Prevention, detection, and cure: 12 programs that will provide the best all-around security for you and your computer – for free

Malicious people with malicious intent are constantly trying to gain access to your computer to make a buck at your expense. Whether it be your credit card number for a quick transaction, or something more personal like a SS number for identity theft, anyone anywhere can be infected by all sorts of malware and viruses. The following list contains 12 free programs that will help provide excellent protection for you and your computer allowing you to have peace of mind. Why pay when you can get excellent protection for free?


The following list has been broken up into three tiers:

  • Tier 1 – this tier contains the basic essentials of computer security software that everyone should have. I highly recommend you install all the software listed under tier 1.
  • Tier 2 – this tier contains software that are supplements to the software listed under tier 1; they are programs that you should have installed but don’t need them, per se. However, unless you are a very experienced techie, I highly recommend that you install all the software listed under tier 2 also.
  • Tier 3 – this tier contains software that goes above and beyond the protection an average user will need. The software in tier 3 are fairly unique in the sense that they don’t really overlap in functionality with the software in tier 1 and tier 2 but rather provide a unique aspect of protection. Tier 3 is completely optional; think of it as the “pick and chose” tier – you may select to install only some of the software from tier 3 or none at all. You can also install all the software in tier 3, but that will really be “overkill” protection, if you get what I mean.

Note: Unless specifically stated otherwise, all software is supported by 32-bit and 64-bit.

Note: Most of the software below are for “home” and/or “non-commercial” use only.

Tier 1

Anti-Virus, Spyware, Malware, and all-around Anti-Scumware

What: avast! Free Antivirus

Why: avast! Free Edition provides protection against viruses, rootkits, dialers,  phishing scams, spyware, and adware; in other word avast! Free Edition provides you protection against all scumware/malware. It also comes with multiple different real-time protection shields, such as an e-mail scanner, web scanner, IM scanner, file scanner, etc.

Originally an Avira fan, I have been converted to avast! ever since the release of v5.0 for the simple fact that it provides excellent protection while still being fairly light on computer resources, providing a boatload of features, and having a very aesthetically pleasing interface. All that with no continuous advertisement pop ups like in Avira. (Avira is still terrific though, mind you.)

avast! Free Antivirus system requirements:

  • Processor: Pentium 3 or higher
  • Operating system: Microsoft Windows 2000, Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7 (32/64 bit)
  • Hard drive: At least 100 MB of free hard disk memory space (more if using Quarantine for
    temporary storage)
  • RAM: At least 128 MB RAM

Alternatives: Avira or AVG or Microsoft Security Essentials

Read my review comparing avast! vs. Avira vs. AVG for more detailed analysis on these software.

Firewall

What: Outpost Firewall Free

Why: Originally when I wrote this article, I recommended PC Tools Firewall Plus because it was one of the firewalls that – as far as I knew – did not have compatibility issues with many people (like Comodo or Online Armor often do). However, since then I had problems with PC Tools Firewall Plus with it literally self destructing on me – and killed my internet, amongst many other mean things, with it =(. It just happened out of the blue – no idea why.

Lucky for me, recently Outpost Firewall Free 2009 was released around the same time as PC Tools Firewall Plus gave me a whiplash, so I went to check it out. Providing excellent protection, having an excellent “intelligent rules wizard”, and being a hell lot less annoying than Firewall Plus, OutPost Firewall Free 2009 is, simply put, a winner. I have never looked back since I started using Outpost.

Outpost system requirements:

  • Processor: 500 MHz or higher
  • Operating system: Windows 2000/XP/Vista
    • Doesn’t officially support Windows 7 (yet) but it seems to work just fine on Win7.
      • Update: Apparently the 64-bit version will not work on Win7.
  • Hard drive: 30 MB
  • RAM: 256 MB

Alternatives: Comodo Personal Firewall Pro or Online Armor Personal Firewall Free Edition or PC Tools Firewall Plus or Windows Firewall

Tier 2

Anti-Malware On Demand Scanner

What: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Why: You ask why, I say I have three words for you: lightweight, simple, and effective. Malwarebytes is a popular free anti-malware protection that provides on demand scanning. It is very lightweight and the malware detection rate is fairly good for being a supplement. It scans pretty quickly also. And since this does not provide live protection, it will only run when you tell it to. At this point you may be thinking ‘why do I need Malwarebytes when I have avast!’, correct? Well here is the thing. Technically speaking, avast! will provide excellent protection against malware. So in essence Malwarebytes is really just optional. However, having an on demand scanner is always nice because it provides a different angle to things and may pick up something avast! misses, because we all all know that no protection software is 100% perfect. Best of all it does not conflict with any program or use computer resources (except hard drive space) on a daily basis because it is an on-demand – it only starts working when you tell it to.

Malwarebytes system requirements:

  • Processor: 250 MHz or higher
  • Operating system: Windows 2000 and higher. Vista may only support 32-bit – I am finding conflicting reports about it.
  • Hard drive: At least 3 MB
  • RAM: 64 MB or higher

Alternatives: Ad-Aware AE Edition or Spyware Doctor Starter Edition or SUPERAntiSpyware or Spyware Terminator or a-squared Free

System Monitor

What: WinPatrol

Why: Simply put WinPatrol is a lightweight program that provides excellent supplementary protection. WinPatrol is not an anti-virus, or anti-spyware, or anti-[insert catch phrase here], per se. WinPatrol is an anti-make-system-changes-without-my-consent… if that makes sense. WinPatrol sits in the background and monitors your computer for “hijackings, malware attacks, and critical changes” and alerts you about them. A few very handy things WinPatrol protects you against include, but are not limited to, homepage changes, ActiveX changes, and startup program changes. I can’t tell you how many times WinPatrol has saved me from an ***hole developer who thinks he can change my IE homepage without asking me. Excellent program this WinPatrol is.

WinPatrol system requirements:

  • Operating system: Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP/Vista/Windows 7

Alternatives: AnVir Task Manager

Website Advisor

For Firefox/Flock users

What: LinkExtend

Why: The two most popular website advisers are McAfee Site Advisor and Web of Trust. Both of them provide good information on websites and help steer us away from possible websites. Of course no one service is perfect (it is impossible to be 100% accurate on every website on the internet). This is why we have LinkExtend. LinkExtend is a Firefox/Flock extension that provides information on:

  • Safety – Informs you if a web page is malicious, sends spam, contains spyware, online scams, identity theft, and more
  • KidSafe – Alerts you about sites that are unsafe for children and let’s you erase these sites from your Firefox history automatically
  • Ethics – Rates ethical behavior of a site’s company including social responsibility, business practices, environmental impact, etc.
  • PageRank – Represents how important a page is on the web, based on the Google link analysis algorithm, ranked from zero to ten
  • SiteTraffic – Shows you how popular a site is, based on the average page views and users for a particular site or web page
  • Visited – Tells you when you last visited a site, what pages you accessed, and lets you remove the site from your Firefox history

If you prefer to not view all this information, LinkExtend options let you pick and choose what you want to see. Additionally if the toolbar annoys you, if you “Customize Toolbars” (right click) you can click + drag any of the ratings, place them at a different position on your Firefox toolbars and turn off the LinkExtend toolbar. That way you don’t have that annoys toolbar there yet you can still enjoy LinkExtend. LinkExtend also has a context menu feature that allows you to view the ratings of a link – Shift + right click on a link to see it.

The great thing about LinkExtend the ratings generated by LinkExtend are from a combination of sources, including Site Advisor, Web of Trust, Browser Defender, Google Safe Browser, and many more. You can also view the individual ratings from all these individual services. So in essence LinkExtend is the “Google” of site advisers – it gathers ratings from popular services and shows you all of them for the website in question. Of course since it gathers information from multiple sources, LinkExtend does cause a minor increase in website load times but that is the trade off for the abundance of information you get.

For everyone else

What: Web of Trust (WOT)

Why: Web of Trust provides preemptive warnings about websites before you visit them. It places a circle next to a link, and depending on the color of the circle, you know what kind of website it is (green = good, red = bad). If you visit a website below a certain level, you set the level through preference, you will be warned about the website and must confirm you want to visit it. WOT information on websites comes from a cross reference of its databases and community rating/feedback. WOT rates websites based on four categories: trustworthiness, vendor reliability, privacy, and child safety. The information on WOT is generally good and reliable although not perfect. While McAfee and WOT are generally similar in performance, I chose WOT over McAfee because WOT supports more platforms. Currently WOT has plugins for Firefox and Internet Explorer with plans for a plugin for Chrome in the near future; for Safari and Opera, it provides a bookmarklet. McAfee only works with Firefox or Internet Explorer.

Alternatives: McAfee Site Advisor or Finjan or K9 Web Protection

Anti-Keylogger

What: Keyscrambler

Why: Keyscrambler – literally – “scrambles” your keystrokes when you type in your Internet browser, so keyloggers can’t log your keys. In other words, it ensures that your important passwords, personal data (that you often have to fill out forms with), etc. is safe in the case that you have a keylogger installed on your computer and you don’t even know it. (The keylogger will get a much of useless garbage instead of your real keystrokes.)

Keyscrambler system requirements:

  • Operating System: Windows 2000, 2003, XP, Vista or Windows 7 (32-bit or 64-bit);
  • Browsers: Internet Explorer 6 or higher, Firefox 1.5 and later, Flock 1.0 and later (the paid version supports more browsers than the three mentioned)

Preemptive Spyware Prevention

What: Spyware Blaster

Why: Spyware Blaster is a  program that blocks cookies, ActiveX and URLs of known malware websites in Internet Explorer and blocks cookies for known malware websites in Firefox. The great thing about Spyware Blaster is that it is not running all the time. Spyware Blaster is somewhat like an vaccination shot for your computer: you run it once and your computer is vaccinated against all those spyware websites. However you need to update the Spyware Blaster database at regular intervals (suggested is once a week but once a month should be fine – you have to manually update it) and re-vaccinate your computer every time you update the database.

