Anti-Virus Thoughts

If you go into a school with existing Windows computers, chances are they are overrun with viruses. This can make the systems mostly unusable. Whether you’re cleaning up what’s there or doing a fresh install, anti-virus is a must.

One problem that comes up is this: anything that costs ongoing money is not going to get updated. I have seen tons of machines with expired Norton or McAfee subscriptions that were years out of date and overrun with viruses. Free systems that require periodic re-installation like AVG aren’t much better.

For Windows XP/Vista/7 systems, I’ve had the best luck with Microsoft Security Essentials. Both installation and updates are free and automatic when online. It’s also unobtrusive and requires no user interaction.

You can also download the virus definitions manually and bring them around on USB if you want to do updates in areas without internet. I have kept several remote schools virus-free for years by doing just yearly manual updates.

Windows 8 and 10 actually include this software already, but they’ve changed the name to “Windows Defender”. It’s the same program, and uses the same updates. However it is only enabled if you uninstall other anti-virus software. I’ve seen systems that sadly would have been made safe by the default Windows Defender installation if only someone had uninstalled the expired fee based anti-virus!

It’s also just a good idea to remove other anti-virus from any system, as having multiple anti-virus programs installed will slow systems way down as well.

These are just my thoughts from a few years in rural South African schools. Chime in if you have other ideas.

note: to confuse people Microsoft re-used the name Windows Defender… if you are on XP/Vista/7, Windows Defender will not protect you from viruses. You want Security Essentials. If you are on 8 or 10, you will use Defender, which is already installed.


What about viruses & malware on Rachel itself?

Should one periodically scan the Rachel drive(s) via a computer-based anti-virus that can see it as a network drive?

The technical users guide only talks about viruses on the connected computers.

Thanks in advance,


Good question! The answer is: don’t worry. Since RACHEL is based on Linux, it’s very secure against viruses. Additionally, under normal usage, when accessed through the web interface, there is no way to install unknown software, so viruses would be blocked. I’ve never heard of a RACHEL unit getting a virus.

It’s worth noting that any time multiple computers are connected to a network, including through RACHEL’s WIFI, those computers could spread viruses to each other. But if you’ve got anti-virus installed on your machine, you should be safe.



You are on target with the need for free anti-virus software complete with updated viruses and free lifetime updates. I would even go farther to suggest that people working in schools with lots of computers that are more than one year old upload the most recent versions of these programs to local content section of the RACHEL-Plus server so they can be downloaded on to the computers that need them. I may be overly cautious, but I am always worried about distributing anti-virus software with a USB drive if the USB drive does not have a write protect switch.

This could be a valuable class in a computer studies or digital literacy curriculum.

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FWIW: The proliferation of Windows Virus/Malware in Liberia caused us to completely drop Windows and switch to the free Lubuntu linux a couple of years ago. Lubuntu is lightweight and runs even on older (donated) laptops, and looks/feels very much like Windows XP to users. It provides browsers (FireFox, Chrome) and Office (LibreOffice) that are compatible with most uses, and works extremely well with RACHEL. Since the switch we have had ZERO problems with laptops in schools being slowed down or disabled by malware.


Hi all,

Our setup here in Tuvalu relies on DeepFreeze in the battle against viruses. This software is not free, but it basically ignores any changes made to your system and returns your computer to its “frozen” state every time you re-start. In other words, any change in configuration will be reversed, any added files will be removed, and any deleted files will be recovered after every restart. Of course, this also includes any introduced viruses - they will be removed after restarting your computer.

It is not perfect though as viruses will run free and can still spread once your computer is infected (we rely on Microsoft Security Essentials for preventing this), but you can rest assured your System Drive will be sparkly clean after shutting down for the day and booting up the next day.

If you want to stick to a no-cost solution, I guess Window’s System Image Backup and Restore features can be used to a similar effect.




Hello Jonathan

I a new member of the Forum, but have been a member of the Outernet Forum for 3 years. I’m a strong supporter of some sort of cooperation between World Possible and Outernet.

The reason for this post is that I will be traveling to Swaziland in November with a tour group and visiting the George Mhaule Primary School in Mbabane. They receive support from the Grand Circle Foundation (among others),

I am planning on bringing a 32 GB Flash Drive with Rachel, and leaving it with them. Right now, I don’t even know if they have a computer to run it on, but am concerned about the virus issue you have discussed.

What advise can you give me? I don’t want the Rachel package corrupted somehow, so expect you have already addressed this. Thanks for your help. Ken

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You are right to be concerned! A USB won’t last a day in normal usage at the schools I’ve been to. This is an expensive USB drive, but it has a write-protect switch which makes it impervious to viruses as long as the switch is in the locked position:

I would strongly recommend against the cheaper write-protected USBs out there – we have tried them and they are highly unreliable. The Kanguru I linked here has been in heavy use for years with no problems. Some of the cheap ones failed me within hours.

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