We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

How do antivirus progams work?

Kate A asks: I would be interested to know how antivirus software actually works. How do they actually kill the viruses? Thank you.

Pete replies: here is a very simplistic explanation. Antivirus software works in two main ways. Firstly, it determines what kind of file it is scanning, then looks for patterns, sometimes called signatures (think of fingerprints) that have been previously identified in known viruses. Secondly, to some extent the antivirus software may apply heuristics (rules of thumb). For instance, if it has webbed feet, feathers and wings and quacks then it's probably a duck, so treat it accordingly.

Removal of an identified virus can be a simple matter of repairing the program file that the virus has infected. In the worst recent cases, removal can be hellishly difficult because the virus is deeply embedded in the bowels of the Windows operating system.

IDG UK Sites

Windows 10 release date, price, features. The next version of Windows will run on everything:....

IDG UK Sites

Windows 9 and the death of the OS as a must-have product

IDG UK Sites

Video trends: 4K is here – HDR video, VR and 3D audio is coming

IDG UK Sites

How Windows 10 is even more like Mac OS X, and not just because it's another OS Ten