Many years ago I decided I was not going to use an antivirus for my computer. My friends and colleagues find this unbelievable, but they are more surprised when I tell them that throughout the years this decision never came back to haunt me.
The #1 reason was to get rid of the performance penalties that are an obvious consequence of an antivirus that runs in the background and checks all the files that are being accessed. The second reason was that [at that time] I did not have a permanent Internet connection, so I was always sure that I never had the most recent updates. In other words, I was aware of the fact that my antivirus would probably miss a threat or two. In those circumstances it was obvious that
I have to live with permanent performance issues;
And in spite of that, there is a great chance I'll get infected anyway.
Naturally, I decided to remove the antivirus. This sounds like a crazy decision, but it is not, if you analyze the problem. Think about the sources from which viruses come:
Emails with attachments
Things you copy from CDs, DVDs or USB flash drives when you exchange data with friends
Files downloaded from Internet sites
Source-X (you'll find out below)
Now, let's deal with each item:
Email - this is not a real threat, as long as you follow some basic rules:
Don't run programs that came in attachments;
If the attachment comes from a trusted person; either ask them if they really sent that file, or simply ignore the email because (see below)
Normally people don't send programs (EXE files) via email. Usually we exchange photos, documents, movies... why would we suddenly change the pattern and send a program?
Files copied from various media - the same logic applies: photos, movies and texts are not executable files, hence they pose no harm. If the CD or DVD is from a store, then we can trust the vendor made sure there are no infected files there. If it comes from an unreliable source, then try to obtain the same file from a trusted one.
Files downloaded from various web-sites are the ones more likely to be harmful, especially if they come from P2P networks like eDonkey or Kazaa. As in the previous case, you are pretty safe if you ignore EXE files and only use the .mp3 or .avi ones - they are not executable programs, so they can't cause trouble. (Note, if you're the "download stuff off P2P networks" type, you might find PD FileMove useful)
As you can see above, most of the times you can get away by simply taking a look at the type of the file and making sure it is not a EXE. An antivirus is not needed for that, all you need is to think for a second before double-clicking a file.
Now, what if you received a file from a friend, and they confirmed they really sent it, so it's supposed to be safe... but your defensive instincts tell you that the file might be harmful, what then? The solution is to use an antivirus which is not resident, i.e. it does not permanently reside in the computer's memory and you only use it when you think you need it.
I do have an antivirus on my computer, a free program called ClamWin. If my "psychic virus detection" skills are not convincing enough, I can right-click the suspect file and scan it:
Knowing that I can do this, gives me the psychological comfort of feeling protected. But here's the funny thing - in no less than 5 years of not using an antivirus, I used this option no more than 10 times. Each time I used it, the antivirus confirmed that the suspect file was indeed malicious - but I was able to determine that myself just by analyzing the file (its name, extension, size, the date it was created).
In other words, I have empirical evidence that life without an antivirus is not only possible, but also very successful. Of course, this requires rather advanced computer-oriented thinking (not everyone can guess that a file is a spyware program just by looking at it), but even this has a simple solution - don't mess with unknown EXEcutable files.
This story would be incomplete, and misleading, if I didn't mention that I am using a firewall, and I am pretty sure that my firewall is the second most important layer of defense (the first one being my intuition; the term 'intuition' is not very good, but discussing its appropriateness is beyond the scope of this story).
This occurred to me in the days of MSBlast, when many people suddenly found themselves with a "System is shutting down in X seconds" message on the screen. That's when I learned that threats don't necessarily come in the form of a EXE file which I must run; an unprotected system with known vulnerabilities can easily become the target of an attack. Afterwards files can be run on the system without my permission, so I can get infected. The obvious conclusion is that there is another source of threats - network connections (this is what "Source-X" referred to). And the other obvious conclusion is that I needed a firewall. Nowadays Windows comes with a built-in firewall, so we've got this attack vector taken care of. Note that this firewall does not monitor outbound connections, and is not very flexible, but choosing a perfect firewall is beyond the scope of this story.
