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How Often Should I Update Antivirus Software?

By Christian Petersen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Computer security is a concern for every computer owner with a computer that connects to the Internet. A good way to protect your computer from viruses and other malicious software is to be sure to update antivirus software regularly. Depending on how you use your computer, the frequency with which you should update can vary, but generally, most manufacturers suggest that you update antivirus software quite regularly, sometimes as often as every day.

Many people wonder why it is necessary to update antivirus software, and some believe that just installing an antivirus program is sufficient to protect their computer against viruses and other attacks. This is not true, however. Antivirus software is designed to check the files on your computer and any incoming files or downloaded data for known virus code. When virus code is detected, the virus program takes steps to isolate or delete the virus, protecting the computer and its data. Criminals, hackers and others who distribute viruses are constantly devising and releasing new viruses and other malicious software, and failing to keep your antivirus software up to date can result in it not recognizing a new threat not included in its database.

Most people whose computers aren't always connected to the Internet or who surf only on a regular rotation of secure sites can probably get away with updating their antivirus software once every week or so. Viruses are rarely found on more mainstream sites. Users who spend a lot of time connected to the Internet, who have an always-on connection, or who do a lot of web surfing, particularly to any sites that are not secure, should update antivirus software daily.

Many programs have integral controls for setting regular updates. Some even automate this feature, automatically updating themselves every day or every time the computer is connected to the Internet, if less often than once per day. This is very convenient, and means that you don't have to worry about remembering to update antivirus software. Generally, to update antivirus software means to update the database the software uses to identify potential threats, but the software itself may occasionally need to be updated as well. This should be done whenever the manufacturer offers an update, and most antivirus programs have an option allowing you to be notified automatically when such an update is available.

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