Keeping your computer secure helps you avoid malware and direct hacking attempts designed to steal your personal information. Here are some ways you can help reduce your online risk when you use your computer at home.
Tips to protect your computer
Use a firewall
Note that Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7 have a firewall already built in and automatically turned on.
Keep all software up to date
Make sure to turn on automatic updates in Windows Update to keep Windows, Microsoft Office, and other Microsoft applications up to date. Turn on automatic updates for non-Microsoft software as well, especially browsers, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and other apps you regularly use.
Use antivirus software and keep it current
If you run Windows 10 or Windows 8, you have Windows Security or Windows Defender Security Center already installed on your device. If you run Windows 7, you can download Microsoft Security Essentials for free.
Make sure your passwords are protected
To learn how, see Protect your passwords.
Don’t open suspicious attachments or click unusual links in messages.
They can appear in email, tweets, posts, online ads, messages, or attachments, and sometimes disguise themselves as known and trusted sources.
Browse the web safely
Avoid visiting sites that offer potentially illicit content. Many of these sites install malware on the fly or offer downloads that contain malware. Use a modern browser like Microsoft Edge, which can help block malicious websites and prevents malicious code from running on your computer.
Stay away from pirated material
Avoid streaming or downloading movies, music, books, or applications that do not come from trusted sources.
Do not use USBs or other external devices unless you own them
To avoid infection by malware and viruses, ensure that all external devices either belong to you or come from a reliable source.
Protect your personal information online
Your privacy on the internet depends on your ability to control both the amount of personal information that you provide and who has access to that information. Find out how to protect your privacy on the internet.
Protect yourself from scams
When you read email, use social media, or browse the web, you should be wary of scams that try to steal your personal information (also known as identity theft), your money, or both. Many of these scams are known as "phishing scams" because they "fish" for your information. Find out how to protect yourself from phishing scams and avoid tech support scams.
Prevent and remove malware
One important step toward greater workplace security is to protect your computer against malware.
Windows Security (or Windows Defender Security Center in previous versions of Windows 10) is built in to Windows 10 and Windows 8 and provides real-time malware detection, prevention, and removal with cloud-delivered protection. It is intended for home, small business, and enterprise customers. For more info, see Help protect my computer with Windows Security.
Other ways to remove malware
To assist all Windows customers, including those who are not running Windows Security, Microsoft provides several malware removal solutions.
Windows Defender Offline
Windows Defender Offline runs outside of Windows to remove rootkits and other threats that hide from the Windows operating system. This tool uses a small, separate operating environment, where evasive threats are unable to hide from antimalware scanners.
With Windows 10, Windows Defender Offline is built in to the operating system and can run from Windows Security. It is provided as a separate download for previous versions of Windows.
Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool
The Malicious Software Remove Tool (MSRT) is released regularly through Windows Update and automatically removes the most prevalent threats. MSRT helps ensure that Windows computers, regardless of their antimalware solution, are regularly scanned for the most prevalent threats.
MSRT is also provided as a standalone tool that you can download. Customers who want to be able to address the most prevalent threats on demand can download and run the standalone version.
Microsoft Safety Scanner
Microsoft Safety Scanner provides full and comprehensive on-demand antimalware scans. It offers robust offline scan and cleanup capabilities. However, it does not provide the real-time and cloud-based protection that is available with Windows Security.
Safety Scanner covers both prevalent and less notable threats. It is recommended as a more robust alternative to the Malicious Software Removal Tool.