Protect Your Windows Laptop from Viruses

This article is about ways to protect your PC from viruses that can screw up your computer, or allow criminals to steal your data, personal information, or money.

Use an anti-malware app – Installing an anti-malware app and keeping it up to date can help defend your PC against viruses and other malware (malicious software). 

Don’t open email messages from unfamiliar senders, or email attachments that you don’t recognize – Many viruses are attached to email messages and will spread as soon as you open the attachment. It’s best not to open any attachment unless it’s something you’re expecting. For more information see: Protect yourself from phishing.

Use a pop-up blocker with your internet browser – Pop-up windows are small browser windows that appear on top of the website you’re viewing. Although most are created by advertisers, they can also contain malicious or unsafe code. A pop-up blocker can prevent some or all of these windows from appearing. The pop-up blocker in Microsoft Edge is turned on by default.

If you’re using Microsoft Edge, make sure SmartScreen is turned on – SmartScreen in Microsoft Edge helps protect you from phishing and malware attacks by warning you if a website or download location has been reported as unsafe. For more info, see What is SmartScreen and how can it help protect me?

Pay attention to Windows SmartScreen notifications – Be cautious about running unrecognized apps downloaded from the Internet. Unrecognized apps are more likely to be unsafe. When you download and run an app from the internet, SmartScreen uses info about the app’s reputation to warn you if the app isn’t well-known and might be malicious.

Keep Windows updated – Periodically, Microsoft releases special security updates that can help protect your PC. These updates can help prevent viruses and other malware attacks by closing possible security holes.

Make sure User Account Control (UAC) is turned on – When changes are going to be made to your PC that require administrator-level permission, UAC notifies you and gives you the chance to approve the change. UAC can help keep viruses from making unwanted changes. To open UAC, swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Search. (If you’re using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and then click Search.) Enter uac in the search box, and then tap or click Change User Account Control settings.

Make sure that Tamper Protection is turned on – In Windows 10 and 11 we have a feature called Tamper Protection that prevents unauthorized apps from changing your security settings. Many viruses and malware try to disable anti-malware software or other security settings when they’re installed in order to evade detection. See Prevent changes to security settings with Tamper Protection for information on how to confirm that it’s turned on.

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