May 2011 Article
A quick word on BIOS and boot sector viruses: while they’re nasty, they’re preventable and fixable. This type of virus is particularly malicious, since formatting and reinstalling your operating system will not remove the virus and many are undetectable to the majority of antivirus programs. If you’ve recently reinstalled your operating system and are still experiencing virus-like symptoms, you may have one of these nasty buggers. Preventing BIOS viruses is possible by password protecting your BIOS, but this is risky, since if you forget that password your computer will become useless in many cases without professional help. Boot sector viruses can be prevented by running strong antivirus/antimalware software. Removing either of these types of viruses will require professional help, so prevention here is far better than cure.
If you’re running Windows, the best way to protect from these types of threats is to use a non-administrative user account instead of the default settings which allow full control. Simply open up the control panel, open up Users or User Accounts, add/create a new account and make sure it’s a “limited”–not an administrative–account. Add a decent password and start browsing the web using that account. Windows is so easily infected with malware largely because people use accounts with administrative privileges all of the time. Remove the rights to install programs and make critical changes to your operating system and viruses can’t do their damage. The reason most people don’t do this–other than simple ignorance of the ramifications–is it can be a bit of a hassle to install things unless you’re running in administrative mode. Fortunately, it doesn’t take that long to log out/log back in as an administrator if you have to install or configure something. It takes far less time than having to reinstall your operating system and recover your data!
If you are tired of viruses and are up for trying something new, you can always switch to Linux and give it a try. Linux and Mac OSX run in limited user mode by default, which makes it harder for malware to take hold. Additionally, more viruses are written (in the tens of thousands more) for Windows than for any other operating system, simply because more people use Windows (bigger target). In the worst-case scenario, you can always go back to Windows if you cannot get used to the new operating system. Ubuntu is great for soon to be ex-Windows users, since it provides a great deal of user-friendliness. Lubuntu would run excellently on older machines. Most Linux distributions are free and choices abound, so pick a few and have at it!