Is your personal computer a virus magnet?

A computer virus is the one of the biggest fears of any personal computer owner. With more than 30,000 malicious virus codes lurking around the Internet, your computer is definitely an at-risk target for infection.

A computer can be infected with a virus in a number of ways. The most likely methods of transmission are through e-mail attachments, downloading programs from the Internet and uploading information from an infected floppy or Zip disk.

Once the set of codes has come in contact with your system there is a very real possibility that you will not notice it until damage begins to take place.

Maurice Simmons, a sophomore computer information sciences student from Upper Marlboro, Md., said a virus was uploaded onto his computer, during the fall of his freshman year.

“I noticed that my computer was doing things that I didn’t tell it to do, like my CD door would open up by itself, and Windows would start up out of nowhere. It was just really weird,” Simmons said.

“It didn’t really hurt my computer it was more of an inconvenience.”

Simmons, who got rid of the virus on his PC by downloading virus remover tools from the Internet, is one of the lucky ones. For many PC owners cleaning a virus from their systems can be a costly, time-consuming process.

Last year, in the United States alone computer viruses cost professional businesses over $55 billion in damages.

There are a number of ways to protect your computer from the constant threat of a computer virus.

“The easiest and best way to protect your computer is to purchase good anti-virus software,” said Douglas McDonald, computer systems control coordinator for the FAMU Computer Information Sciences Department.

Anti-virus software are programs that will scan your computer for any existing threats or suspicious codes and will eliminate them accordingly.

“A complete system scan should be ran on your hard drive at least once a week,” McDonald said.

McDonald also said when you get your anti-virus software, you should make sure that it’s set up for an access scan, so that e-mail attachments and floppy disks will be checked automatically.

“Once you have installed the anti-virus system, it’s important to update it on a consistent basis,” said Bradley Mitchell, chief information officer with Aegis Computer Services.

In order to provide the best protection, anti-virus companies are constantly updating their systems. The updates are most often free of charge to registered users of a company’s products, and are available to be downloaded on the manufactures designated Web site.

“New threats are made every day, and even the best systems are powerless if you don’t update frequently so that you can receive the utmost in protection,” said Mitchell, who has been in the computer profession for over 22 years. “A 2003 edition should keep you relatively safe throughout the year 2004, but you should really think about purchasing the new 2005 edition when it is released.”

No anti-virus system is perfect, even with the most updated products a virus may still leak into your system. Mitchell said a PC owner would be smart to continually back up all of the data from their hard drives.

He noted that in most cases a computer can be repaired, but key documents, and other information can be lost, permanently.

Contact Anthony Moore at