Antivirus is a confusing matter: it’s called antivirus, but there are tons of other types of malware out there. So…do those programs also scan for spyware, adware, and other threats? Here’s how to make heads or tails of it all, and which tools you can trust to keep your PC clean.

We may be beyond the days where viruses made the evening news, but that doesn’t mean that viruses and other malware are gone forever. They’re there, more than happy to infect your computer and add it to a botnet or spam everyone in your contact list. On the bright side though, with some common sense, a good understanding of what you’re up against, and the right tools, you can keep your PC safe pretty easily.

De-Mystifying Viruses, Malware, and Other Threats

Let’s start with the differences between “viruses” and “malware.” Viruses are a specific type of malware (designed to replicate and spread), while malware is a broad term used to describe all sorts of unwanted or malicious code. Malware can include viruses, spyware, adware, nagware, trojans, worms, and more. However, because viruses (and to a lesser extent, trojans and worms) made headlines a few years ago, most security companies focused their marketing on them, which is why they’re called “antivirus.”