My methods of protecting my computer are as follows, all are free.
Avast antivirus, as the main antivirus. (but you could use bitdefender free or avg free instead).
Malwarebytes free, as a second opinion scanner.
ESET online scanner, as a third opinion scanner.
Firefox, as my browser, deactivate all plugins unless you use them often, those you use often set to "ask to activate".
NoScript, a firefox browser add-ons to stop drivebys and exploits.
AdBlock Plus, a firefox browser add-on to stop malvertising.
Also make sure to:
Set UAC to it's highest setting.
Leave windows's firewall on it's default settings.
Never let plugins be automatic in browsers.
Set windows file explorer to"show full file extensions even fro knwon file types" (prevents "harmless_picture.jpg.exe" attacks).
Keep your antivirus up-to-date.
Keep the other scanners up-to-date.
Scan all downloaded files before opening.
If downloading an exe file upload it to virustotal and check if other scanners consider it dangerous.
Keep windows's security updates up-to-date, the other windows updates aren't so important but the security ones are vital.
Always check carefully when you are installing a program for tick boxes regarding bundled programs, refuse the bundled software.
Never open any file with two extensions where the second is exe or scr.
Be careful which sites you browse to.
Don't use a vulnerable browser.
Don't allow things through NoScript unless you realy need to and they are from trustworthy sources.
If a download should have been an image/video/zip file/audio file but is a .exe, do not open it.
Always check downloaded .exe files for digital signatures, although there are cases where safe programs might not have one.
Never run a registry cleaner.
Regularly check your startup entries for junk.
Uninstall all un-necessary bloatware from new machines, post lists of programs here and people will tell you what is bloat.
Regularly check task manager's processes tab for any new processes running which you don't recognise.
In the evening before you turn a computer off, backup any files you have been working on during any given day onto a USB stick, cd, dvd or into a cloud storage account.
Do not use "synced" or always-connected backups, backups must be disconnected at all times except when writing to them.
Keep really important files backed up in multiple places, exmaple: on your computer, on a USB in your house, in an encrypted 7z file on a DVD at a relative's house, on another USB elsewhere in your hosue and in your cloud based webmail account.
Make system images of your system when in a clean state with all your settings as you like them, all the programs you like installed, no problem updates installed, no junkware installed, if you ever have a disaster you can restore your computer back to a good old state from these. Make the on external drives, do not use them to back up personal files, use them to backup programs and system states.
Do all these things and getting a virus should be almost impossible, and if you do get one you will have a clean system state (the system image, you can use windows's internal tools or use macrium, or use both) to restore to which can be done in about 2 hours, and full backups (those USBs, DVDs, CD-RWS and cloud stored things) of every file except changes you have been working on in the last 24 hours.
Edited by rp88, 10 May 2015 - 11:52 AM.
Back on this site, for a while anyway, been so busy the last year.
My systems:2 laptops, intel i3 processors, windows 8.1 installed on the hard-drive and linux mint 17.3 MATE installed to USB