Key components to look for in a virus scan

Not all virus scans are the same, so when you’re looking to purchase an antivirus program to keep your computer protected, it’s important to know what to look for. Too much protection might leave you confused with how to optimize your scans, too little and you may feel like you’re still exposed to threats.

While antivirus programs can have many added features, the virus scan is still a vital one because that’s what detects intrusions and keeps your computer safe from online threats. There are some key features a virus scan should have in order to give you peace of mind that it will catch threats.

Firstly, you’ll want to pay attention to what the scan actually looks for - does it just search for viruses, or does it detect Trojans, worms, rootkits, bots, and any other types of malware like ransomware? If the program doesn’t search for these basic types of malware, it’s not likely to be worth the effort installing, the product just won’t be effective enough.

Next, does it perform in real-time, or just when it’s scheduled? Good antivirus scans occur in real-time as well as when scheduled - real-time scans keep users protected whenever they open a new file, or click on a link to a website. The scheduled scans dig deeper into the system to find more encrypted, hard to detect viruses.

One component to look for is how long the scan takes and why. Many products boast about how fast their scans run, but why are they so fast? Some of the virus scans performed by antivirus programs are initiated in the cloud, meaning via the internet. Essentially, a cloud-based antivirus is great for quick scans, but users need to realize that the scans are so quick because these applications have a massive whitelist for which files are generally known to be safe. This isn’t necessarily negative, it’s just something to be aware about. Not all files will be scanned every time, meaning if a new threat is posed on a file that is deemed to be safe, issues can develop. The best solution is a mix between cloud and conventional virus scans. The cloud is great for real-time scans on potentially unsafe files, and the conventional scan can detect hidden threats that embed themselves deep in the system.

Another aspect of virus scans you should keep in mind is whether you can schedule them. Some scans, like full system scans can significantly slow down your system, so if they’re set to run at a time that’s not convenient for you, that poses a problem. Some free products limit you to scan only at certain times, so be on the lookout for that. Additionally, you’ll want to check if you can change the speed of a scan. Some programs allow you to slow down a scan to free up more resources if you need them for other purposes.

Finding the right antivirus software can be as frustrating as buying a used car, some perform better than others, some have nicer features, some are more expensive. Now that you have an idea of what to look for in a virus scan, you can browse for the antivirus program that best suit your needs. Happy scanning!

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