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Even though I have the information in several articles on my site, I still frequently get asked for recommendations for security products. I got another such request just yesterday, as a matter of fact.

What people want is a silver bullet. The ideal would be one package to install or one thing to do that will keep them from getting infected with malware, and fix everything if they do.

There's no such beast.

In fact, I explicitly recommend against security suites: those big bundles of software that try to do everything: firewall, anti-virus, anti-spyware and sometimes even more. The problem is while they may do one thing well, they often fail miserably at others. And to be honest, I hear more complaints from suite users than from any others.

So what do I recommend?

First realize that the single most important security device on your computer is sitting at the keyboard; it's you. And that means two things: taking responsibility for the security of your PC, and avoiding risky behavior.

As for specific security tools, the four basics are:

  1. I recommend you have a firewall. A router is best, but turn on the Windows firewall if nothing else. I'm not a big fan of other, larger, software firewalls.

  2. I recommend you keep your machine up to date. I don't care how, but you simply must. Windows Automatic Update is what I use and recommend.

  3. I recommend that you have a good, stand-alone anti-virus product installed, and that it either scan in real time, or nightly, and that it update its database of virus definitions every day. I happen to use Computer Associate's eTrust Anti-Virus, but there are several other good packages out there as well.

  4. I recommend that you have a good, stand-alone anti-spyware product installed and running, and that it too update its database of known spyware every day. I happen to use Microsoft's Defender.

That's what I consider a minimum recommended setup. But don't let it lull you into a sense of complacency. That device behind the keyboard - you - can still be used to bypass everything. In fact that's what many viruses and phishing attempts count on.

And because I know that people will mention it, of course you could switch to a Mac or Linux. While that's not 100% bullet proof, it's also a topic for another day.

As I said I have several article on the site on this topic, including links to some of the alternative anti-virus and anti-spyware programs that I either recommend or have heard good things about. Links to those articles are in the show notes.

I'd love to hear what you think. Visit and enter 11551 in the go to article number box to access the show notes, check out the related links and to leave me a comment. While you're there, browse over 1,200 technical questions and answers on the site.

Till next time, I'm Leo Notenboom, for

Article C3044 - June 3, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
June 7, 2007 6:49 PM

To protect my computer I use Pc Guard.
Is a microchip that doesn't allow any changes on my computer without my authorization.
I don't know if I'm allowed to leave the web page, if not, I apologize and ask you to please remove it.

I've being using it for almost 2 years now, and haven't had any problems or surprises.

I would like to hear your comments on the subject
Thank you

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