Finally, there is another layer of defense, the one which never fails, the one that gives me the greatest psychological comfort (i.e. if everything else lets me down, I can be 100% I am not totally lost). What I'm talking about, is Disk Firewall. The defensive strategy is simple and very easy to implement:
- Separate system files from your personal files (see the 4th message in the forum thread);
- Store your personal data in a virtual encrypted disk, restricting access to the data using Disk Firewall and a list of trusted applications.
In this case, even if your system was compromised, you can be sure that your data are absolutely intact. Moreover, if you've implemented the 'separate system from personal data' approach - restoring your system to a stable state is "one-two-threasy" :-)
- Life without an antivirus is possible;
- Most of the security threats can be dealt with by simply being attentive to details;
- If you insist on having an antivirus (which you will rarely use), why pay when there is a free alternative?
- If your antivirus program comes with a built-in firewall, perhaps you can make your system faster by leaving only the firewall enabled, disabling the resident scanner and manually scanning files that you think are suspect;
- I save money because I don't pay for an antivirus, nor I pay for updates;
- I never complain about my system being painfully slow (unlike some of my colleagues, who are so well-protected that they can't even use their computers for any real-world tasks, other than watching progress bars ;-)
Comment from: P Daddy [Visitor]
I haven't use any antivirus for over five years now. I four computers and their on line all the time. The proformance hit is a waste of time for something that isn't needed. But still so many people are conned into using antivirus protection.
Comment from: gettowar [Visitor]
great article...to bad i dont have that "intuition" developed in me. I still put my trust in the anti virus even though it slows my computer
Comment from: Anti-Antivirus [Visitor]
Amen to good article.My computers online all the time and I don't use anti-virus either- and I'v done some messing about with questionable files/programs. I had one virus in a year- a quick restore solved that. I watch friends+family have trouble with antivirus- install/reinstall, its blocking their programs, slowing down the machine, etc, etc. However a lot of computer stores, techs, etc., promote it because they are affiliates, and get a small chunk of the sale.
I agree with much of what you say but
I use an adaware program and I rarely
have any problems not using a firewall and
and an antivirus program but I do use
alot of prompts so I am warned if some
thing unusual pops up I say yes or
no whether to accept it or not! a
computer repair guy told me I should
atleast Non-resident Antivirus that's
happens to be what I'm looking for
is clamwin a good program or does it
mess with emails? I often get product pictures attachments in my emails
in my email
Comment from: admin [Member]
Clamwin is a good choice, it integrates into the context-menu and it will only scan what you tell it to scan (as shown on the screenshot). When you install it, there is a checkbox that allows you to choose whether you need "Outlook integration" or not. I disabled that, not only that I don't use Outlook, but I just don't want anyone/anything to mess with my email. I'm smart enough not to run attachments that came from a questionable source.
Finally, pictures are pictures, not programs; so I really don't understand why people want an antivirus to scan their email. I'd rather invest into a good spam-filter and nail two problems in a move (as most viruses come with spam email, at least in my case).
Comment from: Mark [Visitor]
I haven't used one for years either. I keep system and data files on 2 different drives also, and have backup images using Acronis TrueImage. Even if I try a questionable downloaded program, and it's a very bad virus, all I have to do is restore my system including the mbr using the image. It's pretty bulletproof. I used norton a long time ago but the time spend hasseling with it was worse than a virus! About half of torrents are virus-infected....
You are a fucking idiot.
Simple things like Internet Explorers ActiveX, usually something you would think you need, can contain a virus.
And sometimes it can be accidental... Its always good to have an anti virus making sure you didnt.
Comment from: Bob Dobbs [Visitor]
Back when I first started using the Internet I got an Antivirus package. I thought it was something you had to do. Then, one day, I got a virus. The AV didn't spot it, but my intuition told me it was a bad file. I trusted the AV, and I suffered for it.