Spyware Blaster system requirements:

  • Operating system: Windows 98/ME/NT/2000/XP/Vista
  • Browsers: Internet Explorer (or any browser that uses the IE engine), Firefox, Netscape, Sea Monkey, Flock and K-Melon

Alternatives: OpenDNS

Tier 3

Behavior Blocker

What: Threatfire

Why: Varying from the norm signature based protection, Threatfire uses a unique ‘behavior based’ detection system. This methodology not only helps prevent conflict and slowdowns if Threatfire is used with other security software like avast! or Avira, but it provides a whole new angle at detecting scumware on your PC. Threatfire is one of the only free anti-malware programs that provides full real time detection and protection. Other programs such as Ad-Aware AE and Spyware Doctor provide limited real time protection that are signature based, raising the chance of conflict between security programs. Threatfire has the ability to detect all kinds of scumware; however the real-time protection is only for malware while there is an on demand scanner for everything else.

Alternatives: None as far as I know.

Threatfire system requirements:

  • Operating System: Windows 7/Vista/XP/2003
  • Note: 64- bit Vista and Win7 is now supported.

Anti-Dangerous Outdated Software

What: JavaRA

Why: Java Runtime Environment is often times targeted by scum looking a way to install scumware onto your computer. To respond to this, JRE (Java Runtime Environment) is often patched and updated. The problem is, after a patch/update the older version are just… left there. This, obviously, is very dangerous – more harm than good. JavaRA is a simple program that removes old version of JRE. JavaRA does not run all the time. Just run JavaRA after you download it for the first time and run it every time after you do an update of Java. Vista users need to run this as Administrator.

JavaRA system requirements:

  • Operating system: Windows 95, 98, 2000, XP, Vista, and Win7

What: Secunia PSI

Why: Secunia PSI is a software that focuses on updating software which cause a security risk. Secunia scans your computers and looks for software that are missing security patches or are “end-of-life”. If it finds them it tells you and you then fix the problem as necessary. Secunia PSI is the desktop version (you must download it) while Secunia OSI is the online scanner (slower and less features). You should just run this scanner once in a while to make sure you don’t suffer from a dangerous out dated software.

Secunia PSI system requirements:

  • Operating system: Windows 2000 SP4, XP SP2 or higher, 2003, Vista, and Win7

Secunia OSI system requirements:

  • Operating system: Windows 2000 SP4, XP SP2 or higher, 2003, Vista, and Win7
  • Browser: Internet Explorer 6 or higher, Firefox 2 or higher, Opera 9 or higher and Safart 3 or higher
  • Required software: Latest version of Windows Update and Java JRE 1.6.x or higher

Ad-hoc Host Intrusion Protection Software (kind of)

What: GeSWall

Why: GeSWall has taken it upon its self to be the “prevention” part of the three step computer security plan. Similar to Sandboxie, or any other sandboxing program, GeSWall “isolates” programs; however GeSWall focuses on the main “entry points” from where scumware can enter your computer, including but not limited to, your internet browser instead of all programs in general. Different to Sandboxie, or any other sandboxing program, GeSWall’s “isolation” does not involve sandboxing programs; rather GeSWall limits file permissions and restricts access to system resources/important files. The “isolated” program runs just fine but all files (and/or folders/registry keys) downloaded from an “isolated” program (knowingly or unknowingly) are automatically treated as “untrusted”. “Untrusted” files/folders/registry keys have no system access – no permissions. Therefore with no system access, even a scumware file/folder/registry entry will be able to do diddly squat to your computer. You are told anytime an “untrusted” file tries to make any system changes. Just go and delete the scumware files and no harm is done. Simple, yet effective. If you ever want to download something, yet your are running an “isolated” browser, you just need to manually right click on that file and make it “trusted” after you finish downloading it.

The one thing I like about GeSWall is that it does not slow down your browser if your run it “isolated” as opposed to minor lag if I run a browser “sandboxed” with Sandboxie.

GeSWall system requirements:

  • Operating system: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/Win7

Alternatives: Sandboxie or SafeSpace or Altiris SVS or JauntePE

Remove-All-Changes-From-Computer-After-Reboot Software

What: Returnil Virtual System Home Free

Why: Returnil Virtual System is a program which aims to provide protection to users in an unorthodox manner. Usually when a user wants protection against malware, and other bad things, he or she installs security software like avast!, Avira, Kaspersky, Norton, AVG, NOD32, etc. which actively, and on demand, detect and remove infected files. Although the new 2010 version of RVS also includes an anti-virus/anti-malware component, RVS’s core method of system security is this: it creates a “virtual copy” of your main system partition (the partition which you have Windows installed) and whatever changes are made to your computer are dumped when you restart your computer (there are opinions to tweak how it does that, but generally speaking, that is how it works). This approach is the ultimate protection because even if you download malware unknowingly on your computer, RVS gets rid it (100% completely) when you restart your computer. Of course, any other changes made to your computer are also undone (like Windows Updates; so be sure to turn RVS off when running Windows Updates).

Returnil Virtual System system requirements:

  • Operating System: Windows XP/2003 Server/Vista/2008 Server/Win7

Alternatives: Microsoft SteadyState


That sums up my recommended list of 12 best free protection software. The logical behind this list is quite simple: prevention, detection, and cure. The combination of these 12 software will provide you all-around security for you and your computer. However they are not a replacement for the human element – the best way to stay safe is to avoid shady and questionable websites/downloads! Good luck =).

Feel free to post your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions below.

Originally written on Jan 27, 2009. Last updated April 8, 2010.

* Processor Pentium 3, 128 MB RAM, 100 MB of free hard disk space
* Microsoft Windows 2000, Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7 (32/64 bit)

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216 comments

  1. DaddyIT`

    I really forgot about that Returnil, thanks your site didnt. MS Steadystate (link) sent me to hell number eight. But threatfire was found somewhere (not at that link’s place). Best regards, t ole DIT

  2. melen001

    Hi friends,

    I see that among the tools mentioned you have ThreatFire by PC Tools and just wondering if you know that Norton acquired the company. I wonder if ThreatFire is just as effective as it was before Norton bought them out? ThreatFire is a pure Behavioral Blocker and a very rare security commodity indeed.

    http://www.pctools.com/forum/showthread.php?69648-PC-Tools-ThreatFire-New-Version-Development

    Going to find out. I will let you guys know how it goes….

  3. melen001

    Hi… very good and informative article with great alternatives but, don’t you think it’s time to UP-DATE and follow-up on it? There are so many new alternatives (software) and many just don’t exist or aren’t as effective as they where. Please take my suggestion into consideration. Thank you

  4. RW

    The article mentions LinkExtend as a website monitor for firefox, but how about bitdefender traffic light? This is an add on for firefox that doesn’t give people’s rating of a website but claims to be able to scan real-time for malware and phishing attempts. Slightly different from the alternatives such as WOT.

  5. Winz

    For your information, I have both Avast! Antivirus and SUPER Anti Spyware free edition on together during start up. Just curious if there were any conflict if I were to install Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. Need your suggestion. Thanks.

  6. Winz

    Quite a good reviews. =)
    By the way, I have some questions regarding SUPER Antispyware free edition and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. Can I install these two softwares in a pc together with Avast! Antivirus?

  7. Richard

    Hi,
    I just found your site for the first time. WOW!! I wish I had seen it years ago. From my ‘trial and error’ of looking for the best and not having the answers, I can verify most of the Tier #1 and Tier#2 Items are the absolute BEST, and can’t live without them. The rest, I am downloading without another thought. Great site and info. Most people don’t realize the importance of these download/software, until they have to spend 6-8 hours to find/delete a Virus, or sell an arm or leg to get their system fixed. Thanks a lot!

    Richard

  8. identity theft prote

    The bottom line is that you’re never going to have complete lock-down protection on your identity. Obviously there are tips you can employ that make it less likely that you’ll have it stolen, but no system is going to be perfect.

  9. nony mouse

    @Ofukit, click on the link then enter threatfire in the search box, simply click on the download button in the resulting page. note that the latest version is from 2009. I haven’t installed it yet but my guess is that if there are any updates(same for Outlook Firewall)they will be available by checking once the program is running. good luck
    winxp pro, service pack 3

  10. greg bern

    outpost is out of date on download.com , still on 2009 version . would be nice to give them heads up to show off newer version.

    online armour was my choice till conflict with update of avast today. would allow new version or web shield till uninstall. trying zonealarm but outpost next.

  11. Damon

    If you ever learn of a free alternative to Keyscrambler I would like know of it because Keyscramblerwas scrambling some of my typing.  The problem increased and I had to uninstall it.
     
    I use Firefox w/ Vista 32.
     
    Great article BTW!

  12. dottechfan23

    Hi Ashraf and Hi to all readers :-)

    First i need to say, WOW, your enormous effort amount and dedication to your work here just amazes me. Thanks a lot for that.
    Besides that i like to mention, that the “Comodo Internet Security Suite” truly deserves a little bit more attention than be just a further choice :)
    It is (as far as i know)not only the only software that is actually a true free, full Application, not feature reduced compared to a “pro” version of it,
    (there is a pro registration for it yes, but the difference is basically only additional personal assistence by comodo employees), but also intgrates a good amount of functions under one hood.
    You gave us information about (very good though..)software that will provide these functions too, but i really enjoy that in a fine integrated form ;-)

    1 firewall, 2 antivirus, 3 execution protection, 4 sandbox, 4 anti malware protection, 5 combination of index identification AND behaviour detection, 6 guarding of the whole network (lan AND wan). An extra email protection is not present for the simple reason that ANY file access is monitored anyway.

    It is also nice configurable in terms of user attention need. Offering either the way of “decide on your own knowldge” or even transmit questionable issues to Comodo as well to a user experience record database. (No information transmission unrequested ofcourse, we would hate that, do we ? smiles) With up to 5 different activity levels that can be configured, i believe ISS can be made usable for any true computer professional and for Grandma’s daily use as well :-)

    All in all this makes it unbeatable to me. (Please do not think i have relations to that software house. I am just a true big big fan of Comodo)
    Oh btw. ISS is win7 compatible also ;-)
    Since i am using this package i had not a single infection or attack problem anymore. And, yes i did have cases where i noticed when ISS protected my pc actively. The sweet thing just works remarkably well !
    Another fact that i like a lot on comodo, is their philosophy that they bring up as reason for givin this software away free. See they make their money as provider of SSL services, and apparently that seems to be enough to keep the business going. So the official statement says: “We believe that a good business can only be run on a save internet, thats why we give the max to all users on the way to make that true.” (I made this quote up from my memories, but that was basically the sense of the original statement) I think that philosophy is pretty clever and also appears really noble to me.

