Viruses, spyware and other malicious software or malicious code (malware) can stop your computer working properly, delete or corrupt your files, steal information, or allow others to access your computer and your personal or business information.
Your computer can be infected by malware in a number of ways, including:
- clicking on false website links
- visiting websites that have been infected by malware
- downloading infected apps and files from the internet
- opening infected email attachments.
The consequences of a malware infection can be serious and far-reaching, from losing access to your files or becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud.
Follow our guidance about using anti-virus software.
Choosing anti-virus software
Anti-virus solutions differ in effectiveness and the range of malware types they cover. Before choosing an anti-virus product, consider product reviews. Look on reputable and trustworthy websites.
At a minimum, all anti-virus software should provide:
- protection and detection capabilities
- comprehensive anti-virus scanning.
Some anti-virus products may also include:
- a site adviser so your browser alerts you when visiting a suspicious or dangerous website
- malware protection with an integrated firewall.
If you install an anti-virus product that has firewall functionality, you may need to disable your operating system's built-in firewall. See your anti-virus and operating system vendor for more details.
Most Windows users can use Windows Security to protect themselves from viruses and malware. Windows Security is built-in to Windows 10 and Windows 11 devices and includes free virus and threat protection. You can also use it to turn on ransomware protection features on your device.
To learn more about Windows Security, search for “Windows Security” in your computer's Start Menu. You can also visit Microsoft’s website for more information on Windows Security, including how to set up and run anti-virus scans.
Using anti-virus software
When you first install anti-virus software on a device, run a 'full scan' of the system to ensure there are no pre-existing virus infections, and then set up regular scans.
Important: Install anti-virus software on all devices and set the software to automatically check for updates on a daily basis.