Could you post what OS and browser you are using? The home page is personal preference. Excite should not be a problem as long as your antivirus is updated. I would run the Google toolbar with the popup blocker enabled. That will lower the aggravation factor.
If I read your POST correctly you want advice on security as well? If so you came to the right place.
The general rule:
1) One antivirus. There are several very nice freeware verison that are effctive. I prefer AVG. I don't like McaAfee or Norton because they draw heavy on resoures.
2) One firewall.I use SyGate but it was disconnected 11-30-2005. I still plan to use it for a while, but have stop recommending it. The only other freeware firewall I feel comfortible recommending is Zone Alarm. It's will supported and very effective. XP firewall is a was of time and instills false security. Use it if you have nothing else but be cautious. It will not stop malware from sending your info out onto the internet.
3) Antispyware and online scanners. As many as the resources on your computer will allow you to run. This is where you will get alot of different opinions,espercially here. I'll provide the list below of what I run.
4) Utilities. There are several and you will again get several opinions most of which will be good.Antivirus
(Run only one.)AVG Free Edition Antivirus
(I personally use)Avast Home Edition Antivirus FreewareAntiVir Personal Edition Classic FreewareBitDefender 8 Free Edition AntiVirus FreewareAntispywareMicrosoft AntiSpyware Beta
(2000,and XP only)SpybotAdAware SE Personal EditionEwido Security Suite - 14 day trial
(2000, and XP only)A Squared FreeOnline scans Trendmicro's Housecall Panda's ActiveScan F-secure's Virus Scan SyGate's Trojan scanUtilitycCleanerEverest home
(hardware and software information)Fresh Diagnose
(Diagnostic and system resource)Memtest86 "A Stand-alone Memory Diagnostic"MicroSoft's Memory TestDigtal Dolly
(Hard drive utility)www.bootdisk.comFirewallsZone Alarm
Best of all... they are free. I hope this helps.