    Oh, one last thing before i forget…
    You mentioned some compatibility problems with comodo ? I just wonder about any details about that, because i never had any. In some cases, with software that makes use of pretty complex internet access routines, it might be necessary to finetune the one or other protection role in the network configuration to get it to work, but thats about it, as far as my experience goes.

    To sum this all up, ISS is by far my absolute first choice for internet security needs ;-)

    I hope this was useful information for you all:-)

    Byee

  13. Hayley

    Hey Ashraf! I really respect all the work you’ve done for those of us who visit  dottech.org  and GAOTD –  thank you so very much for your dedicated effort on our behalf. My one request is that you would make it easier to print your articles by adding a “print” icon or something similar. I know it would save on paper and ink (at least in my case) or save me the effort of transfering the doc over to another format. Anyway, just an idea – hopefully one that you don’t mind implementing!!
    With respect and thanks, Hayley

  14. drtank

    @ Ashraf: just ur Opinion…
    Is Emsisoft Anti-malware a antimalware or an antivirus?
    if its antimalware then is it advisable to run it along with Avira free and replacing malwarebytes as antimalware?
    your reply will be much awaited.
    is there anything which I need to uninstall?
    i am using Avira free, malware bytes free,  PC tools firewall, WOT, Threatfire, Winpatrol,
    Regards
    drtank

  15. Rizal

    Thank you Ashraf for the review, but how about list for top securities software regardless if it is free or paid version. It is essential for those who do not want to compromise on it but know sh*t about how to know which is the best or important.

  16. Chloe

    *Gulp* Do I have to install all these just to be safe!?!
    Isn’t the firewall that comes with my window OS good enough with an anti virus package that has malware and spyware covered?
    Or do I need anti virus, anti malware, anti spyware, web adviser, key scrambler, anti host intrusion software, anti outdated dangerous software (breath in) and behavior blocker???
    I mean holy cow, I don’t have much memory on my PC.. by the time I install all of them, will I have memory left to surf and do other stuff? And won’t these software clash?

  17. David

    Avira’s nag screen on update can be suppressed (Search ‘suppress avira advert’ quickly finds the way). Alternatively it’s easy to write an AHK script, easier in that reinstalling Avira does not require the procedure to suppress the nag to be redone.

    Online Armor: Like Ashraf, I have sometimes found Online Armor seemingly inexplicably in conflict  with other programs, and its multiple prompts during installation or uninstallation can be annoying.

  18. Seth

    A lot of what is best for anti-malware is now built-in, except DEP is OptIn by default where it should be OptOut (this change should really be recommended in the article). The best practice is to download wisely. I’ve stopped using real-time traditional antivirus. DEP, UAC, Windows Firewall, System Restore, Windows Update, and browser checking (like SmartScreen or Google Chrome’s domain checking + sandboxing), constitute reasonable protection. Antimalware beyond that can either slow things down or make conflicts (with behavior blocking or false positives), but that’s just my opinion. Malwarebytes is a nice on-demand check. I just don’t think that 3rd-party security software add-ons are generally worth it with all the improvements in Windows 7, but that’s me.

  19. Precyyse52

    Ashraf,,,,  I met you today via someone posting your link on GOTD offering a software that you wrote an advice on  (Icare Data Recovery) in March.
    I normally do not write any comments etc. however, I do read alot to feel the feedback of others and what technology has to offer etc..  I then checked out dotTech.org and must say that I am impressed and at the same time thankful for the few such as you.  I have now made dotTech.org my home page.
    Your statement was so on the money “beware of who you open your door to and let in”  I have learned this the hard way !  I don’t download from GOTD but I do check  out to see what software is out there,,,,,
    Gratefully,
    Elizabeth  :)

  20. RonCam

    Ashraf wrote:

    The one thing I like about GeSWall is that it does not slow down your browser if your run it “isolated” as opposed to minor lag if I run a browser “sandboxed” with Sandboxie.

    Check your sandboxie.ini configuration settings.

    I was having performance issues (some sites wouldn’t scroll smoothly, and so forth) with Lunascape, and then noticed I had only made exceptions for variables stored in its %AppData% folders.  When I added the subdirectories in the below the main Lunascape program folder to OpenFilePath, the problem went away.

    When all is optimally configured, there should be no noticeable performance ‘hit’. Was this a browser with built-in settings, or did you have to figure it out, by yourself, I wonder?

    We miss you, on Giveaway of the Day!  Hope you are well.
     
    Vijay wrote:@Ashraf …

    CAN you suggest a security combination that is neither CPU nor memory intensive

    I would use this same utility as mentioned above, on older software.

  21. chinaguy

    It seems like now the Outpost free firewall will not even install on Windows 7. When I tried it said that Windows 7 is not supported by the free version and the setup dialog box never even opens.

  22. Vijay

    @Ashraf This is a great article, BUT many of us do not have the latest and greatest hardware and this multi tiered approach will older systems to a halt.
    CAN you suggest a security combination that is neither CPU nor memory intensive?

  23. gpc111

    Thank you for the great article. My Norton 360 subscription will expire in a few months. Since I live outside of the US, it’s hard for me to renew it. I will replace it with some of the programs you listed. I have paid versions of Malwarebyte and Winpatrol. I guess I will need an antivirus and a firewall. There are a lot to choose from your list. Take care and thanks again for your efforts.

  24. Sputnik

    Concerning GeSWall, could we say that this software is more like DefenseWall (shareware) than Sandboxie ?
    I did not yet tried this software, but from what we say about it, it seems it would be the case.

  25. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @mukhi: You can make it just an icon instead of the whole toolbar. Do this:

    • Right-click on Firefox’s top interface and select “Customize”. Drag the safety icon to somewhere else (i.e. off the toolbar, maybe next to the URL address bad). End customize.
    • Right-click on Firefox’s top interface and uncheck “LinkExtend Toolbar”.
    • Go to “Tools” -> “Addons” -> “Extensions” -> “LinkExtend” -> “Options” -> “Toolbar” -> Check “Disable Toolbar” (at the bottom) -> “OK”.
    • Enjoy
  26. mukhi

    i have liked linkextend, however, my only complaint is why it has to stay as a toolbar. it is wasting space in my FF. other than navigation toolbar, i don’t want anything else! it would be better if it would stay as an icon in the left side of navigation toolbar just like WOT.

  27. Tom

    Hi,
    Some alternatives to ThreatFire that work along side installed Anitivirus/Antispyware products:
    1) Immunet Protect.
    2) Comodo Defense+ (included in the free Comodo Internet Security).
    Regards,
    Tom

  28. Karl

    VirtualBox VM – uses the most resources but offers the best security.  All updates are virtual so it’s ultimately safe. You can always go back to a previous snapshot and save your current system state but you are also always consuming more resources. Good for best security and resources to burn.

    Returnil – less resources and less security.  When changes are made it’s on your physical system and you’ll have to reboot if protection is on.   Good for testing, web surfing and letting others use your computer.  Some installs as well as some uninstalls need to reboot so that might be a problem.

    SteadyState – As noted by catman it isn’t for windows 7 which has Guest Mode, XP Mode and Virtaul PC instead; that is, if you have Pro or Ultimate.

    Wondershare Time Freeze – looks like it has good potential but it says it for 32bit only.  The main feature I like with SteadyState or Time Freeze is the ability to commit changes or roll back on reboot.  It installed on my windows 7 64 but I’m waiting for a reply form Wondershare support before I attempt anything. (Install Returnil and test it? :)

    VMLite – also has some interesting offerings.  XP Mode / Workstation appear to be freeware.  MyOldPCs has a trial version so that would seem to be a pay to play product.  Basically they offer software to create and run VMs.  They claim to be lighter on the resources than Windows XP Mode and VMWare.  This is next on the list to try out and see how it compares to VirtualBox.

  29. ebony

    @catman:

    I was excited to learn about SteadyState, but after further investigation, I found out

    Windows SteadyState Version 2.5
    Support for Vista 64 bit? … SteadyState does not currently support 64-bit operating systems.
     
     

  30. Karl

    This is a great list to work from .. fortunately I had most of the bases covered.  After filling in a few missing pieces of the security puzzle I’m down to virtualizing.  I use VMs at work and I’ve virtualized my old XP machine at home but not my current Windows 7 x64 machine.  I do install / uninstall software often enough I would like to keep it easy and not drag on my resources too much.  I’m debating between running a VM on Sun VirtualBox or using Retrunil Virtual System Home Free.  I haven’t used it yet but it seems like Returnil will be lighter on the system resources than running a full blown VM.  Anyone willing to make a recommendation (Ashraf / Locutus / Anyone)? 
     
    My main concern is making changes to the system like updates and installing software.  On a real VM it’s only “virtually” installed so you can go back to a snapshot but you can’t create another VM with all of your GOTD installs.  Once you turn off Returnil it’s really installed but so is any malware .. thank god for real backups.  One plus of using Paragon for backups and creating VMs is I can use a backup to create a new VM.  I guess it comes down to backups vs snapshots in a worst case scenario.
     
    Beyond Returnil and VirtualBox I guess I could also consider SteadyState or just run without Returnil once a week to get windows updates.  An even more radical idea is to create a VM out of my current Windows 7 system, create another partition, install Ubuntu and run the win7x64 from that since Ubuntu should be much lighter on the resources as a host. 
     
