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My Anti-Virus/Spyware/Malware Software Recommendations for Windows PCs
I get asked for recommendations a lot, especially when people get new computers for the holidays, so here’s a writeup.
First, if you’re running anything older than Windows XP, upgrade. This doesn’t mean throwing away your computer – it might just mean a RAM (memory) upgrade and an OS reinstall. I’ve seen too many perfectly working computers tossed out when all that was needed was $50-100 worth of RAM, a fresh reinstall, and a “tune-up” by someone who knew what they were doing.
If you don’t want to have to bother with any of this – ask a friendly neighborhood geek if a version (“distribution”) of Linux would fit your computing needs!
Second, you can never have too much RAM (not hard drive space; that’s different). Running Windows XP, you want a gigabyte of RAM at the very minimum, and if your motherboard / system model will take it, you want 3-4G of memory. Windows Vista and Windows 7 really want at least 2G to be “usable”. Think of RAM as “working space”, or the size of your desk, and your hard drive as your filing cabinet – your filing cabinet can store a lot more than will fit on your desk, and you swap stuff in and out of it as needed.
If you’ve got a 32-bit processor or are running a 32-bit operating system on a 64-bit processor, don’t bother putting more than 4G of RAM in the system. Due to address space overhead and limitations, you will only be able to “see” and use around 3-3.5G of that 4G total. If you’ve got a 64-bit processor and a 64-bit installation of Windows Vista or Windows 7, you will most likely be able to use as much RAM as you can afford and that will fit into your motherboard. Memory is insanely cheap over the past six months; I recently bought 16G (in four 4G sticks) of DDR3-spec memory for less than $80.
Now, on to the software.
A lot of people use anti-virus / anti-spyware / anti-malware products from companies such as Symantec, Norton, or McAfee. These companies may have had great products ten or fifteen years ago, but nowdays they’re bloated size-wise, slow your system down, adversely affect performance, and in a lot of cases don’t stay as up to date regarding system threats as they should. If you’re running one of these products, no matter if you got it free or have already paid for an update subscription, it is my professional recommendation that you dump it.
My personal choices for the best system protection packages:
FREE: (in order of preference)
Microsoft Security Essentials
COMMERCIAL / PAY: (in order of preference)
Webroot Spysweeper + AV
In addition to the primary AV/spyware/malware package on your system, there are a few other free utilities that I highly recommend be used to run scans and cleans once a week if the system is used heavily, once a month otherwise.
CCLeaner (aka “Crap Cleaner”)
I don’t use it anymore, but there’s also Spybot Search & Destroy:
The built-in Windows defrag program is a piece of junk and should not be depended on. For free defrag utilities I like these:
Auslogics Disk Defrag
IOBit Smart Defrag
One more important note:
STOP USING INTERNET EXPLORER.
Instead, use one of these:
These are just my personal preferences and what I tell people to use; I welcome alternative suggestions and comments from other tech types as to what they use and why.
My personal systems are all Macs running OS X or are various Linux desktop distributions. The only Windows machines I own are either virtual machines for development or a couple of systems dedicated to playing video games.