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What are Computer Viruses?

Updated on July 26, 2012

Definition of a Computer Virus

A computer virus is a malicious program that is designed to do bad things like delete files or consume your computer’s resources.  Viruses often duplicate themselves and infect other files on the same computer and may be spread through email attachments or type of network activity.

The Most Common Types of Computer Viruses

Boot Sector Virus—these are not as common as they used to be since they are primarily spread through floppy disks. Boot sector viruses hide in the boot sector and load into memory whenever your computer boots up.

Logic Bomb Viruses—also known as a “time bomb”, it inserts itself into other programs to perform a specific action when a particular condition is met, such as a specific date and time. Once the condition is met the logic bomb virus will perform some malicious activity such as deleting files, displaying unwanted messages, or disabling programs on your computer.

Macro Virus—these are usually spread through Microsoft Word or Excel through email attachments. Macro viruses will run automatically when the infected file is opened. They usually are not too damaging though.

Worm—is a type of virus that will replicate itself over and over. It will consume some or all of your computers resources, including hard disk space and memory. Worms typically make your computer run very slow.

Other Types of Harmful Programs

Malware—is a broad term for all types of harmful software listed here, including viruses, Trojans, worms, and spyware.

Trojans—technically this is not a virus, it is another type of computer program designed to do bad things to your computer.

Scareware—is designed to trick someone into purchasing software that is potentially dangerous. The software will claim your computer is infected with a virus or spyware and ask you to purchase software that will fix the problem. Usually the software that is purchased is spyware or some other type of malware.

Spyware—is software that spies on your computer. Spyware can capture email messages, user name and passwords, credit card numbers. The software will usually pass the information it collects to another computer on the Internet.

How to Protect Yourself from Computer Viruses

  • Use a modern operating system. If you are still using Windows 98 or ME, it is time to upgrade to at least Windows XP, preferably Windows 7 if your computer is fast enough to run it.
  • Install the latest security patches from Microsoft. Turn on Automatic Updates is the easiest way to do this.
  • Install Antivirus software from a reputable company and keep it updated with the latest virus definitions.
  • Don’t open email attachments from people you don’t know. It is a good idea not to open email attachments from people you do know without asking them first if they sent it, especially if you were not expecting an attachment from them.


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    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 6 years ago from A small southern town

      Thanks for breaking this down for us, "non- gurus".

      Being as my daughters have taught me most of what I know, regarding, computer shortcuts and creativity, I think that I know only what they trust me with!

      There was a time, that I really wondered, 'how can a machine get a virus'? ( it's ok to laugh.....)

    • Shawn Scarborough profile image

      Shawn Scarborough 7 years ago from The Lone Star State

      Hi lovebuglena, thanks for visiting. Yes, it is better to be safe than sorry.

    • lovebuglena profile image

      Lena Kovadlo 7 years ago from Staten Island, NY

      I hate computer viruses as they slow down computer performance and cause things to malfunction. Thanks for sharing this informative hub. I've never had anti-virus software and didn't think I needed it as my computer was fine. But I have decided now (though my PC still looks ok) to finally get one. Better safe than sorry.


    • Shawn Scarborough profile image

      Shawn Scarborough 7 years ago from The Lone Star State

      Hi Granny's House. Thanks for your comments. I would be honored if you would link to this hub.

    • Granny's House profile image

      Granny's House 7 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

      Great hub and topic. Can I link mine to this?

    • Shawn Scarborough profile image

      Shawn Scarborough 7 years ago from The Lone Star State

      askpowers--thanks for stopping by. Try Outpost Security Suite, I think it is the best I've found so far.

    • Shawn Scarborough profile image

      Shawn Scarborough 7 years ago from The Lone Star State

      Britney, thanks for taking the time to read my Hubs.

    • Shawn Scarborough profile image

      Shawn Scarborough 7 years ago from The Lone Star State

      hubpageswriter--sorry to hear about your virus troubles. Let me know if I can be of any assistance. Thanks for stopping by.

    • britneydavidson profile image

      britneydavidson 7 years ago from united kingdom

      To understand Computer Virus was difficult for me but you made it understand very easy

    • profile image

      hubpageswriter 7 years ago

      Very useful information inside this hub. I made the stupidest mistake of opening an email attachment years before, and I got my PC infected. It may sound easy to everyone to avoid, but it's actually not. It's good to have a sound anti-virus for sure. Hub up, this is awesome.

    • profile image

      waynetheman 7 years ago

      This was very informative. I feel like I understand computer viruses a lot better now.

    • profile image

      askpowers 7 years ago

      I am computer professional and i hate computer viruses. Always they make my computer malfunction. still could not find any suitable antivirus program, i've tried almost all, but not a single one is complete and perfect... dont know is it the game of antivirus makers or what is it actually.. we are suffering in this whole scenario