This is a loaded question, but a very good one.
First, let me tell you what I use.
Firewall - Zonealarm Pro for Vista
Antivirus - Antivir Personal Edition Classic (Freeware)
Anti-spyware - CounterSpy (actually, I've just installed this as my Spy Sweeper is coming close to renewal, but I want to try others before making a decision on which product)
These work well on my system. I have 2GB of RAM w 2.8GHz with Intel Dual Core Processor on Dell Dimension 5150 running on Vista Home Premium Service Pack 1.
You can see that I prefer standalone programs rather than using suites. IMO, the problem with all-in-one suites is that they may be strong in one area, like antivirus, but only average in other areas of the suite. I have yet to find an all-in-one product that is strong in all areas. But this is my personal opinion.ANTI-VIRUS
The best ones (in no particular order):
- Avira Antivir (Premium - shareware or Classic - freeware) http://www.avira.com
**Note that the free version does not include email protection but if you save any attachments to your hard drive and then scan them, it will alert you if infected**
- Eset's NOD32 (continually ranked very good by many) http://www.eset.com
- Bitdefender Antivirus http://www.bitdefender.com
Sources: http://www.av-test.org http://www.av-comparatives.org http://www.virusbtn.comFIREWALL
The best ones:
- Zonealarm (get the Pro version
as it comes with an extra layer of protection). Make sure you get version 7.1. Version 7.0 and earlier is NOT Vista compatible. http://www.zonealarm.com
- Comodo Firewall Pro (freeware) Rated one of the very best all over the Internet. It can even be used in a commercial (business) setting.
- Online Armor - this one is rising in the ranks and is getting a lot of the buzz. However, I don't believe it's Vista compatible...yet. Keep your eye on this one. http://www.tallemu.com/ANTISPYWARE
For your realtime protection:
- Spy Sweeper www.webroot.com (comes with a standalone version or one w anti-virus. Get the standalone one).
- CounterSpy www.sunbelt-software.com
- Spyware Doctor www.pctools.com (comes with a standalone version or one w anti-virus. Get the standalone one).
**Also, I would download some freeware spyware scanners, since NO single anti-spyware utility will detect or remove all threats.
ii) Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware
iii) Windows Defender (a part of Vista...just leave real protection OFF if you already have one of the above)
iv) Spybot Search & Destroy
**Just do a google search to find these products**ALL-IN-ONE SUITES
Even though I don't recommend them, I would consider this one:
Zonealarm Internet Security Suite....make sure you get the Vista version 7.1
The firewall is excellent, the anti-virus part is good to very good and the anti-spyware isn't bad. It's the best of the suites. They have a new one coming in Beta and it will contain features that up to now, only XP supported them.
Finally, the last Must-have protection
you require is:
Spywareblaster - http://www.javacoolsoftware.com
After installing, update the definitions and then Enable all protection. You can then close the program and forget about it. Just check for updates once a week, and if there are updates, re-enable protection. This program will block a lot of nasties from even coming into your computer as it puts killbits in your Windows registry to block content from being downloaded to your computer if you happen to visit a malicious website. It also adds known "risky" sites to your Restricted Sites zone to beef up your security.
Try some of these out..but only you can be the judge of what works best on your system and whether you get a warm fuzzy using it. Always download a trial version first before you think about making a purchasing decision.
Good luck to you.