The Biggest Myths About Antivirus Software

On many computing platforms, antivirus software is considered one of the basic pieces of software that every user should have. It’s true on Windows, but applies to other desktop platforms and even to mobile systems such as Android. The prevalence of antivirus software has led to a number of myths about it, though. Here are some of the most prevalent myths regarding antivirus software.

The Biggest Myths About Antivirus Software

Antivirus Only Protects Against Known Threats

One of the most common lines of thinking when it comes to antivirus software is that it can only remove known viruses. Antivirus software has to have some sort of parameter for what a virus is, so it’s only as good as the definitions contained.

This is mostly false. While antivirus software does rely heavily on definitions to loo for existing and commons threats, it also uses other techniques. Through behavioral analysis and heuristics, many antivirus programs have the capability to identify new threats without a strict definition for them.

Antivirus Software Guards Against Everything

Many users look at antivirus software as the one-stop solution for everything related to security on their machine. It’s true that antivirus software does protect against most threats – it can isolate and remove trojans, malware and other files meant to cause damage to your system. However, it isn’t a safeguard for absolutely everything. You still need to be smart about what sites you visit and pay attention to suspicious programs or activity. As some would put it, antivirus software can’t guard against ignorance.

Blocked or Flagged Files Are Malware

Most software programs will block and remove known threats automatically, but they’ll also mark suspicious files or sites that may be malware. It’s easy to assume that these are malware and remove them unceremoniously, but those sorts of blanket assumptions aren’t always right. Just because a file is flagged as being potentially malware doesn’t mean that it is. It might just have a behavior that is common in viruses, such as scanning through a secure area of your machine, but it’s still important to exercise common sense.

Antivirus Can Remove Everything

This isn’t completely a myth. Sometimes antivirus software can remove every threat it detects. Most of the programs referenced at TopTenReviews do an excellent job of this. However, there are some threats that simply cannot be automatically removed.

For the viruses that can’t be removed automatically – mostly newer threats – manual removal is necessary. This means going into the system registry and being able to manipulate those files. It’s rare that this occurs, but that doesn’t mean that it never happens.

Macs Don’t Need Antivirus Software

During the height of Apple’s marketing campaign against Windows, one of the biggest selling points for Macs was that they didn’t get viruses. This became an almost universally accepted fact. However, marketing points have a funny way of avoiding fact checks.

The truth is that OS X is built in a way that makes it much less susceptible to viruses, and viruses that are written for Windows won’t operate on a Mac. However, as the Mac’s market share has increased, more threats have come for it. It’s not as vulnerable as a PC and never will be, but Macs do get viruses.


Like anything else, there’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding antivirus solutions. Whether it pertains to which software to use, how to use it or what it can do, it’s important to be knowledgeable about it. After all, one nasty virus can wreck an entire machine. You’ll be a much savvier user if you take the time to understand how the software works.

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