At a minimum, I suggest you run:
1 FirewallAVG Anti-Spyware
- Windows 2000 and XP, only.Ad-AwareSpybot S&DSpywareblasterSpywareGuard
Useful Tutorials:Using AVG Anti-SpywareUsing Ad-Aware SEUsing Spybot S&DUsing SpywareBlasterUsing SpywareGuard
The above programs, except for SpywareBlaster, are on demand programs, so they won't use up any system resources, until you run them.
Be sure to update them on a regular basis.
I do it every day.
I regards to your firewall, I suggest you get a third-party firewall, and not use the one that comes with Windows.
Windows firewall is not as secure, as a good third-party firewall.
It only checks incoming traffic.
A good third-party firewall will check both incoming, and outgoing, traffic.
Why check outgoing traffic?
Say you become infected with a Trojan.
A firewall that checks outgoing traffic, will notify you, that a program is trying to access the internet.
Windows firewall won't, so your system could be compromised, and you wouldn't know.
Several good firewalls are listed in the, Freeware Replacements For Common Commercial Apps
If you're using Internet Explorer as your browser, I suggest you install, and use, an alternative browser, such as Firefox
It's a more secure browser than Internet Explorer, as it doesn't use ActiveX controls
, but Java
Also, if a security flaw is discovered (which doesn't happen often)
, it's usually fixed within a few days, as opposed to the months you have to wait for an Internet Explorer security patch
In most instances, you will find Firefox to be a faster browser than Internet Explorer, especially if you employ pipelining.Firefox Web Browser - Pipelining
You don't have to uninstall Internet Explorer to use Firefox, or any other browser.
You can use as many browsers as you want, at the same time.