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Protecting Your PC for Free

By Rob Pirozzi

It is possible to provide very good protection for your PC without spending any money. There are four excellent software packages that are available for free. All are for home, non-commercial, use, with the exception of Spybot which is free to everyone. These four packages can provide fairly comprehensive protection for your PC. The free software packages that you should download and install are:

  1. ZoneLabs Free ZoneAlarm
  2. AVG's AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition
  3. Lavasoft's Ad-Aware SE Personal
  4. Safer Networking's Spybot Search & Destroy

Together they provide protection from unauthorized access to your PC, virus protection, and adware/spyware protection. Using both Ad-Aware and Spybot provides better protection than just one of them alone. Occasionally, one will catch something that the other misses.

Things to Remember

  • Keep ZoneAlarm up to date. ZoneAlarm will tell you when there is a newer version available and ask you if you want to install it. You should update ZoneAlarm when offered so that you are providing the most up-to-date firewall protection.
  • Make sure that AVG is configured to:
    1. Automatically update its virus definitions database
    2. Automatically scan for viruses at least once a week
  • Keep both Ad-Aware's and Spybot's adware/spyware databases up to date. When you start up Ad-Aware it will tell you when its definitions database is getting old and ask you if you want to update it. Spybot does not remind you. You should just automatically check every time you start up Spybot by clicking on the "Search for Updates" button.
  • Make sure to us Spybot's immunization feature. You do this by clicking on the "Immunize" button on the left-hand navigation panel and then click on the "+ Immunize" button on the button bar at the top of the screen.
  • Run Ad-Aware at least once a week. Ad-Aware cannot be scheduled to run. It can, however, be configured to run at system start-up time. You do this by selecting the button at the top of the screen with a picture of a gear, then selecting "Startup" on the left, and the selecting "Perform smart system scan".
  • Run Spybot at least once a week. Spybot can be configured to run automatically. To do this you need to access "Advanced mode" (you do this from the "Mode" menu at the top of the screen. After that select "Settings" at the bottom left-hand side of the screen. You then select "Scheduler" from the left-hand menu. Click on "+ Add" button and then the "Edit" button at the top of the screen to set up a schedule). If you do not set up an automatic schedule then you should run Spybot manually at least once a week.

Alternative Software

Alternatives are available for some of the packages listed here. Click here to see free alternatives to Free ZoneAlarm. Click here to see free alternatives to AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition.

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