To stay healthy in a computer virus world, there are several steps to take. First, be careful with all email. If you use Outlook or Outlook Express, turn off the scripting feature. Make sure that anti virus software checks all of you incoming and outgoing email, and don't open an email with attachments unless you know for sure who sent it to you and why. It is always better to be safe than sorry, so if in doubt, don't open the attachment. Viruses and worms will attach themselves to your address book and replicate themselves by sending copies of themselves to everyone you know and commonly email, and they won't know not to open it because it will look as though it comes from you.
Next, keep the anti virus software up to date. There are many good programs out there to stop viruses. McAfee's, Norton, AVG and others work well. But, you need to keep them up to date. Most anti virus programs allow you to go to their web site and download updates on a regular basis. Some of them in fact can even be set to do the downloading and updating for you automatically on a regular basis. Viruses change all the time and the updates are set for the new viruses to keep you safe so be sure to update.
Use a router for safety's sake. A router will block your IP address and prevent many viruses from reaching you or any other computers on your network. This will work very well if you are on a cable modem or DSL, but is also useful for those who are on dial up. Routers are low in price, ranging from $25 for a cable modem or DSL router to $100 for a dial up router.
Switch to software that is not as commonly used. Microsoft makes great products and is in common use, but Microsoft is also the biggest target out there for hackers. Also, if you switch to another browser, Netscape Navigator or Firefox for example, you will avoid some virus problems. Switching from Outlook to something like Thunderbird or Calypso for your email or using web based email like Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail from Microsoft, which keeps the email storage away from your computer and also includes virus checking software is worth considering. There are many good email programs out there and many good browsers. Try several and see which you are most comfortable with.
Next use a firewall. There are many good firewalls out there. Windows XP comes with a built in firewall. Zone Alarm has a free version. Other good firewalls are available at reasonable costs and many have thirty day free trials so you can check one out and see if it works well for you. A firewall can be your first line of defense against computer viruses. Install one, especially if you have broadband, like T1, cable or DSL access to the Internet. Going on the Internet without a firewall is like walking into combat without a Kevlar helmet and a flak vest to protect your self.
Next, backup everything you do. Get yourself a CD or DVD burner if you don't have one already, or a portable external hard drive. Get in the habit of backing your system up on a regular basis so that, if you are hit by a virus, your data is not permanently lost. You'll have a good backup copy of it handy and ready to reinstall. At the very least, email files that you cannot replace, to a friend to keep for you or to a free web based email account for storage.
Finally, here's the bonus tip of the day. Use common sense. Think when you surf. If you don't know someone, be leery of accepting the files they might want to transfer to you. If you want to download software from a site make sure that the site has proper security protocol. Read the instructions. Don't just automatically click from reflex. The brain you have is much smarter than your computer, but you have to use it properly. Use your brain, use your common sense and think.