on the page. If you ever do get an infected file on your system, Bitdefender will automatically quarantine it. You can see your quarantined items by clicking Bitdefender's icon in your system tray and clicking the "Show Files" button under the "Quarantine" section. From there, you can use the buttons on the right to delete the file, or — if you know it isn't a malicious file — restore it.
Remember, good anti-virus software is important, but it's even more important to browse the web safely. The best way to avoid viruses is to make sure you don't download them in the first place. Don't click on anything that claims you have a virus unless it's coming from Bitdefender itself. Don't click on any suspicious Facebook posts, and don't click on suspicious email links. If you get an email from ebay.com, hover your cursor over the link and look at the bottom of your screen to make sure it actually goes to
www.ebay.com — if it goes somewhere else, it's probably going to harm your computer.