Because computer viruses behave like viruses in the organic world (in the way that they infect and spread), it’s no wonder some medical terms crossed over into the computer world. For example, antivirus programs borrowed quarantine from hospitals, where it’s a secure place (and a set of procedures) intended to isolate patients with infectious diseases so they don’t infect other patients or hospital workers. On your computer, it’s a usually a subdirectory (created for this purpose when your antivirus program was installed) that serves as somewhere to put a file infected with a virus. Any contact with the infected file is limited for safety’s sake. (Nope, there are no visiting hours.)
Files in quarantine are there for one of two reasons:
- It’s the original file version: The files there may be the infected versions of files that were successfully repaired. Repaired files will be found in their original locations.
- It’s the only file version: For files that could not be repaired, the quarantine is the only place where they can be found.
The antivirus program, in cahoots with the operating system, may prevent you from accessing quarantined files. If you find yourself with quarantined files, you may be limited to just looking at them through a heavy plate-glass window.