    Sorry for the rant .. your 2 cents or more appreciated,
    Karl

  31. rover3500

    @Ed: wouldn’t be much good program if virus can disable it that easy.
    if u use an uninstaller b4 it’s restarted,the final uninstall bit that takes away the last bit of the prog deep in system when u restart doesnt happen.
    Is the same with most security software for obvious reasons.so many people do this…

  32. rover3500

    @FostWare: I used forticlient for a while and was happy,but when i uninstalled it and restarted my connection(broadband,not wireless)it took a couple of minutes to start up,was only few seconds b4.
    So it obviously left something important deep in the system somewhere,i had to reinstall OS(win7 premium x32)

  33. o(o.o)o

    Lots of good programs you’ve listed there Ashraf, most of which I have personally used at some point in the past.
     
    But now I have settled on virtualization software to take care of my x32 XP computer. Sandboxie plus Shadow Defender or Returnil 2008 (the older version simply works without the hassles of the current incarnation) coupled with software restriction policies under a limited user account suits my needs.
     
    Important files and documents are saved on a separate partition and if a program needs admin rights to run(ie a game using some sort of anti-hack), I use SuRun to elevate its rights or see if I only need to set folder or file access rights. Every month or so, I scan using on-demand scanners Dr.Web CureIt and Hitman Pro for assurance that no malware is live and running on my pc as well as Secunia and MS Baseline Security Analyzer scans for program and OS updates. I may throw in Panda Cloud AV sometime in the future once they iron out some kinks but an AV for me is not really a necessity.
     
    Took me a while to get used to this set-up from my old admin habits of happy-clicking on every executable I fancy but once everything was in order, my XP machine runs amazingly fast compared to when it still had active scanners running.

  34. Dave

    I didn’t go through the entire response list, but I am a bit surprised that the NoScript plug-in for FF was not mentioned.  TBH, it’s the only reason these days that I run FF instead of any other non-IE browser.  While it may be a bit tricky to configure for the newbie, the protection it offers in blocking background scripts is unmatched by any app I’ve come across, either as a plug-in or stand alone.

  35. Jon

    @Jon:
    This is myself saying Hallelujah, AMEN! Ashraf, you’ve converted (it’s about time!) I have Avira Pro myself (got it for free) but I only keep it for extra protection (I wouldn’t mind ditching it if it ever gave me problems). But Avira has many false postives (compared to other AVs) and I LOVE AVAST. Avast for the world!
    Note: Did you know that even the previous Vice President of Symantec (the company who makes Norton) quit and joined ALWIL Software (the creator of Avast)?

  36. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @ken: They don’t unless someone tells them. So many businesses can get away with using free-for-home-only software but if the software company finds out, that business may be liable for a lot of trouble.

  37. Mags

    @ken: FWIW, I think it would depend on your Insurance.   Some insurance companies do not allow freeware security.  Also check out the free security programs restrictions.  Some allow for home use only.
    Hope that helps.

  38. ken

    hello, thank you for making such an easy guide to follow.  I was wondering if it’s possible to use all these programs for a business setup with  a server and about 8 computers.   I’m trying to be economical in these hardtimes, but if it’s better to spend on the paid versions of AVG or avast for this situation, please let me know.  I currently have AVG on my computers and it has just expired today, so I’m wondering what I should do.
    I guess my options are:
    1) Pay for AVG for 1/2 years
    2) uninstall AVG and install avast internet security for 1/2 years
    3) Install the freeware that you have mentioned in the article if its possible
    Please let me know what would be best for my situation.
    Thanks in advance!

    Oh also, if its possible to do the freeware option, I’m guessing I would need to put all those programs on each computer in my office?

  39. Albi

    Thank you for your reply. I decided to give Avast a try. I uninstalled Avira and installed Avast. The new version looks pretty solid and it works fine. Besides, it is working fine alongside a-squared antimalware and is not slowing down my PC. It is also much lower on resources than Avira was. What has been bothering me with Avira lately is the fact that the latest version 10 is a little bit buggy for my taste. Moreover, I was hoping Avira would produce an automatic handling of malware when caught by its guard. The Guard is still asking the user what to do when it catches a malware. Anyway, I will be using Avast for now and if it continues to work OK I will keep it :)
    Cheers

  40. Joji

    Hey Ashraf, new stuff from my new issue of MaximumPC!
     
    – Trend Micro is given a verdict of 4! Slow performance, boot time lag, etc etc!
    – ESET still top notch, except a few features unavailable!
    – avast! has gone better with 5.0, but computer scanning is slow…
    – MSE has been given a verdict of 8! Also says it’s slowww when scanning
    – PANDA provides very good anti-virus support! Very good pie chart explaining what kind of threats are there on your PC, except adds 24 secs to your boot time! D:
     
    Hope that helps…
     
    ~Joji~

  41. Azure Sky

    @mukhi: avast isnt bad, but I have had better luck with MSSE then avast, less false positives for one thing.

    just remmber, the more security you pile on your system, the more problems your likely to run into caused by said security.

    I take my security on my own system the same way i take my codes on any system I work on, dont install more then you need, threatfire came off my rig because it was causing other apps to not function properly and wouldnt always remember that I told it to ignore some apps……(really got old dealing with that crap) for example.

    My advice is rather then pile security software 12 levels deep onto a system, just stop going to crack sites and skanky porn sites, that will be far more effective then any security apps at stoping you from getting infected.

    stop downloading stuff with limewire or whatever, those apps are……well you get more fakes and infectted files then anything else that way…..

  42. soulfulwriter

    I tried to download ThreatFire free version a few times but nothing happened. The download button for the free download is grey and right next to it is the green one for the trial version of  Spyware Doctor with Anti-Virus. It seems that the company is trying to force the trial version of  SDocAV over the free ThreatFire (although it does provide a button to get to the download page on the main site pages). Has anyone else had this problem? Thanks.

  43. mukhi

    today i am switching to avast! from avira as per ashraf & others’ suggestions to give it a try. malwarebytes stays as it rocks.
    no luck on outpost/online armor firewall as both failed on me in my win7HP 64 bit. afraid to try comodo. will keep windows firewall on for now.
    as the security problem is on the rise, i am installing winpatrol, linkextend, keyscrambler, spywareblaster, threatfire, javara, secunia PSI, geswall today.
    already have returnil from dottech giveaway!

  44. Mags

    @Azure Sky: Thx for the reply.  I’m trying it out now.
     
    I am disappointed that Outpost Firewall Free doesn’t work in Windows 7.  I’ve tried a few others in Vista and had issues with them, i.e. Comodo, and PCTools.  My ISP has a free firewall with the internet package I have, but I don’t trust it like I don’t trust M$, (oh but wait my ISP is part of M$  LOL)
     
    The only one I haven’t tried yet is Online Armour Free, which I will also give a try next and decide which one I prefer.
     

  45. Joji

    Ashraf! My new issue of MaximumPC came, and they gave “Mcafee Internet Seucurity 2010″ a verdict of 8!
     
    It says how it’s much improved then before, including scanning speed, performance, and boot time! Oh don’t forget the new user interface they added!
     
    ~Joji~

  46. Mags

    2 things!
     
    #1 Unfortunately Outpost Firewall Free doesn’t work in Windows 7.   Can you recommend a free firewall for Windows 7.   Or can anyone suggest how to get Outpost Firewall Free to work in Windows 7.  I tried running it in compatibility mode but that didn’t work.
     
    #2 I agree about Spybot, there was a time when it was the best out there, but like Ashraf said it is past its prime.  That is unfortunate because it was a great program.
     
     
     

  47. FostWare

    I’m surprised no-one’s listed FortiClient Standard (http://www.forticlient.com) as it’s :-
    1) free including commercial environments
    2) includes on-access AV, anti-spam, firewall, and web filter
    3) supports WinXP -Win7 32-bit and 64-bit
    4) isn’t a resource hog
    5) it’s by the people behind the hardcore FortiNet and FortiGuard enterprise firewall and filtering appliances.

    Because of it’s not excluded from commercial environments, I regularly use it for those people who use AVG/Avira/Avast and do some paid work  or work emails using that machine.

  48. Ed

    I used an earlier version of  Returnil and found it very useful.  I installed the new version and had nothing but problems.  It conflicted with my anti-virus program (F-Secure).  I couldn’t find any way to turn off  Returnil’s anti-virus.  I tried to remove it with Revo uninstaller.  That didn’t do the job.  Every time I rebooted all of my changes were undone.  I had to search deep in the registry to finally get rid of it.  I would class this as malware.

  49. Beachsandguy

    Hey there.  Ashraf, LOVE the article and your website, lots of great information here.  I do have a question for anyone reading.  I  used to use Avast! but recently read some positive things about Panda Cloud Antivirus.  It uses very little in the way of resources and appears to use current virus definitions at all times.  So far so good, but I haven’t really found a good website for antivirus comparisons/reviews, unlike for firewalls such as matousec.com.  Anyone have suggestions on experience with Panda, and any dedicated testing sites for antivirus like matousec for firewall?
    Again, thanks for all the great topics/forums/suggestions.  I’ve learned a lot here.
    Beachsandguy

  50. ebony623

    @Ashraf: Thank you for the excellent article. A lot of good info and I am trying to make the best of it.
    I have avast! Free Edition, Keyscrambler, I installed winpatrol, I was going to install Malwarebytes but I will see if it supports Vista 64 before I go further.
    One thing I have not been able to get rid of is popups, I get these Netflix popups more so than any others. What can I use?
    Thanks for all the good info. I know I have said it before, but it bears repeating           I like this site.
    Ebony

  51. Giovanni (Italian smart King of Freebies...LOL!)

    Hi Ashraf!!

    Great Article (I bookmarked it on my browser for future reference…LOL).

    Happy to see that you get some tips about some programs I gave you a few weeks ago

    However, if you don’t mind, to make your article close to perfection let me add a couple of additions and or corrections (and take notes of them for a possible future new update of your article should find them your interest):

    – as for Anti-Malware On Demand Scanner   I think that A-SQUARED is far superior to MALWAREBYTES’ ANTIMALWARE so I would have put it as first choice rather than as a simple alternative.
     
