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Essential (and free) Software Every Computer Should Have

As soon as you connect your computer to the Internet, or even when you install new software, you risk being hacked and infected with viruses. But you already know that.

You also know that in order to protect your computer, you need at least three things: a firewall, an antivirus and an antispyware. But did you know that you can have all three software tools for free? Here is what I use on my Windows XP:

Firewall: ZoneAlarm
Price: Free

Antivirus: AVG Anti-Virus
Price: Free

Antispyware: Windows Defender
Price: Free

What do you use?

Filed in Security, Technology, Tips on 23 May 06 | Tags: , , ,

Reader's Comments

  1. |

    You, Sir, are a knob.

  2. |

    Don’t forget Hiren BootCD!

  3. |

    ZoneAlarm slows your PC to a crawl, I switched to Kerio Personall Firewall (that used to be free). Apart from that, ZA is supposed to be one of the worst (in terms of protection) firewalls there is. If I find the link of the review, I’ll post it here. If I remember correctly Outpost (or something like that) came out best.

  4. |

    While not free, I have always liked Peter Norton’s products so I use Norton AV and Norton Personal Firewall. I have used Norton AV for over 15 years and have yet to have an infected machine. I think it’s one of the best AV products on the market, as long as you don’t mind the annual fee. I have used Ad-Aware for spyware detection, haven’t tried Micro$oft yet. Will the M$ spyware detector interfere with adware-driven programs? If not, I’d certainly be willing to give it a go.

  5. |

    Well, I believe that nothing is for free. Although the above tools are free, they just hope that you like them so much that you upgrade to the paid version. I do like them, but the free version is more than enough for me.

    @SwitchBL8: ZoneAlarm works fine on my machine and it does what it’s supposed to do. But I’ll check the other two products.

    @Bill S.: Yes, I had Norton AV, I do not deny that it is the leader in the AV market. However, I found AVG to be more light weight and faster. So far, I have not been infected with a virus since I first started using computers :). I think Windows Defender is supposed to be a replacement to Ad-aware. I have not tried to run them both at the same time.

  6. |

    No anti-spyware product is anywhere close to 100% effective. But none goes about detecting it in quite the same way, either. Therefore, the general advice is to run several different anti-spyware products on the same machine. Personally, I use MS Defender and SpyBot Search & Destroy and Adaware 6 (all free). Unlike anti-virus software, there is no harm in having two or three versions of these things installed at the same time.

    Firewalls are problematic, especially when Oracle is involved. I access the Internet via a cacheing proxy (Squid is free, because it’s a Linux thing), and therefore none of my working PCs ever has direct access to the Internet, so I have no need for one. Iptables is an effective and free firewall for the proxy server, too.

  7. |

    I too use ZA and AVG but for Spyware, I use SpyBot. Preference is to use multiple anti-virus software but my original Norton’s lapsed and didn’t get to renew.

  8. |

    I will try SpyBot in addition to Windows Defender. Better be double safe than sorry.

    Non of my PCs connect directly to the Internet since they all connect to my Netgear router which has a built-in NAT. Yet, I still feel that ZoneAlarm is useful because at least it gives you control over what programs can connect to the Internet and what programs cannot.

  9. |

    Sorry, can’t find the URL anymore. But here’s a useful list of free software, categorized.

  10. |

    Very useful link, thanks SwitchBL8.

  11. |

    Found it:

    Better late then never, I suppose.

    Cheers! Reginald

  12. |

    I have to agree with some people. I just downloaded AVG and Zone Alarm. All of the sudden, my PC tend to slow down a lot. I’m not quite sure whether it is because of AVG or Zone Alarm, but based on what people have experienced, the culprit will be Zone Alarm.

  13. |

    I have an Advent T9303 with 1.5Gig of ram. Still a reasonably quick machine I would guess, but it slows to an absolute crawl when I’m running Zonealarm. I don’t have AVG. When I stop Zonealarm the speed comes right back up. I like ZA, so does anyone know a solution?

  14. |

    Now there are some changes. ZoneAlarm only provides basic personal firewall as free version. I think Comodo Firewall Pro ( is good solution for firewall. It is free of charge and has more features. And for anti-spyware solution, Spyware Terminator ( it good choice as free solution.