Free anti-virus protection for Windows PCs

by billso on Sunday, 27 November 2005

Snopes reports that a new mass-mailing worm tells users that they have vis­ited “ille­gal web­sites”. This reminded me that it’s time for my reg­u­lar end-of-term anti-virus spiel.The win­ter hol­i­days are that spe­cial time of year when hard dri­ves “crash” and no one has a recent backup of that final paper or project. Fac­ulty are as guilty of this sin as stu­dents, to be honest.

If you are work­ing on a final project and need a quick, free way of back­ing up the files, open a free Gmail account and mail the files to your­self. if you lose the file on your local com­puter, you can retrieve the copies you sent to your Gmail account. Gmail pro­vides users with 2.5 GB of disk space, and accepts 10 MB attach­ments that would choke other mail servers.

I don’t under­stand why HPU stu­dents con­tinue to use Pipeline mail, when it’s so easy to open the Pipeline Mail options and auto-forward every mes­sage to their Gmail account.

If you need a good, free anti-virus pro­gram for your Win­dows com­puter, try Avast. This is what I have used on my home com­puter for most of 2005, and I like it. Do the free reg­is­tra­tion and your copy of Avast will auto­mat­i­cally update itself with new virus signatures.

Another free anti-virus prod­uct is avail­able at FreeAV. I sued to rec­om­mend this pack­age, but its update sys­tem is a bit clunkier than the Avast implementation .

I’ve been using the beta ver­sion of Win­dows OneCare on my TabletPC since Octo­ber. This will be a sub­scrip­tion ser­vice that offers an anti-virus solu­tion, soft­ware fire­wall that works in both direc­tions, and a data backup utility.

So far, my only com­plaint is that the pro­gram tends to start very slowly when it finds no avail­able net­work con­nec­tion at sys­tem startup. Occa­sion­ally the soft­ware fire­wall gets overzeal­ous and doesn’t notify me that it has blocked a pro­gram. But the con­fig­u­ra­tion is rel­a­tively easy to change.

The beta appears to be a good free solu­tion. OneCare does its auto­matic virus and fire­wall updates quickly, which is a boon. Every two weeks, OneCare prompts me to con­nect my exter­nal hard drive for an auto­matic data backup. The backup fea­ture also works with opti­cal dri­ves. How­ever, it won’t com­pletely restore your com­puter from bare metal. If you need that fea­ture, try Nor­ton Ghost.

OneCare is a bla­tantly obvi­ous attempt at cre­at­ing a subscription-based rev­enue stream for SOHO Win­dows users. For some­one who owns one or two com­put­ers at home, OneCare should be an easy value-add deci­sion 30 days after a new com­puter purchase.

If there’s a decent aca­d­e­mic dis­count for a OneCare account with mul­ti­ple com­put­ers, it would be a worth­while deal. Frankly, I wish Microsoft would make OneCare totally free for uni­ver­sity fac­ulty and stu­dents when the pro­gram goes live next year.

I’ve used my own home backup and fire­wall sys­tems for years, but that’s a tale for another day.

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