    – as for FIREWALL Comodo Personal Firewall Pro is slyghtly superior to OUTPOST (see leak tests on professional security websites for more information)

    For extra-protection aimed at  preventing fraudsters stealing your personal information, including usernames, passwords, bank account details and credit card numbers, I’d also recommend PREVX SAFEONLINE  [compatible with Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008, Windows 7 (32&64bit).Internet Explorer (5-8), Firefox (1-3), Google Chrome (2 & 3), Opera (9 & 10). Mac will be supported Q2 2010)].

    http://www.prevx.com/safebook.asp?rkw=facebook&sessionid=265AF9A1-6907-4A66-A5EB-D78304C0E199&tr=4367&pn=routes

    But maybe the best way to protect our own online identity keeping  praying eyes away from your sensitive data is to SURF ANONIMOUSLY.

    So why not add on your list anonymizer tools such the freeware
    ULTRASURF that allows you to hide IP addresses and locations, clean browsing history, cookies as well as bypass bloody filters and blockage on the Internet while surfing?

    http://www.ultrareach.com/
    For those surfing the web with a slow 56K dialup connection or are paying a fee based on the amount of data they transfer (e.g. 3G/GPRS/DSL/CDMA) and have monthly download limit, I instead recommend TOONEL which is similar to ULTRASURF with the only difference that it’s able to conserv network bandwidth as well….great tool!!!

    Finally  you forgot to mention which BROWSER using to get maximum protection while surfing on the NET.

    As everybody knows, FIREFOX is definitely  the best one out there as long as you install this addons:

    BETTER PRIVACY + COOKIECULLER 1.4 + REFCONTROL + IXQUICK HTTPS PRIVACY SEARCH ENGINE + WOT (in my view better than LINK EXTEND because it automatically BLOCKS suspicious  websites) + LIBERTY GUARD + NO SCRIPT + ADBLOCK PLUS + KEY SCRAMBLER + LINK ALERT 1.0.1 + SECURE LOGIN 0.9.3 + LASTPASS (or KEEPASS 2). 

    However  another good alternative BROWSER to surf the net safely and quickly  is  GOOGLE CHROMEPLUS  ( http://www.chromeplus.org/  ) that has all the functionalities of  Google Chrome plus a couple of other useful features such as Mouse gesture, Super drag, IE tab and so on.

    If you use it with the following addons you can enjoy a great surfing experience at no cost (and it’s much faster than FIREFOX  as well):

    AdThwart  +   WOT  +  Secbrowsing – plugin version checker + LASTPASS

    Here you can  find a full review in Italian language of this great browser packed with tips and tricks for getting the best configuration possible  (pls use GOOGLE TRANSLATOR to translate the webpage):

    http://www.hwupgrade.it/forum/showpost.php?p=30213999&postcount=5

    Hope this helps make your great article even more compelling than it is already now.

    Take care

  52. yeobaby

    @Ashraf:  You say Outpost Free will work for Win 7 but it does not.  On their website it say it doesn’t but tried to install anyways and wouldn’t.  Wanted to see if Ashok was doing something wrong, like actually going through with the trial pay thing, maybe he missed the link to actually click on for x64 users

  53. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Anemailname: Glad you like it =).

    @Joji:Not really sure.

    @Ashok: Are you sure? I see a link for Outpost Free for x64 users. Can anyone else confirm this? If so, I will add the disclaimer you desire.

    @Albi: avast! 5.0 added heuristics. That said, avast! won’t conflict with Outpost, but running it together with a-squared pro will likely slow down your computer slightly (I have personal experience).

    @Locutus: MSE is good but not the best imo.

    @Joji: ?

    @MikeR: LOL! I decided not to change the date of this article since this was only an update, hence why you are getting May 19, 2009. However, I thought the e-mail would provide the proper date of today – apparently not.

  54. MikeR

    I don’t know what’s gone wrong with the clock on this computer.

    But it’s serious.

    I’ve just opened a dot tech email relating to ‘Prevention, detection and cure’ and it begins thus:

    Hello there!

    Today is May 19, 2009, and a new article has just been posted on dotTech.

    I’m now starting to worry if I’ll awaken tomorrow in Elizabethan England — not that of the current one, but of  the first.

  55. Joji

    @Locutus: Ya but Locu, the only problem with MSE is that MSE spies on people. Microsoft is trying to invade your privacy by giving away their freebies so they can monitor everyone’s downloads and installtions so that they could tell developers that people have found a way to crack full version programs or so that they could tell them that a certain product key should be blacklisted since it’s being given away illegally.

    ~Joji~

  56. Locutus

    I still think MSE is the bestest antivirus I’ve ever used.  Maybe it’s because I switched from a laggy A/V on an old computer to a nice shiny new one on a nice shiny new computer?

  57. Albi

    Hello Ashraf,
    Thank you for this extensive review. I don’t know if it is true but I have been told that Avast doesn’t use heuristics, while Avira does. Is it true? As protection I’ve been using Outpost firewall free, a-squared anti-malware and avira personal free and so far I haven’t had any conflicts. I also use SpywareBlaster and I love it. As a browser I use Firefox instead of IE and I haven’t been using IE for almost 3 years. However I use firefox 3.0.19 instead of 3.6.3. Strangely enough, except for firefox 3.0.19, all Firefox versions after 3.5 disable several hundred protected items (230) in SpywareBlaster whenever I open the browser. With regard to Malwarebytes and Superantispyware I use them from time to time for a full scan, along with Free Kaspersky Removal Tool which in my opinion is very good, especially the 2010 version. You can run it once every 3-4 months just to be sure you don’t have any viruses, rootkits or spyware. You install it, run the full scan and then it uninstalls with no problems. I have used Threatfire in the past but it was somehow heavy on the resources. I don’t know, maybe newer versions have been improved. I would like to give Avast a try, but I’m not sure if it would work without conflicts along with a-squared anti-malware and outpost firewall. In the past Avast had also some uninstallation issues.
    Cheers
     

  58. Ashok

    Ashraf, based on your recommendation above I downloaded the 64 bit version of Free Outpost Firewall from their website (http://free.agnitum.com/trial-pay/). The installer says, 64 bit version is NOT free!!
    Why would the company give a link to Free 64 bit version and then at install time, give error message? Not good.. You may want to amend your article above for 64-bit OS users. Thanks

  59. Joji

    Just curious, what’s the difference between “Kaspersky Security Suite CBE” and the one from retail stores? I want to know the difference in features and functionality please! :)
     
    ~Joji~

  60. Josh

    @Jon:
    I agree. Have tested a variety of free AV programs and have found avast! to be the best if you are looking for a balanced approach between functionality and resource usage. The only thing I don’t like about avast! is their insistence on periodic re-registration, but it’s not a major issue.

  61. Anemailname

    Excellent article! I have been an Avast user for a while now and have to say that I am very pleased with it. (on Win 7 X64 6gig mem) I used Avira before and had so many false positives that it was senseless. I also use Malware Bytes and Winpatrol. Winpatrol has been a favorite for a long time. I will however try some of your 3 tier suggestions as I hadn’t heard of a couple of them. I will also be sending this link to a group of ladies so they can be sure to have the best protection available.
    Thank You!

  62. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Friend: Wasalam. Thanks for the kind words!

    @Ken: Thanks. Honestly, SpyBot is past its day, hence why I don’t really mention it nor does it really get recommended anymore. If I were you I would consider dropping it for something else.

  63. Ken

    Great article.  Is there a reason that “SpyBot Search and Destroy” doesn’t get a mention?  I’ve been using it for years, and am happy with it, but now, given that it doesn’t get alook-in, is there something about it that I don’t know?

  64. Friend

    AOA Ashraf,
    Very very nice article. It is so much informative and can be considered basic as well as advanced guideline for personal computer security. I am considering some of your suggestions for supplementing my protection (KIS 2010 a.b.). I appreciate your effort. Thanks

  65. Jon

    “Having one of the best detection rates amongst the top tier anti virus programs and being the least resource intensive, Avira AV is the best free AV out there.” Ashraf, I beg to differ.
    Maybe “Avira AV is ONE OF the best free AV (S) out there.” will work, but Avira has so many false positives and Avast has so many features, plus I have heard Avira is a resource hog.

  66. sean

    @giovanni Did I seriously hear you recommend norton? no, I couldn’t have.

    @Ashraf Thanks for this, I downloaded it all and set it to the highest level. now I get to allow or deny everyting a program does. Yea, I get a few false positives, but personally, I don’t care. To me it shows that the apps are trying to protect me.

    Also, Secuna PSI lists windows 7 as a risk XD

  67. Ginger

    Avast is “free” and does rate higher than AVIRA antivir tested in av comparatives is their premium paid version and its detection rate is excellent. However, it also has a “very’ high false positive rating. I am currently using Eset and the techs which I have dealt with many times have always been polite and helpful. However, when my 2yr contract is up this March 2010,I am going to give Avast a try.

    I’m using the following security software:
    Eset
    SuperAntiSpyware(lifetime active paid)
    Malwarebytes(manual scan free)
    sandboxie(free)
    returnil(free)..sandboxie and returnil work well together
    PCTOOLS Plus
    ff3.5.5(my fav)
    ie8
    k-meleon

    PS I tried keyscrambler twice and both times after about a yr of use, I ended up with my keyboard driver corrupted!

    Also, using Update Notifier..very helpful “free” app.

    Thanks for all your great reviews…a loyal fan

  68. Van

    Errrrrrr giovanni…..

    The title of this article ends in (and I’ll emphasize) FOR FREE. Most of the apps you listed from Av-Comparatives.org are commercial.

    This industry desperately needs an overhaul. Most reviews online are seriously biased (notice the affiliate links accompanying most “reviewed” products). When $$$$ is involved, don’t trust the shit dribbling down their chins. All they want is the affiliate commission. They don’t give two hoots about the integrity of the product. BitDefender for example rates highly on many review sites. It is a bloated POS that has numerous bugs. It lasted all of 12 hours on my machine. After the 5th “Critical Error” it was outta here. Zone Alarm was the best firewall until CheckPoint took over, it’s been a steady decline in product integrity since.