It was a real wake-up call.
I abandoned AV software forever after that. It was 10 years ago. I've never had another virus.
Granted, this may not be for everybody, but for a techhead of even moderate knowledge it's a surefire defense.
Comment from: Bob Dobbs [Visitor]
Clearly you need AV because you haven't the sense to abandon Internet Exploder.
Comment from: Alan [Visitor]
Same here. Never used anti-virus and never will. It's not necessary for the experienced. I have taken the time to setup my PCs to store all user data on a network drive which makes automatic backups. Each PC simply has the OS and some programs installed. Keep an image of the hard drive. Get a virus, simply restore the image and you are back in business in less than 30 minutes. Maybe another 10 to get the latest updates from the time the image was cut.
While I completely agree with the general attitude not to use anti-virus software and instead using common sense, I must warn you that pretty much any filetype can contain executable code (which is also executed if appropriately crafted). There have always been various programming errors in stuff like JPEG decoders, MP3 decoders etc. that would make these programs EXECUTE stuff in a JPEG instead of displaying it (just an example).
So, yes, opening a JPEG in an attachment (or merely the E-Mail which embeds the JPEG) can cause you harm.
Comment from: Daniel C. [Visitor]
I use the exact same strategy. In many years, the only time it has failed me was when someone passed me a pendrive with a malicious autorun. Not that it was a big problem - if you have an image of your clean system and a disk for your personal data, getting rid of a virus is faster than running the antivirus' check.
Comment from: Edith B. Taylor [Visitor]
I also stopped using anti-virus (after an anti-virus update screwed up my computer and ruined my gaming time); for me the choice to stop using them was an easy one. Realized that I didn't need anti-virus because I surf safely in the first place. I exercise some common sense about opening files or going to certain websites.
I used anti-virus for a year when i first got Windows 98, and after that decided it brought the computer to a crawl, and i haven't used anti-virus since, except once when someone used my comp and didnt practice safe computing. If you are an adequate user, you should find life without Anti-Virus a delight! Your system can realise it's specs, the HDD LED doesnt constantly flash, it won't utilize 100% cpu as often, and best of all, it won't keep giving you stupid ass pop up windows (COUGH NORTON). Simple, just be observant with what files you download and you should be perfectly fine, if not, i keep my documents on a seperate partition, so i can always restore the OS if need be. I don't need AV as i restore my system every 3 months anyway as windows can get slower and slower in time. Just remember to practise safe computing and look out for anything suspicious.
I stopped using AV a couple of years ago on my 2 home and several work computers and have never had a problem. If you are sensible about what you run you are highly unlikely to have a problem.
Since the beginning of PCs I have ony had one virus and then the AV didn't find it. A work and home we are always being a firewall. We have many servers and test PCs always on at work and have never had a problem.
Comment from: Eddie [Visitor]
I have not used antivirus for years as well, very good article.
People think I'm crazy or that I really don't know a s%%%t about computers when I tell them I don't use antivirus, really!
I like the thrill actually... Makes me feel like a badass guy. LOL
Comment from: Dean [Visitor]
Same here. My firewall has kept me protected from viruses that roam the net, when my PC misbehaves I always check the running Processes for dodgy files, I don't open EXEs from anywhere that I am unfamiliar with, and life has been a pleasure. Not one virus, bug, or odd infection has plagued me, and I am convinced antivirus software prices are a tax on people that don't know how to browse the web intelligently.
Comment from: Ryan [Visitor]
I just use 2 computers. The crappy one on the internet and the good one not on the internet. The connected computer only has the OS and Firefox. My downloaded stuff (movies, games, music, e books), I scan for viruses then transfer to my good PC via USB hard-drive. This way all my stuff is safe and sound and if my internet PC gets infected I just reinstall the OS, Which has never happened, ever. I like this system because I can be as frivolous as I want with no worries because all my stuff is on another machine. Is this dumb?
