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The Best Antivirus and Spyware Protection

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/18/2011

Having antivirus and anti-spyware protection for your computer is absolutely crucial. Luckily, there are many free and paid security solutions available for both Windows and Apple computers. In this article we'll take an in-depth look at the different ways you can protect your PC.

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    Crucial Virus and Spyware Protection

    Virus and Spyware protection is crucial. There are many virus and spyware threats against computers. They can come through many sources, including websites, downloaded files and emails. While practicing good habits, such as never downloading suspicious files and ignoring unwanted emails, can help protect again viruses and spyware, some could still slip into your computer and wreak havoc.

    That's where virus and spyware protection comes in, intercepting the problematic software before it can cause too much damage. Let's take a look at some of the best computer virus and spyware protection programs available today.

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    Best Computer Anti-Spyware Programs

    Free Computer Spyware Protection Spyware is a category of malicious computer programs which keep tabs on your computer and how you use it. There are many reasons why spyware might install itself on your computer, and none of them are good. Spyware installation on your computer may be used for relatively benign activity, such as keeping track of what websites your visit, but it also can be used to steal personal information, which results in identity theft.

    There are, however, many free anti-spyware programs available. These include Super Antispyware, Malware Bytes, Ad-Aware and Hijack This. For more information on these programs and where to download them please see our article Top Rated Spyware Removal Software.

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    When Spyware Monitoring is Legal

    Spyware is usually an illegitimate form of software, but that isn't always the case, particularly when you're at work. Employers can use spyware to keep track of your work computer. Also called monitoring software, these programs can track every word you type. Parents can also use spyware to keep track of their children. More information about the legality of spyware can be found in our article Monitoring Software is Legal Spyware in the USA.

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    Best Free Antivirus

    Anti-spyware programs will protect you against software which attempts to track your activity, but it doesn't usually protect against malicious software which attempts to damage or hijack your computer. These computer viruses can be very damaging, and in order to protect against them you need to have antivirus software.

    There are many free antivirus solutions available. The most people of these are Avast!, AVG and AntiVir. Free antivirus programs are usually not quite as robust as their paid cousins, but they offer sufficient protection against most threads. For more information about free antivirus protection read our free antivirus comparison article.

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    Best Paid Antivirus

    Free Antivirus If you want the best protection against computer viruses you should look into a paid antivirus program. These programs work on yearly subscriptions which usually cost between $30 and $50 dollars. In return for your payment you are given a year's worth of constantly updated antivirus protection. These programs generally offer superior protection and they also offer extra features, such as real-time virus scanners and anti-phishing software.

    There are many, many paid antivirus programs available. Some of the best include Kaspersky Internet Security and Bitdefender, but there are many other programs providing solid computer virus protection. Read our article Top Antivirus Software for more information.

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    Best Antivirus for Slower Computers

    Netbook Antivirus While protection against computer viruses and spyware is crucial for every computer, older computers can run into trouble with these programs. Antivirus programs in particular are known for being somewhat harsh on computer resources. In order to check for viruses an antivirus program has to sort through all of the files on your computer and search each one for any signs of code that matches a known virus or which appears suspicious. This is taxing on the CPU, RAM and on your hard drive, all of which will be constantly active during the search.

    If you have an older computer this activity can grind it to a halt. Since most antivirus programs would prefer to run once a day to provide the best protection this can obviously become a major problem. In order to provide protection you'll need to find an antivirus programs which runs with as few resources as possible. For more information read our article Antivirus Software with Low Memory Overhead.

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    Best Overall Internet Security Suite

    If you want complete protection for your computer you need to look into a program which is called an Internet Security Suite. An Internet Security Suite combines antivirus, anti-spyware, firewall and more into one solid all-around security package. These one-stop shops are more expensive than regular antivirus programs, but are usually less expensive than trying to buy many different programs individually.

    As with antivirus software, there are many, many programs to choose from. The best, however, is Norton Internet Security 2010. To find out more about this program read our review.

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    Free Antivirus and Anti-Spyware for Macs

    Anti-Spyware for Mac If you have a Mac you may think that you are immune from spyware and viruses. You're wrong. Macs do have less problems with viruses than Windows based computers, but the reason for this is very simple - most people use Windows. Far fewer people spend time trying to make antivirus and spyware programs for Macs when there is so little to be gained, but there are still some viruses and spyware programs which have been made for use against Apple computers.

    In order to protect yourself from these threats you need a spyware or antivirus program, just as you would on a Windows PC. Because there are fewer security threats against Macs there are also fewer security programs made for defending them, but there are none the less many antivirus and antispyware programs available. To find out what they are and where to download them read our article Antivirus and Spyware Removal Options for Mac.