Greetings Young Man,
Though they have taken a HUGE hit the past ten days (since they released Service Pack 2 for AntiVir 10 Personal) because of their mind-boggling choice to affiliate with Ask.com (and also Uniblue), I continue to use Avira AntiVir Personal Edition
(read more about what else Service Pack 2 entails here
) on a personal Windows box (Dell laptop - P-4M, 1 GB DDR, XP Pro SP 3) and a dozen other machines under my care, ranging from XP Home to Win 7 Pro. Three of these installations have been in place since version 9, two are in households with young people who, well, do what young people do... :-) -- and to date, none have been infected. It also continues to perform quite well in the most recent testing by the major independent testing labs.
Other free anti-malware solutions that have large followings include Avast! Free Antivirus
, Microsoft Security Essentials
(MSE), Panda Cloud Antivirus
and, though I personally am not a fan, AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition
Since no real-time protection will catch everything, I also recommend regular scans with at least one of the better on-demand scanners. As Hitman Pro
scans so quickly, it can be used for a fast second opinion, then augmented with one of the following: Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware
or Emsisoft Anti-Malware
(or more than one for a stubborn infection). I use all of these on a regular basis (depending upon the machine in question and the circumstances). But remember: no matter which application, the very last thing one needs to do before beginning a scan is to update it. [Note: Emsisoft tends to have the most false positives - and is a HUGE download.]
May I also suggest that you coast on over to Gizmo's Freeware
and spend some time there. We (truth in advertising: I am a contributor) have an enormous amount of what I hope you will find to be useful information. Other worthwhile sites include CNET's Download.com
and PC Magazine
(whose Lead Analyst for Security, Neil J. Rubenking, has some excellent reviews
Please bear in mind that when you put ten techs together in a room and ask their opinion, you might get twelve different replies... Also, often there is no single absolute correct answer; though there are formal benchmark tests of security solutions, there is also a subjective component.
No matter which anti-malware solution you choose (even if you should later change to another, as we all have done), the best security solution is to employ a "layered" approach - a relatively few applications that work synergistically, play well together and don't bog-down the system.The Firewall
-- Even though Win 7 has a far more robust firewall than previous versions of Windows - and which can be configured
, you will be better served by one from a third-party vendor; I personally use (and recommend) Comodo, though the current ZoneAlarm is also a reasonable choice.
Another free utility that, IMHO, should be on every Windows machine is WinPatrol
; it can effortlessly prevent a whole panoply of very unpleasant things from happening and plays well with others (it also has some nifty features). Another highly-recommended application is Web Of Trust
(WOT), a browser add-on for all the major browsers that will help steer you away from known malicious sites (unless, of course, you or one of your brothers, should elect to "click through" their highest-level warnings...).
Which brings up another issue: The Browser. IE 9 has substantial security enhancements over IE 8 and, even if you should choose another default browser such as Firefox or Chrome, you should have updated to it; if not, do so!
As should come as no surprise, a Windows box that has not been updated with all of the current applicable security updates from Redmond cannot be protected. Frequently overlooked, however, are the sometimes many add-ons that Windows Updates does not cover, such as the Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Shockwave Player and the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) from Oracle. These (and other third-party components of the OS) can pose HUGE security threats if left unpatched. Fortunately, there is another must-have free utility, the Secunia Personal Software Inspector
(PSI) that will monitor for any software-related security deficiencies and either alert you so that you can manually perform the update(s), or perform most of them automatically (I prefer to do mine manually...).
One last software recommendation is the Belarc Advisor
. It turns out that occasionally (very occasionally) a Microsoft security update doesn't completely install; that system may scan as fully up-to-date by Windows Update, but there could still be a serious security hole. The Belarc Advisor can actually detect whether all the necessary Microsoft security patches are present - AND in fact properly installed. If any are found not to be, Belarc will provide direct download links for whichever patches might need to be reinstalled. (It also provides an enormous amount of information about the computer - hardware & software, as well as peripherals connected to it.) < Read more about Belarc in my reply below. >
If you do not have a router with a decent built-in [hardware] firewall, the cost of one will be a wise investment. (You might as well get a good wireless router for future expansion... Personally, I like Netgear, but again, others will have a different - and valid - opinion.)
Even with a router, utilizing a different DNS (Domain Name Service) than what your ISP provides can add still another layer of security (and also speed); take a look at What DNS Servers Do
and How to Change DNS Server
. Currently, I am using OpenDNS
, but have also used the DNS from both Norton
Finally, THE most important security enhancement to your computer is... YOU (but you already knew that). Though it can be very
annoying, the User Account Control
(UAC) that was introduced in the much-loved Vista OS (but refined in Win 7) can truly help to prevent catastrophe. Many are tempted to turn it off, which often proves to have been a very bad idea.
These, of course, are my own opinions; I hope they are helpful.
Edited by AJNorth, 09 July 2011 - 09:29 AM.