Comment from: smythrj [Visitor]
For all those thinking they don't have a virus because they can't see it.
Keyloggers, rootkits and the serious virus', the ones that setup botnets and DDoS you wont know about till the federales are confiscating your PC cause its been spamming google.
Just cause you cant see it doesn't mean its not there.
Smythrj, you bring a good point, but I must say that it doesn't mean that a consequence of that should be the installation of a cumbersome antivirus that can convert a modern system into a turtle.
The article advocates the use of common sense - which is a 100% positive thing to do.
"Just cause you cant see it doesn't mean its not there."
Nor does it mean that it is there. Using the same logic one could argue that god exists simply because we don't see him/her/it.
Alexander Ewering, you bring a very good point. You wrote yourself that the problem is in the software that is not handling the data correctly. It is a matter of software design - those who write programs that naively assume that they receive "good" input will eventually get what they deserve.
So the morale of the story is that people should be picky about the programs they use.
Nate, as another reader pointed out, you shouldn't be using Internet Explorer in the first place. But even if you do, the installation of an ActiveX component requires human intervention - you have to click on "yes, install it". Clicking on things without reading about them is stupid, but a minimal dose of common sense cures that.
Comment from: Frostbite [Visitor]
I haven't used it in over 5 years myself either. I just did my once a year scan and found 35 "infected" files which just turned out to be modified cheat engines I use. I don't really have a need for antivirus, ever since the update back in XP that added a mandatory firewall I haven't had any issues. Also helps to have a router.
Lots of good info here (even you, Nate);
In the past, I have used AVG Free, though I use Firefox w/NoScript for most of my surfing.
Those who are disciplined with where they go and what they allow on their machine can manage with an AV; for those who can't control their surfing habits, a dualboot with Linux might be a good idea.
I've started using Microsoft Security Essentials, which is free, and doesn't seem to have an appreciable effect on machine speed.
Comment from: fromusofa [Visitor]
I 've never used any antivirus or any other type of security software...nor I have any firewall(hardware or software) installed on my computer..and no automatic updates, no indexing, no bullshit, no unnecessary services or programs running in the backgroun that I don't regularly use ...I just load core OS, an internet browser snd classic media player...and just read my emails, news, watch few videos...including porn and that's it. never had any trouble but if things ever go wrong I can just re image the machine in few mins and I am back online again...so why bother with rest of bullshit....my machine is ready to browse the web in less than 30 secs after turning it on and when I shutdown it gets turned off in 10 secs or less....bye bye.
Comment from: ron smith [Visitor]
I had a lecture I gave all of my CAD/CAM students about viruses. I had them bring the wort baddest most nasty thing the could find and put it on a CD. They about flipped when I put all of those files in a folder marked "do not execute". At the end of the semester I deleted the folder and ran an antivirus scan. Of course nothing.
The above article is a very good piece and it should be mandatory for sisters and mothers who freak over such things like ten year olds.
The only thing I would add to the article is a bit on Norton Ghost, which should you make a mistake and get infected, has daily recovery points by which you can go back to some period that was known to be clean and then "completely" rebuild everything bit by bit without any interference from Microsoft.
Agree 100% with what you say.
I work on IT since 95 and never used AV, they are "worse than viruses", because freeze the system when you most need it :) round-the-clock.
Despite all precautions, just browsing "untrusted" sites, eventually my computer gets infected. I notice this pretty quickly because the system runs slowly, then I use task manager to identify the process and autoruns to analyze the programs started automatically and that's it.
Comment from: mobile phone [Visitor]
Yea I have never had a anti virus. Actually because i couldnt afford it (I didnt know about free ones) and I got sick of all the updates and popups from the antivirus free try that came with my computer. So far my computer runs better than my husbands breand new laptop whch has anti virus software on it. That and you can go on the internet and read mail on your phone and those dont have antivirus software.