    Anti-virus “DETECTION RATES” are misleading. These results will vary with each definitions update. The main concern is what the product will do when an unknown virus hits your system. Face it, that’s something that will always be inevitable. Zone Alarm ISS is still one of the best commercial products to protect you with its “anti-make-system-changes-without-my-consent” as Ashraf puts it. Add the fact that it’s very strict with internet access rules (more prompts that most other products), it will save your behind when an unknown virus does hit you. Trust me, been there done that countless times.

    You want an AV that gives a lot of false positives, anything suspicious should be scrutinized thoroughly. You want a firewall that alerts you for every single network connection. Who cares if it takes a week or two in order to configure the access rules. Take a leaf from *NIX security. Everything is blocked until you allow it. There’s a reason for this and why it’s soooo much more damn secure.

    Kudos to Ashraf for posting an unbiased non-affiliated article. We need more people like you my good man.

  69. giovanni

    Hey!!

    Look at this outstanding list of free security programs (probably the best and more comprehensive list available on the web now):

    http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/probably-best-free-security-list-world.htm

    Enjoy!!

    Giovanni

    P.S. Unexpected turn of events!! According to the last renowned and reliable Av-Comparatives independent test, GDATA, NORTON, F-Secure, BitDefender, eScan, ESET and AVAST can be considered better than KASPERSKY and AVIRA 9 as AV because, despite having a good detection rate, they also have a high FALSE POSITIVE RATE in comparison with AVAST for instance.

    And since, as you should know, the DETECTION RATE is not the only thing that matters for an antivirus, Av-Comparatives.org came to conclusion that both AVIRA and KAV are not the best AV out there, because an AV successful to detect a high percentage of malware with a high FALSE POSITIVE RATE may not necessarily be better than another one which detects less malware with a lower rate of false alarms.

    That’s why AVAST has been considered by Av-Comparatives.org a little bit better than AVIRA itself (Advanced+ vs Advanced).

    * Advanced+: GDATA, Symantec, Avast, F-Secure, BitDefender, eScan, ESET

    * Advanced: Avira, McAfee, TrustPort, Kaspersky, AVG

    * Standard: Microsoft , Norman

    DETECTION RATE

    1. G DATA Antivirus 20.0.4.9: 99.8%
    2. AVIRA AntiVir Premium 9.0.0.446: 99.4%
    3. McAfee VirusScan Plus 13.11.102: 98.7%
    4. Symantec Norton Antivirus 17.0.0.136: 98.4%
    5. Avast Professional Edition 4.8.1348: 98.0%
    6. F-Secure Antivirus 10.00.246: 97.9%
    7. BitDefender Antivirus 13.0.13.254: 97.8%
    8. eScan AntiVirus 10.0.997.491: 97.7%
    9. Trustport Antivirus 2.8.0.3017: 97.6%
    10. ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4.0.437.0: 97.2%
    11. Kaspersky AntiVirus 9.0.0.463: 94.7%
    12. AVG Antivirus 8.5.406: 94.0%
    13. Sophos Antivirus 7.6.10: 91.3%
    14. Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.5.2900.28: 90.0%
    15. Kingsoft Antivirus 2009.08.05.16: 86.4%
    16. Norman Antivirus & AntiSpyware 7.10.02: 84.8%

    http://www.av-comparatives.org/images/stories/test/ondret/avc_report23.pdf

    So I think you’d better update your nice review taking into account the latest news mentioned above.

  70. Doug

    From download.com about version 9:
    “Savvy users will notice the removal of the on-demand e-mail scan”

    If this means no real-time active scanning when e-mail message arrive, that is a show-stopper for sure.

  71. Steelers6

    Hi Asharf,

    Thanks for the great list, I have had a problem, my internet has slowed to a crawl. I’m using Secunia PSI which is running at about 38K seems to be slowing my system down. That along with winpatrol.

    Tried just to use PCSI as a run as needed but it auto starts on it’s own and I can’t find a way to turn it off in Services.msc or in Revo.

    I have contacted PCSI but they haven’t responded, here is what I use hope you can help.

    I’m use Vista 64 bit OS Home Permium with 6 GB of ram on new dell xps mini tower.
    PCSI
    Avast: Lightweight
    WinPatrol: Pretty heavy on resources
    SuperAntivius
    PC Tools firewall
    JavaRE as needed
    Malwarebytes only manual as needed.

    Hope you can help I took your suggesting but now computer is a drag.

    Thanks Asharf!

  72. Shankar

    After reading the main article with its 79 comments, I am more confused on what to use and what not to use. Secondly, even after using so many freewares one is not sure of security. In that case, is paid up versions are the solutions and does it provide all needed securities. If so, can you please list on such paid up versions with its relative advantages and disadvantages. Alternatively where can it sourced?

  73. mohd

    Thanks a lot Ashraf for the Advice,
    and thanks to Avira bcoz give anti virus for free
    iam student save my money again..
    Ashraf is gud Author and genius.
    two thumb up i give u n two thhumb up more frm my youngest brothers:)

  74. LunarWolf

    Hi Ashraf,

    LunarWolf from Raymond.cc. Good combo. Free and efficient.

    The last time I use Avira with Comodo, my whole desktop went blank. Never the less, I am using Comodo with KAV 2010.

    Good list.

  75. ...

    the basics:
    spi router, upnp off
    pfw
    HOSTS
    proxomitron. (works with all browsers, but complex)
    also, avoid ie, but set inetcpl.cpl strictly. (google appropriately for guides)
    turn off java in any browser.
    opera has persite settings, so begin overall settings: js, cookies, referer off.
    ff has noscript, but it’s a “pain” to keep setting persite. (tho interesting to see the different “sites” “running in background”). rather cumbersome is to use capability policy prefs.
    kmeleon has the older style (nicely detailed) cookie settings. lots of prefs.

    read email as “plain text” to avoid “webbugs” (some have unique id, which let bulk spammer know your email address is “real”).

  76. sos4ever

    Ashraf, I wrote a comment on your page where the offer links to the free Online Armor, stating that Online Armor does not work on Windows 7. Also Outpost Firewall Free 2009 does not work in Windows 7.

  77. darrell

    @Ashraf:
    Yes I did use the learning mode more than once. It seemed to think there was something new or different about every start of both Bluetooth and the Nokia Suite.

    Online Armor handles it a little better, but even though I put remember and trust everywhere I can for these programs I still get prompts. Even worse I get a BSOD when I resume from standby.

    I will start looking for a USB cable for my phone so I can keep Bluetooth off, but for now I will remove both Bluetooth and the Nokia Suite to see if I can get stable.

  78. darrell

    Uninstalling Outpost Firewall Free 2009 fixed my XP laptop hanging on suspend. It was a pain for me because Outpost kept popping permissions dialogs about Nokia Suite Bluetooth connections to my phone. I couldn’t seem to convince it that Nokia SW was OK. I really need suspend to work to conserve my battery so I was lucky that the first thing I removed fixed suspending. I’ll try one of your other recommendations for a firewall.

  79. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @surfriot: How user friendly is it? I literally just clicked “Next” during install and have yet to mess with it. It has this feature that automatically settings rules for commonly known applications… it is really nice.

  80. surfriot

    I have been using pctools firewall, after reading your post here would like to try outpost firewall (again) how user friendly is it? When I tried it, seems like it was for advanced users.

  81. Mags

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! Did I say thank you?

    I haven’t even finished reading the article. I stopped dead when reading about Agnitum Outpost Firewall.

    I used to use it years ago and was extremely happy with it. Unfortunately once I switched to XP it caused problems, and just wasn’t as good anymore. So started using Commodo V.2, which I was happy with. Then upgraded to Vista and of course Commodo V.2 didn’t work, so tried PC Tools until Commodo V.3 came out and of course wasn’t happy with it. So went back to PC Tools.

    I am now a happy camper to learn that Outpost firewall free has been updated. Woooooot Wooooooooooot.

    Going to download it right now.

  82. Roland

    Stupid me, i need more cafeine.
    Ignore the end of comment #56, I just realized Outpost does include some IDS protection even in the free version. I will give it a try. Online Armor is good but sometimes rather hard to use.

  83. Roland

    Many thanks for this update. It’s good knowing what’s the best current protection. Too many times i’ve found reviews of antivirus or firewall softwares as old as 2 years and never updated.

    Glad to learn my personnal choices all appear in this list too.

    I might try Outpost Firewall as a replacement to Online Armor as i’ve had some troubles playing LAN games with OA running and the only solution i found was to close the web connection from the router control and quit OA whenever i wanted to LAN-play. However, from the publisher’s page, it doesn’t look like Outpost has some IDS features as Online Armor.

  84. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Liam K: No I have not but from that article:

    The key feature is that DriveSentry will only allow trusted programs to write to your protected areas.

    Sounds similar to GeSWall. However DriveSentry does sound interesting.

    @Ozzie: In terms of security I would have to say WinPatrol tops AnVir; AnVir offers other features to make up and it a worthy program. Don’t quote me on this but I believe WinPatrol monitors ActiveX and file type association changes while AnVir doesn’t. Also AnVir’s “security ratings” seem kind of weird for some programs.

    @Kinetix: Well Outpost prompts you a hell lot less. I really like this “intelligent rules wizard” thing that ran when I installed it. I believe it scanned my computer and created rules for popular programs for its database. Firewall Plus, on the other hand, prompted me for everything.

  85. Liam K

    Okay. I’ll take a look at GeSWall — I’ve tried some sandboxing programs and didn’t really like the bugs.

    Speaking of HIPS, have you taken a look at DriveSentry? It’s recommended by Gizmo’s.

  86. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Liam K: Threatfire actually isn’t a HIPS but yes using Threatfire could add onto everything but between all the programs you are pretty well covered imo.

    GeSWall should be good enough HIPS if you need it imo.

  87. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    Mukhi,

    Just because NIS 09 didn’t detect them does not mean they are false positives. The best way to know if a detection is a false positive is to Google it. I do admit, though, that Avira is known for many false positives. Just one of the drawbacks for having the best in the business.

  88. Liam K

    mukhi: You can reduce false positives in Avira AntiVir by going to Configure AntiVir > General > Extended Threat Categories and checking what you want Avira to detect. I have Security Privacy Risk unchecked, personally.

