From the Kenosha News on 11-4-07

Watch out for these common computer misconceptions

      In the past few years, I’ve gotten a number of questions that have surprised me, because they’re based on misconceptions and misunderstandings.  Here’s the straight scoop on a few of them.

      No, an anti-spyware program is NOT anti-virus and will not remove viruses or protect your from them.  You need a real anti-virus program – such as MacAfee, Symantec, Norton, or AVG.  AVG has a free version for home computers that can be downloaded from  Anti-spyware programs such as Spybot Search and Destroy or AdAware will NOT protect you from viruses or remove viruses from your computer.  Once you have any anti-virus program, it is crucial that virus definitions be kept up-to-date.

      No, a firewall won’t help you with viruses either.  A firewall has a different purpose than anti-virus, anti-spyware, or anti-spam.  Each of these products is distinct, and none of them does the work of the other.  A firewall is meant to “close up” various methods of access into your computer and allow only the types of communication that you normally use – such as web surfing and e-mail.  However, since many viruses, all spyware and all spam come either through e-mail or web surfing, a firewall doesn’t protect you from these.  It will protect you from some viruses and many hacking attempts.

      No, in most cases, you can’t get a virus just from opening an e-mail.  This is most true if you are using a web-based e-mail system such as Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, etc.   However, if you are using Outlook or Outlook Express, it IS possible to get a virus by opening a message if you have Outlook configured to open attachments and such automatically.  Normally, I advise against using Outlook or Outlook Express and recommend that you use a web-based system instead.  This way, not only can you access your e-mail from anywhere you can get to the internet, but you’ll also be better protected from viruses, which can often exploit the features and security holes in Outlook.  If you do see a suspicious message, you can just delete it, and DON’T open any attachments that your are not totally certain are from a reputable source.  (See my previous article on this topic at

      Yes, you CAN share files between Windows and Mac operating systems.  If you have Windows and your friend has a Mac, you can exchange Word and Excel documents and digital pictures with ease.  It is not the operating system (Mac vs. Windows) that makes the files compatible; it is the application software that was used to create them.  If you create a Word document and send it to a friend who has Windows but not MS Word, they will not be able to open it since they don’t have the correct application software.    (See more on this from my earlier article at

      No, shareware isn’t really free.  People who write shareware really want users to register the product and pay a modest fee.  Often, you can download and install shareware, but it may expire or have other limitations until you register it.  Really free software is called “freeware.” 

by Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 11-4-07