Comment from: Seb [Visitor]
I stopped using AV over a decade ago and have never observed any problems. This is now true for multiple machines: personal, spare/dirty, lab, laptop, MediaCenter/HTPC. Friends and colleagues are always impressed when they see how fast my machine/s runs. It is also relevant that I do not install (or prevent from running) other 'unnecessary' software; e.g. printer managers, mouse software, propriety wireless network management... etc.
Furthermore, I will not accept any criticism for this life-style for the simple reason that all my data and software installation files are backed-up and ready to go. My well-used laptop HDD died recently and it took all of 4 hours to rebuild the machine on a new HDD. If, or when, I get a virus that ruins a machine, the 4 hours required to re-build it will be insignificant to the amount of time saved avoiding AV software over the past decade... and counting.
Comment from: Aziel [Visitor]
No antivirus here either. The only time I ran one was when I was on my college campus network since their email servers were notorious for propagating worms, and I HAD to use campus email.
Nowadays, I just surf the net, play video games (that I paid for), and use software (that I paid for).
Viruses typically get the freeloader crack/warez/file sharing crowd. If you don't participate in such activities, you severely drop your risk of getting infected.
And believe it or not, I ran IE exclusively since IE7.
Comment from: Sébastien [Visitor]
Very great articles thank you!
Alex Rean said:
"I have my hard disk split in at least 2 partitions, C: is for Windows and programs.
D: is for everything else"
Do you think i should do the samething even if i have vista 64 bit pack 2?
Comment from: oceana [Visitor]
lol now good luck with that,a lot of viruses nowadays spread through web scripts,my avast has successfully blocked many trojan attacks that came from the internet,so if i took your advice and removed my pro antivirus,i would have been doomed.people like you is the reason why internet has become full of virus,you dont use antivirus and helps virus spread
Sébastien, my current system is Windows 7 x64, and I applied the same logic here. Yes, Windows 7 is more reliable than Windows XP, yet I chose to partition my hard disk in the same way - simply because it makes logistics easier.
Oceana, I see your point; but installing an antivirus is not the best solution. Remember that what it is blocking is not a virus, but a script.
You should simply use a browser with better security settings, or set up a plugin that disables scripts on untrusted sites.
In other words, you are solving the problem with an improperly chosen tool.
Comment from: Nabeel Adeni [Visitor]
I've been using a smartphone for quite some time now and as most of you, I really didn't feel the need for it.
As long as you use it 'Smartly' and don't get into the habit of using too many memory cards, keeping your bluetooth off when not in use and establishing a connection with a computer which has an Antiirus, by means of a USB, you'll not have a problem.
However, Then trojans can also find a way through your email and sometimes SMS. MAke sure you don't open an EXE file.
Comment from: Keith [Visitor]
Nice Article, considering it was written in 2007!
Today, I would still agree 95% with it, and it's great to see so many people also agree about not running resident virus "protection".
At the same time, these last four years, the paranoia has grown, and the virus industry has taken advantage.
All those solutions people mention to separate data and have restore solution notwithstanding, there is one thing that you cannot do without anti-virus installed, and that is lend your computer to anyone else, and that can be a social problem.
"hey - can I use your pc for a sec?"
Keith, you're right - social engineering will exist for as long as humans are alive :-)
So the best practice is not to share your computer with others. This may have side effects, such as friends reacting in a negative way - "wha'? you don't trust me?".
In such cases, the solution is to have a guest account in the system with a minimal set of privileges - such that the damage they can cause accidentally will be limited.
Comment from: Ricky [Visitor]
Some of your Anti-Virus advocates are terribly ill informed. Someone wrote a good comment here, that Anti virus software is a tax for computer dummies. That's so true. I use P2P file sharing sites & my PC is on 27/7. In 10 years I have never been infected by a virus, except for Itunes which I simply un-installed. (A Virus might be a bit harsh on Itunes but it could at least be called malware & is full of Apple spyware)
Comment from: John [Visitor]
Since 1999 I am not using any Virusprotectionsoftware. I am a Softwaretester and a Softwaredevelopper. I am Virusfree for almost 13 Years.
