Please, oh please, keep your data safe from viruses and spyware.
Viruses are computer programs that can copy themselves and may damage programs, delete files, cause crashes or even reformat a hard disk! The antivirus that comes with our laptops is ETrust Antivirus by Computer Associates. This may be the worst antivirus program in the world. Don't believe me? Here's a review. I don't know of anyone in MARCS who has detected a virus using ETrust - that is not good.
Here is some good news: there are several great, free antivirus programs - I recommend Antivir or Avast. I have used both, both are excellent, and neither put a large strain on your CPU, meaning that your computer won't slow down to a crawl *ahem* Norton *ahem*. Personally, I prefer Antivir, and generally speaking, it performs better in reviews - detecting a higher percentage of viruses than any of the other free (and many paid) antivirus packages. If you install Antivir, here is how to turn off the Antivir splash screen:
Control Panel - administrationtools - local security principles - additional rules + right click and choose new hashrules - browse for and add avnotify.exe (shows as a lot of letters and numbers) and set this rule to "dont allow" - OK
Spyware slows down your computer, can make programs stop working, steal your data, log your keystrokes, and annoy you with popup advertisements. Spyware is a big problem. To maximise your chances of staying spyware free, I recommend using a combination of antispyware programs. I have all 4 of these installed, and have listed them in order of importance (if you only want one, install number 1; if you only want two, install numbers 1 & 2, etc.):
1. Spyware Doctor Starter Edition - This is a really nice program, useful for both prevention (from infection in the first place) and removal (of spyware once it's on your system). It automatically scans incoming files, auto-updates, and scans your computer for spyware. It is only available as part of Google Pack.
2. Spyware Blaster - You only run this program once, and it prevents spyware from getting on your computer in the first place. Make a habit of updating it once a month and enabling protection for all of the updated, and therefore unprotected, items.
3. Spybot - Needs to be started and updated manually. Will scan your hard disk for spyware. If it finds any, it will remove it. It does not automatically scan incoming files like Spyware Doctor does.
4. Adaware 2007 - What I said about Spybot applies equally well to Adaware. However, they detect different things - Adaware might find something that Spybot missed and vice versa.
All of the software mentioned in this article is free, and can be installed on one machine without causing conflicts or crashes.