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Lesson 19. Troubleshooting, Restarting, ... > What is a Computer Virus?

What is a Computer Virus?

A computer virus is an incomplete piece of programming that can do nothing on its own but, if attached to another program, can take over the other program and carry out its own mission instead of that of the host program. So, when you run the host program, it does something wholly unexpected and usually unwelcome. It may do something benign, like popping a message up on your screen. Or it may do something malicious, like deleting files or reformatting your hard disk.

Part of the programming built in to every virus is the ability to spread itself to other programs. When you run a program that is infected with a virus, the virus loads into your computer's memory and waits for opportunities to install copies of itself into other programs on your computer. Then, when you send a newly infected program to someone else, his programs become infected too. Because> programs reside everywhere in modern computers, in the boot record of every disk, in .com, .exe, and .dll files, and even in data files, you can pass computer viruses around with ease, and you must take extraordinary measures to avoid passing them around.


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