Anti-Spyware and Anti-Virus Software: What's the Difference?

By Graham McKenzie

Every time you log into the World Wide Web from your PC, you expose it to unseen malice. Chances are you are all too familiar with the ads that warn you about the horrible malware that can burrow its way into your hard drive. Malicious programs from hackers in lands far and near can hijack your email account. They can give identity thieves access to your bank account and your credit cards. They can steal your very name. So, it only makes good sense that the first thing you ever do with your new Internet-ready PC is to protect it from the unseen dangers of the net. But what kind of software do you need? Anti-spyware, anti-virus software, or both?

To answer that question, let's first take a look at what anti-virus and anti-spyware programs protect your PC against. A virus is a small file that can attach itself to your hard drive. Viruses attack your computer surreptitiously from the Internet. When click on their file, or when a "timer" goes off, they launch their attacks. Virus can delete your data. They can edit your registry. Or they can slow everything to a crawl.

Spyware also arrives at your computer from the World Wide Web. Malicious programmers usually attach spyware to another piece of software. This program can come into your PC through email or off a third party website. Like a virus, it will activate when you open it. However, Spyware is not obviously harmful. Instead, the spyware program will start burrowing deep into your computer and sending information about your computer and your online activities to the person who created it. It might just be your email address. Soon your inbox is full of spam. Or it might be your financial records, stolen by an identity theft. The only way you can know whether you have spyware is the run a detection program, but you can make a good guess that it's spyware if your computer runs slow.

So, what's the difference between anti-spyware and anti-virus software? Well, most of the time, your computer protection these days provides both. Checking for new spyware and virus definitions every week, your protection software will scan your hard drive regularly to make sure it is not infected.

Anti-virus programs will usually integrate themselves into your email and web browser. This keeps malicious programs from ever infecting your computer in the first place. Anti-spyware software may perform the same function, but it is usually more from removing files that have already infected your computer. Anti-spyware will often provide you with a tool that will scan websites you are about to visit. It will stop you from logging on and tell you they contain malicious code or have been reported as installing spyware on other computers, or if the anti-spyware designer has safety concerns about the site.

To keep your computer secure and free from viruses and spyware, your best option is to obtain software that protects you from both. Anti-virus software and anti-spyware software in the same software suite offer you a more complete, reliable protection against the ever growing number of harmful programs that threaten your PC from the World Wide Web. - 30430

About the Author:

Sign Up for our Free Newsletter

Enter email address here