Like with everything in our lives, we all only can and will fear things we don't know the nature of that thing.
What does this mean? If we fear Viruses, shouldn't we not study how we could get infected? By avoiding few principles you will always be Virusfree!!!
1. Study the Web for how Viruses act(Basic skills are only needed)
2.Learn how to differe between harmfull attacks. (Trojans, Viruses, Network and Media atacks)
3.Don't download or execute binaries when you don't know where it comes from!
Don't let things run media autonoumously(Autorun by USB and/or other media)
As more you know and understand the nature... your life gets easier.
Don't say I am not an computerexpert. Computers are a part of our lifes. Get famillar with it and learn how to use things just like a tool like fork and knife...
Just an Idea for you out there...
Comment from: Raj [Visitor]
I am about to assemble a desktop that i am building mainly for working, that is, photoshop editing and video editing. I am a photographer.
I am going to install Win7 on the SSD disc that is 90G. I am a little concerned whether that is enough after reading some comments on the internet.
Anyway, I was planning on not installing antivirus and never using my desktop on the internet and email...no web connection...unless I am going to be uploading a video or photographs. After reading this thread, I am sold.
Any thoughts on this? And a little off topic, should I split my OS and Apps on different partitions on the SSD?
Hi Raj, I'm glad to hear that this story helped you make a decision.
As for your question, I would not split it into several partitions. With modern digital cameras, photos are of a very large size - so I'm pretty sure you won't be able to squeeze all of your stuff into the 90 GB. You will most likely have some sort of external storage device for the big files, or perhaps another disk (non-SSD = cheaper and bigger) for documents and photo archives.
Another argument against splitting the SSD is the fact that Windows tends to take more space over time (updates, service packs, system restore snapshots, etc) - so if you split it, you'll have a big partition for Windows and a small one for data. But trust me, data always takes more.
I hope this feedback helps.
Comment from: guy [Visitor]
i use firefox wit adblock plus plugin and also noscrypt, wich stops all scrypts and crap i dont want running anyway
Comment from: Jean [Visitor]
Here's another anti-anti-virus user. The decision came upon installing Win7 on a not so state-of-the-art laptop. Furthermore, it's a huge business. So the question redunded: Do I really needed an AV?
Last 5 times I remembered being warned by my AV of hazardous software was when I tried to use a legitimate patch on a pirate program... And I hardly ever download pirate programs. Now, AVG tries to add features like memory cosumption advices. wow that's so useful.
Of course, someone must be able to identify malware to a cetain extent as to it's way of infecting. So, I'm I better off now? For the moment, yes, but we'll see in the long-run.
Anyway, if I really want to visit malicious sites I just load Ubuntu on a stick and that's it :)
Comment from: Andrew [Visitor]
In the past i had a period when i stopped using av programs,and guess what?My computer
was not infected with any kind of virus/malicious aplication.But i still had Malwarebytes and HitmanPro(just to make sure).I just want to point out that if you really want to be a virus freak you shold probably download an antivirus/internet security.But if you are a normal person that care's about his pc and his files,then a second opinion virus scaner is for you.Or you can just trust your intuition and have no virus scaner installed.Oh,and by the way,the advices that all the other people pointed out are really good.
Comment from: Agf [Visitor]
I have never seen an AV program actually stopping malware before it was too late, but I have often seen computers being infected despite having the latest AV program.
the AV programs are selling a false sense of secutiry and slowing down your computer.
Comment from: John S [Visitor]
While I don't use A/V myself. I do think their are PC users that simply don't know what to look out for. Yes, they need some sort of education. But they don't care to seek that out. They would rather have a Application that not only degrades their PC performance. But as we all know. Can provide a false sense of security.
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