  89. mukhi

    hi ashraf,
    i am using avira premium now and this detected the following as virus/unwanted program:
    Object – Detection:
    EndProcess.exe APPL/KillApp.A
    SetACL.exe APPL/ACLSet
    AnyDVDtray.exe PCK/Dumped

    i am more or less sure that these programs are no problem, however, don’t know why avira is detecting them as positive (false?).

    these were NOT detected by norton IS 2009 before.

  90. andrew wiggin

    I downloaded Avira and tried to set it up but my registration attempt brought up a box claiming I was either not connected to the Internet (I was) or that a firewall was blocking the installation. I temporarily disabled Windows XP’s firewall but Avira would still not register so I had to abort the installation. Can anyone help?

  91. Sharon

    wot – link extend seems to contain wot within its safety module.
    would it be better?
    finjan is not on link extend but more safety tools are there.
    felt link extend would be better with so many safety tools

  92. Deadly Furby

    Nice list with some good user comments. Should prove helpful for those not familiar with the necessity of online security. Added your page to Stumble to help the general public find you.

  93. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    Kinetix,

    Although Avast may be able to detect spyware while Avira can’t, Avira overall is a better program because it has better detection rates of what it can detect (virus, rootkit, dialer, phishing) detection rates and is much lighter on computer resources. And if you have Threatfire, you don’t have to worry about spyware because it has it covered.

  94. Geek CSI

    Great article and comments here! My subscription to McAfee expired with my move to a home with a (now) six computer network. Since then I have installed the full Comodo security suite on two of my own PCs. I also have Returnil, Spybot/Teatimer, and a few Firefox/Flock add-ons to boot. NoScript and KeyScrambler are favorites. You have to be security savvy to make this combination work – they all need to be trained and taught to play nice together. LOL, while I was typing, Comodo began an automatic, scheduled, full scan of my PC.

  95. Tim

    OpenDNS can also be used strictly as a DNS server. This is a real advantage for those of us stuck with unreliable DNS servers provided by our ISP. I put my ISP’s DNS first and OpenDNS second. This way I still get DNS lookups even when my ISP’s servers (regularly) go down.

  96. Jon

    OK, I’ll try it this way:
    “That is a special offer in association with PC-World. It isn’t an offer to the General Public and abuse of these offers is tantamount to theft, which Avira is aware of”.

  97. Jon

    Hello,
    Went to the Avira website to take advantage of the 6 mo free Avira Premium offer, but found no mention of it. Checked out their forum and saw that when asked about this, the moderator’s answer was: <> Seems like you have to buy PC-World. Has anyone else mentioned that or offered an alternative way to get this offer? If this is the case, and seeing as I want to keep it as easy as possible for my friend who isn’t that computer savvy, would you say that Avira free and Threatfire would provide adequate protection?

  98. Jeff

    Forgot to mention on last thing, how about adding Virus Total Uploader to your list? It’s name is pretty self-explanatory, it uploads a selected file to the VirusTotal website, where it gets scanned by multiple AV scanners (all with updated signature of course). Although you can simply upload via your browser (and on other sites such as Jotti), this handy utility makes it more convenient to upload those files, although the size restriction is a little stricter. I find it extremely useful at determining whether or not to risk opening an unknown file.

  99. Ashraf
    Author/

    Giovanni,

    PC Tools Firewall Plus, Comodo and Online Armor are generally the three most recommended firewalls on any computing community. Jetico is making a name for itself but I have no personal experience with it and Mautousec does not rate it very highly either so I will not be listing it. As for ZoneAlarm. The Pro version is pretty good. Free pretty much sucks, more or less.

    Also, notice that the review you linked to for Firewalla Plus is of version 1.0.0.9. The current Firewall Plus version is 5.0.0.37. So quite a difference. And as I said, check out Mautousec. The website is considered to be fairly reliable.

    Threatfire provides enough HIPS protection but for extra extra care WinPatrol is also a nice product.

  100. giovanni

    Hi Ashraf,
    thanks for your prompt reply!

    Yes the FIREWALLS mentioned here are the best ones but for many PC USERS JETICO is even better than COMODO FIREWALL and ONLINE ARMOR, even though it’s quite difficult to configure.

    And the last version of ZONE ALARM (which is also compatible with VISTA) appears to be much better than its previous versions even though with this tool is nearly impossible to perform any P2P file sharing…LOL.

    http://www.softpedia.com/get/Security/Firewall/ZoneAlarm-Free.shtml

    http://www.softpedia.com/reviews/windows/ZoneAlarm-Free-Review-14799.shtml

    As for PC Tools Firewall Plus do you know how much RAM does it eat?

    Sorry if I ask you this but at present my HOME PC is running with just 512 RAM….LOL!!

    I’ve just read a review about this FIREWALL on SOFTPEDIA but it looks like the editor does not agree with you at all…LOL!!

    He said:

    Firewall Plus is a good application to start learning about the protection provided by firewalls. It does not have complicated options and even a kid can configure it. The program will offer some sort of protection and common attacks will be blocked.

    The Bad

    Well, the protection provided is not that foolproof and there still are some leaks even if enabled. But one of the main disadvantages is that you cannot force the applications to use, only the regular ports and in case another door is opened, you will not even know it (and your computer may catch a cold from the drought).

    The Truth

    From what I saw, the application is designed for newbies that want to say to their friends they are behind a firewall, but experienced users will soon realize that this is not a too reliable firewall.

    In the end, let’s just say it can only get better.

    Full review here:

    http://www.softpedia.com/reviews/windows/PC-Tools-Firewall-Plus-Review-44948.shtml

    What do you make of it?

    On the other hand ONLINE ARMOR got a better USER RATING maybe because it’s not just a FIREWALL as it includes a AV using the Kaspersky Antivirus engine and an effective Program Guard (at least this version):

    http://www.softpedia.com/get/Security/Firewall/Online-Armor-Free.shtml

    But according to SOFTPEDIA the best FIREWALL is still COMODO:

    The Truth

    Comodo Firewall Pro is a hell of a protecting tool, actually one of the best currently on the market as it comes with a very user friendly interface, easy to understand options and plenty of flexibility with regards to both firewall and Defense feature.

    Defense can be permanently deactivated and the firewall will keep on protecting the system unhindered. During our testing it prevented leakage of information to remote locations but in some tests it failed to stealth up the ports, although all of them were closed.

    All in all Comodo Firewall Pro does a stupendous job with deflecting surreptitious attacks and the fact that it is an absolute freeware (it can be used commercially as well) only adds more value and turns it into a general preference of the users.

    http://www.softpedia.com/reviews/windows/Comodo-Firewall-Pro–Review-72979.shtml

    All in all I think that COMODO is still the best FREE FIREWALL available on the market even though I didn’t undestand why it screwed up your computer pretty badly the last time you tried to install it (maybe it’s something to do with your PC configuration).

    Take care

    Giovanni

  101. giovanni

    Hi Ashraf again!!

    What about HIPS programs, namely those particular SW capable to detect malware programs that are cleverly disguised to avoid being detected by the most common ANTIVIRUS and ANTISPYWARE programs mentioned by you in this stunning article??

    Well I think you should definetely add something about this issue because even the best commercial FIREWALLS, AV and Antispyware programs available on the market cannot guarantee a 100% protection package against MALWARE.

    There are dozens of good HIPS programs in the market you can istall for FREE although most of them generate a lot of needless and annoying warning messages and turn out to be very intrusive and cryptic indeed.

    Ok THREATFIRE (formerly Cyberhawk) is definetely a good FREE and not intrusive HIPS program because it uses white lists, black lists, policies and behavior analysis rules, along with other techniques, so as to reduce the number of messages users must deal with.

    But in my humble view there are other FREEWARE and not intrusive HIPS that are worth having a look at, such as:

    – ProcessGuard Free

    – WinPatrol

    – Samurai (very GOOD PROGRAM despite being pretty unknown: http://turbotramp.fre3.com/)

    – Comodo BoClean (excellent HACKER PROOF software: http://www.comodo.com/boclean/boclean.html)

    – ArovaxShield

    – System Safety Monitor PRO, exceptionally FREE here:

    http://www.syssafety.com/online.html?depart=support

    Just fill in the form to get the free lifetime unlimited license key of the PRO version. The key will be emailed to any regular (paid or free) license holder via email).

    But the MASS of PC USERS who has not the right skills to use the HIPS mentioned above, maybe can easily replace them with sandboxes HIPS, which are much easier to understand and use with no frills attached.

    The best ones I know, besides Sandboxie, are the following:

    – GeSWall
    – SafeSpace

    With Sandboxie, you can disable any program in your Sandbox to access the web and have one Sandbox for each program.

    But according to many geeks GeSwall can be a better alternative to Sandboxie!

    SafeSpace is also an excellent sandbox program which isolates internet applications in a VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT, protecting both your computer from malware infection, and also your private data from theft because it creates an impenetrable barrier between your PC and the WEB, protecting you and your personal information against all known and unknown threats, so you can surf where you want, listen to or watch what you want, download what you want.

    It configures itself once installed, automatically adding protection to common internet applications and locking down your private data. When the SafeSpace session ends, or the user logs off, all changes are deleted.
    SafeSpace supports Windows XP SP2 and SP3 and Vista 32-Bit editions.

    Absolutely a KEEPER…and best of all it’s FREE…LOL!!!

    http://www.softpedia.com/get/Antivirus/SafeSpace.shtml

    See screenshots here:

    http://www.softpedia.com/progScreenshots/SafeSpace-Screenshot-81690.html

    And here (see below) the SAFESPACE PUBLISHER website where you can download not only the program but also its USER GUIDE in PDF:

    http://www.artificialdynamics.com/content/products/personal-edition.aspx

    Cheers

    Giovanni

  102. Jon

    Thanks for the clarification – great site. A friend, who does online banking, investing etc. just asked me if there was better, less ‘hungry’ protection available besides McAfee or Norton. I had just started researching this and was being inundated with possibilities when I happened upon your site. I will implement your suggestions for my friend, as well as myself.
    Thanks again

  103. Ashraf
    Author/

    Giovanni,

    Of course there are more options then the ones I listed above. But I already posted by why I chose them. You are welcome to use and test as many as you want.

