There’s plenty of free software available to help keep your computer and the important information stored on it safe. We’ll show you how to use two of the most useful programs, the Avira anti-virus program, and Spybot Search and Destroy, which together will protect your computer from most of the common types of malicious software. We’ll start off by explaining how to use Avira, and then look at how to use Spybot to scan for and remove malicious software or unwanted cookies. When you start to install Avira you may be asked to create a Restore Point, and we recommend you do so. Then, choose Express install and work through the installation setup wizard to the main menu. This is where all the action takes place, and offers options to update Avira, buy the paid-for version or start a scan. Once setup, Avira will automatically begin to scan your PC.
It’s advisable to set up regular automatic scans. Double-click the Avira Control Center icon to start it. In the panel on the left-hand side of the screen, click on Administration and select Scheduler. Now a set of icons will appear in a panel in the centre of the window. Click the one that looks like a clock with a + sign and the screen shown here will appear, allowing you to set up scheduled scans, by choosing daily, weekly or monthly and the time you want it to begin. As well as a full or a quick scan you can choose other options, such as a particular drive, or boot records.
As well as a full or a quick scan you can choose other options, such as a particular drive, or boot records. Avira is set up to scan for most common problems by default but you can also configure the software even further, depending on the type of threats you’re most concerned about. Go to the Extras menu and select Configuration. You’ll be able to select the files you want scanned in the General section. You can also use the Guard and Scanner options to refine the scans even further.
Once you have set the parameters you want, it’s time to run a full scan. Avira lets you do this in many ways; one way is to go to the menu bar at the top of the screen and select View, select Local Protection, and tick the Scan option. Choose Administration in the menu on the left-hand side, then Scheduler and the Insert New Job icon in the icon toolbar in the window. By default all the files, folders, programs and drives are selected for a scan. By selecting the Manual option you can choose just a particular drive to scan. To start the scan, select the magnifying glass icon at the top-left of the centre panel in Avira.
The Events and Reports screens provide a simple way to view the results of your scan. You can access these tools by either going to the menu on the left-hand side of the Avira window or by clicking the View menu and choosing Overview. For more information, go to the toolbar and choose Extras, then Detection list. You’ll see a list giving the names of any malicious software that Avira has found and quarantined.
After scanning, you can deal with any problem files by clicking Administration and then Quarantine. Any malicious or suspicious files Avira found during the scan are placed here. Click the folder icon at the end of the row above the central panel, to show what has been quarantined. Other icons allow you to delete a file, or to restore it to its original location, if you believe it has been wrongly placed in quarantine. If you are not sure, you can type the name in the Detection list and Avira will tell you the properties of the suspicious file.
Now let’s look at how to use Spybot Search and Destroy. After installing Spybot S&D you will be asked to carry out some simple housework, which will help you and Spybot protect your PC. Initially you will be asked if you want to create a Registry backup. Click yes; some spyware can damage settings on your PC, and this backup will allow Spybot S&D to try and restore them. Work through the rest of the installation wizard. It‘s also a good idea to read the tutorial.
Launch the program after installation and you’ll see the main menu. The first thing you should do is check for any updates, so click on Search for Updates, and select a site to download them from; it doesn’t really matter which one you choose. Click through to the menu that shows any updates that have been found. Some are chosen automatically but at the bottom of the menu are others that you can select; we’d advise downloading all the updates each time.
Now go to the menu on the left-hand side of your screen and choose Immunise, then click the ‘+’ symbol next to Immunise in the toolbar at the top of the screen. If you have a browser open, a pop-up menu will ask you to close it. Spybot will now block programs and websites that have been identified as malicious, so they can’t infect your web browser. The immunisation process can take up to 10 minutes to complete. You can undo this action by clicking Undo in the toolbar.
Once you have updated Spybot and immunised your web browser, return to the left-hand panel, click on Search and Destroy, then click on Check for Problems. This is the main Spybot scan and you will be asked initially if you want to delete temporary files found. Depending on the number of files and programs you have on your PC, the scan can take from five up to 20 minutes. A progress bar is shown at the bottom of the window.
Once the scan is complete, you’ll see this list of what’s been found on your PC. Red entries represent spyware and green ones show usage tracks, which are the footprints you make whenever you visit a web page. There’s usually no need to delete tracks – it can save time if, for example, you want to open a file again, by letting you select it from a list. But if you do want to hide your activity, click on ‘Hide now’ at the bottom of the window.
To clean up your PC tick the box shown above and then select the ‘Fix selected problems’ button in the toolbar. Alternatively you can click ‘Select All problems’, but that option will only be shown if you’ve clicked the Expert button in the advanced mode. To see more information about a specific threat, right-click on a problem then click the arrows at the right-hand side of the window to see additional information.
Sometimes, you might remove a cookie that you wanted to keep – for instance, one that saves your login details for a particular site. Don’t panic – it can be restored from the Recovery section of Spybot. From the main menu, click on Recovery at the left-hand side, of the screen, then choose ‘Recover selected items’ in the toolbar. You will be asked if you want to undo the changes; click Yes to proceed. If you want to delete an items permanently, choose ‘Purge selected items’ rather than using the Recovery option.
If you want to customise the protection, Spybot has plenty of options for tweaking settings. In the toolbar you will find the Navigation tool. Click on this to view Settings and Tools. You can choose which file extensions you want scanned and what cookies that you may wish to keep. You can also add or remove directories from the scan, which can help speed things up, or improve security, depending on how you want to balance the two.