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The Importance of Full Virus Scans

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008 by | Filed Under: Security Help

A reader asks: My antivirus software says it has “real time” protection. Since it’s always monitoring for virus activity, do I ever need to run a full virus scan on my whole system?

Well, the quick answer is yes. You still need to run a full virus scan about once a week.

Now, I’ll give you the long answer with full explanations!

Most antivirus software provides two different functions. One of them is real time virus protection. That type of protection means the system listens for virus type activity at all times. If it detects something, it will identify the issue and remove the virus.

The second type of protection is the full system scan. Those types of scans will actually inspect every file on your system for an infection. If it finds an infected file, it will handle the virus appropriately.

Many people think that since the system has real time protection, there’s no need for the full system scan. Since the system will detect virus activity, there’s no point in scanning every file, right? Wrong!

Real time virus checking and full scanning work very differently and use different types of virus definitions. The real time scanner will find many types of attacks happening at the time, but they will not find everything. Real time protection looks for certain actions. If the action is not defined by the real time scanner, the antivirus software will not find the attack.

On the other hand, the real time virus scanner does not look for actions. It scans the files looking for certain codes that identify infected files. Many times, running the full system scan will detect viruses that have not triggered the real time scanning. That’s why it’s important to run a full system scan quite often.

For all of the computers here in the WorldStart office, we run a full system scan once a week. That ensures that any threats will be found within a reasonable amount of time.

On top of that, there are some antivirus programs that do full system scans whenever the system is not in use. That type of scanning is by far the best. What that means is, the antivirus software does the real time scanning and it also checks files for viruses when the system is idle. When you start using your computer, the full scan stops and it then continues when you’re done. That type of scanning ensures that a full system scan is being done constantly and on a regular basis. Until next time, stay safe out there, my friends!


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