    And as for others firewalls. Because the three I mentioned, Comodo, Armor, PC Tools are the top three. Between those three, one should be able to get at least one working. Check out Mautousec for more information on best firewall protection.

    Yes all of them should work fine on both XP and Vista. Not sure about the RAM for Threatfire.

  104. giovanni

    Hi Ashraf,
    great review with excellent programs.

    Just 3 questions for you:

    1) can these applications be used both with XP and VISTA as OS?

    2) how much RAM does THREATFIRE eat with the real-time protection feature enabled?

    3) why not include JETICO and above all the last version of ZONE ALARM among the freeware FIREWALL alternatives to PC Tools Firewall Plus?? Have you tried them??

    As for the ANTISPYWARE PROGRAMS I think you forgot to mention the AWARD-WINNING ANTISPYWARE A-SQUARED 4, a great tool to clean your computer from Malware (probably the best free tool to detect Trojans, Backdoors, Keyloggers and Rootkit.

    Full review here:

    http://www.softpedia.com/get/Antivirus/a-squared-a2-Free.shtml

    The shareware version called a-squared Anti-Malware 4.0 ($ 40), free for 30 days, which was given for free by GAOTD last August,keeps your PC free from Trojans, Viruses/Worms, Keyloggers, Dialer, Rootkits and Spyware/Adware in REAL TIME with the power of two major scan engines and double realtime protection and behavior-based detection GUARD (Malware-IDS)similar to THEARFIRE.

    http://www.emsisoft.com/en/software/antimalware/

    But if you look for a great SCANNER ON DEMAND, I suggest trying A-squared Commandline Scanner (best results in SAFE MODE where most malicious programs can be caught ’sleeping’ as Windows loads only system-critical services):

    http://www.emsisoft.com/en/software/cmd/

    Finally, if you are a FIREFOX USER, I think you’d better take a peep at this article written by myself on the MOZILLA FORUM in which I talked about the BEST ANTI-PHISHING FIREFOX EXTENSIONS LIST of my knowledge available on the market:

    http://forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic.php?f=38&t=949885&start=0&st=0&sk=t&sd=a

    I installed NETCRAFT TOOLBAR and I have to admit that it works like a charm…LOL!

    http://toolbar.netcraft.com/

    Waiting for your feedback!

    Cheers
    Giovanni

  105. Ashraf
    Author/

    OpenDNS seems like a really good concept. As far as I know, you can either use OpenDNS by changing the DNS settings your computer, router or server.

    Here is a review by PCMag on OpenDNS.

    I have not used OpenDNS nor will I ever use OpenDNS because, personally, I just dont feel comfortable with their privacy policy.

  106. Jeff

    I already got rid of DropMyRights, now I use SandBoxie with Drop Rights restriction. I know, it might be an overkill, but I think it’s worth it. Anyways, how good is OpenDNS? Sure I can use K9, but I believe OpenDNS is more convenient, and faster in terms of internet speed (a very important aspect for me). The thing is, I think it requires the Windows DNS Client service, until I started the service the website keeps on saying the I’m not using it, when I first went through the Get Started during Step 2. I cannot enable it any further though, because of my large HOSTS file, which causes my system to slow down. Now I’m wondering if it’s doing it’s job. If it’s not, is it good enough to replace MVPS HOSTS and Spybot’s Immunize?

  107. Ashraf
    Author/

    Jon,

    If anything malicious is downloaded via an email Avira will pick it up, so in the sense you do have email protection. I also believe you can make Avira scan your email files by adding in a custom extension via options (Configuration -> Expert mode -> Guard to scan when reading and witting according to a moderator post on Avira forums) – I am not 100% sure on that though.

    Also if the email contains any sort of phishing link, between Avira Phishing protection, K9 Web Protection, and WOT, you should be fine.

    However, did you try to get the 6 months free Avira Premium? That is my best suggestion right now. Deal with having to use the free one after your 6 months are over.

  108. Ashraf
    Author/

    Jeff,

    This list was originally the ‘top 7′ – Sandboxie was the seventh. But before I published, I removed Sandboxie for a number of reasons; ever since I published this list I have been debating with myself on if I should re-add Sandboxie to the list. I may just end up doing that.

    As for DropMyRights, MVPS Hosts and Spybot, I don’t think they are necessary. Overkill in my humble opinion – there is a such thing as too much security :) Not to mention Spybot has lost its touch.

  109. Jeff

    Uh, forgot that Web Protection/Internet Filter is included on your list. In that case, forget about my 4th paragraph, but I still think MVPS HOSTS, and Spybot can be included on that. If I’m wrong, please tell me why.

  110. Jeff

    Nice list, although I do agree with you for the most, it isn’t perfect in my opinion. I suggest that you add DropMyRights, SandBoxie, or even Returnil Virtual System Personal Edition to your list. Why? Because all three are simple enough for novice users, and provides effective protection for their computers.

    DropMyRights limits whatever program you integrate it with into using a limited user’s privileges. All you need to do to use it, is to create one shortcut that have both the DropMyRights program, and the target program. Here’s mine: “C:\Program Files\DropMyRights\DropMyRights.exe” “C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe”. Notice that I used it on my web browser, Firefox. That way, whatever that tries to infect me via the web browser (which is very common these days) will have reduced privileges on my system. You can use it for you e-mail program as well, although many might not need it, because they use webmail (me included). Sure you can use Run as…, or just login in a limited account, but that’s too troublesome for most, and might cause problems such as installing Firefox add-ons. The only problem is that a few legitimate sites will need administrative privileges, such as Windows Update, but you still can just run your browser as normal. If you use it for install purposes, you might end up with problems, so I suggest you not to, and instead find out more information about what it is, or use an alternative method that I will list below. If you use it for other trustworthy programs that need administrative privileges, don’t. I, myself, only use it for my web browser anyways.

    The next 2 programs, SandBoxie, and Returnil uses something called a sandbox. The only difference is that SandBoxie is only used for selective programs (that will be limited after 30 days, along with having a nag, I believe), and Returnil is for your whole system and requires a reboot for full protection. A sandbox is like a virtual environment that separates your system from whatever you use it on. Whatever that you do within the sandbox will not affect you’re system, malware included, but it can have leaks (nothing’s perfect after all). There are going to be problems with those kinds of programs though, mainly because of legitimate things you want to do, such as saving an image or downloading. You don’t have to worry about it in SandBoxie though, Quick Recovery (http://www.sandboxie.com/index.php?QuickRecovery), and Immediate Recovery (http://www.sandboxie.com/index.php?ImmediateRecovery) can save your day. You can also restore any files acquired in the sandbox onto your real system for both programs. They do require a larger learning curve though. Lastly, the newest SandBoxie has a DropMyRights-like feature, so you can have the best of both worlds.

    That’s not all, but for many users it’s more than enough. As for people who truly cares about and/or needs security, I also suggest they also use customized HOSTS files that blocks specific bad sites (MVPS HOSTS and Spybot’s Immunize), and programs that does the same such as SpywareBlaster. They’re pretty much self-explanatory, only thing is they require updates.

    Then there’s Group Policy editing, and advanced stuff like that, but I won’t touch on that, because I (and most other users) don’t have the knowledge to.

    Lastly, if you want to be truly 100% safe (for your computer that is), frequent backups of your important data, and occasional drive images will pretty much guarantee that. Also, if you’re lucky, programs like Recuva can recover files that are deleted by viruses, and the like.

    Hope that helps.

  111. internetexplorer

    Dear Next Gen. Trekkie (a/k/a Capt. Picard): I have seen 64-bit laptops for about $500 or 600, but they usually have less RAM, HDD, etc., which limits running the more demanding software like Vista Ultimate, and especially actually using the 64-bit capability of the machine, let alone its multiple cores, which I assume yours has. Howeveer, I must correct one detail, namely Lenovo is a Chines company that bought IBM’s Thinkpad laptop business–they are definitely not a brand owned by IBM. BTW, I’d say your using a VM for Win7 was a very good move, since it’s only a Beta at this point. If your Mom wants to run some flavor of Linux (I recommend Ubuntu), you could dual boot with XP (some ‘puter shops still have legal OEM discs for sale or you can go online if you’re careful – I got a local copy of Pro to upgrade my Dad’s XP Home for $75), but I definitely CAN NOT recommend downloading any XP from a torrent.

  112. Jean Luc Picard

    My mother is a computer software engineers, and she recently bought a laptop at Circuit City (not because they were on sale, but it was a good deal at the price being offered) that was a 64-bit.
    It has 4GB of RAM (!!!), and was below $800. Not only that but it was Lenovo, a brand owned by IBM (!!!).
    I have set up less computers, so I got to set it up (:
    I just spent a day reading reviews for software, and my mom also wanted Cygwin and ActivePerl, so I downloaded & installed a lot of stuff (~700MB of updates).
    I also set it up with a virtual machine of Windows 7 (my mom wanted a VM of Windows XP, too, but even with the install disc from another computer, the licenses are $99 or torrented.
    Also, if people don’t mind betas, Kaspersky:
    http://www.kaspersky.com/windows7
    is good & free.)

  113. Ashraf
    Author/

    Thanks IE. Mind if I call you IE? :D

    I rethought my suggestion about firewall for 64-bit; better people try Comodo first then go to Windows if they have compatibility issues instead of the other way around.

  114. internetexplorer

    Great article, especially the recommended pairings and alternative suggestions, since most magazine articles that I have seen simply list their top picks and it’s up to you to figure out which A-V goes with which firewall, etc. Your 64-bit picks are even more unique (if you can be more unique).

  115. Ashraf
    Author/

    I myself use Avira Premium therefore have no need for Malwarebytes (although I have used it in the past and it has served me well), like I stated at the very bottom.

    However, I base my recommendations off the following:

    Remember that Malwarebytes is an on demand scanner, so if you truly don’t feel comfortable w/ Malwarebytes, you are welcome to use multiple on demand scanners for optimum protection.