As much as Hollywood likes to play up the idea of hackers, it actually doesn't take much to secure the average home computer. Plenty of free programs will keep out the viruses and pieces of malware that pose the biggest risk to your system. We'll take a look at the best free options out there.
There are a few things that you need to know about computer security before we get started.
The first thing is that safe browsing habits will always be your number one defender. The best thing that you can do is be cautious enough to not open unsafe email attachments, download unknown programs or otherwise expose your computer's vulnerable innards to those that would wish it harm.
It's quite difficult to stay alert 24/7 though, so it's also an incredibly good idea to have a good selection of anti-virus and anti-malware software on your computer. A number of free programs do a surprisingly good job at removing viruses or stopping them before they can even run. The market is quite full though, and there are certainly some unscrupulous players that are running scams. You'll want to educate yourself before you make any decisions.
Free Anti-Malware Reviews
If you want to keep your computer safe, then your number one concern should probably be anti-virus protection. Viruses, along with other malware, can do a number of nasty things to your computer if they manage to infect it. Some will harrass you with pop-up ads, while others will try to log your passwords, hijack your browser or kidnap part of your computer's processing power to be part of a botnet.
The programs listed below should do a good job of keeping you safe. Note that you usually don't want to install two of the same type of software. Running two anti-malware programs with similar functions at the same time can cause some unfortunate conflicts. If you have an active shield program, you can get an on-demand scanner, but not another shield program. Also remember while reading the reviews below that you should focus on getting a program that's right for you. Keep in mind your computer's age and processing power when making your pick.
Using Your New Tools
As I said, you really shouldn't let yourself be intimidated by anti-virus programs. Even if you're confused by some of the customizations and settings that they offer, there are plenty of free guides available to help you figure things out. They're definitely worth checking out too. Configuring a program properly when you install it will save you a lot of headaches down the road. It's possible to set up detections to match your needs, schedule automatic scans and updates to make the program practically run itself and there are some guides that cover the various errors that you might run into if your installation doesn't go well or if a piece of malware manages to damage the program.
Note that you won't always be able to find an up-to-date guide for the more obscure pieces of anti-malware software. In this case, older guides should work just as well. The companies don't tend to reinvent the wheel, so chances are that the only real difference between the two is how the interface looks.
The links below will be organized by program.
AVG Free 2011
Microsoft Security Essentials
Spybot Search & Destroy
Other Security Programs
I hope that you're all set for anti-virus programs. I know that it's a long list, and it might take you some time to get through them all, but this is your time to get it right.
If you want to get just a little bit of extra protection though, then there are some options available for you. A number of browser add-ons and small programs exist which will make your time on the Internet that much safer. These include things like password maanagers, which help you make and store very secure passwords to prevent hacking attempts on your online accoutns. There are also a few standard tools that can protect your browser from malicious software on less than reputable sites.
A Good Start
All of these programs should get you off to a good start. You will now be able to feel a bit more at ease while browsing, and your computer will be a bit safer. This doesn't mean that you can be careless now. There is no such thing as a perfect anti-virus solution. These programs will make it much easier to catch simple mistakes, and repair the damage that annoying malware might cause.
- Image Credit: Screenshot of Microsoft Security Essentials Version 2.0.