Viruses, Spyware, and Malware: What’s the Difference?

There is a lot of confusion in the world about what spyware, malware and viruses are, what they do and how they’re different from one another. To a lot of people, saying the word “computer virus” brings up familiar images of computers being annoying and unresponsive. However, there are a lot of differences between these three types of computer issues. In fact, they’re sometimes entirely different things with entirely different purposes.

Hackers are not the types of people who do things randomly. One does not design a virus, piece of spyware or other malware without having a goal in mind. That goal is generally to hurt you, and there are lots of ways they can do so. Let’s talk about some definitions.


Malware is a generic term that applies to anything that hurts your computer. Since everything on the Internet is shortened, malware comes from the words “malicious software.” The maliciousness of a piece of malware becomes obvious when it infects your computer, because it becomes slower and less responsive.

In time, most computers simply won’t function anymore when they’re infected for a long time. Sometimes your computer even becomes part of malware ring of “zombie” computers that carry out tasks for a distant hacker. The largest supercomputer in the world is made up of thousands of PCs that have been hijacked this way.


A computer virus is all about causing damage to your computer. Using malicious code, it will corrupt your files, waste your memory on useless tasks, and generally do everything it can to make your computer inoperable from the inside. Much of the time, a computer virus that has taken root needs to be expunged by reformatting. Sometimes a virus can even attach itself to an ordinary file, meaning it can use your attempts to backup files as a way to spread itself further.


Spyware is all about stealing your information. Like a spy in the real world, it sneaks in as covertly as possible, takes info about your login details and bank account information, and continues slowly recording everything its hacker master can use to profit from you illicitly. Spyware often goes on for months quietly taking your information before you even know it’s there.

Viruses, spyware and malware are often very different from one another. They can have a variety of different purposes, but their effect is still the same — you lose practical use of your own computer. Do all you can to fight off all three of these potential threats, and you’ll be a lot better for it. If nothing else, you’ll be able to rest more easily knowing that tomorrow your computer will still be under your control.

About the Author: Alphonse Pirollo is a computer repair specialist who spends a lot of time repairing problems caused by viruses and malware. When he’s not making computer fixes, he can be found on looking at information about the best uses for herbal teas like Oolong tea, red tea, white tea, and more.

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