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A post detailing cheap or free antivirus software and firewall protection for your computer. Also explaining what antivirus and firewalls are and why you need them.

I was on my boyfriend’s computer the other day trying to look for travel deals at his place, when I got bombarded by “Your computer is not safe, do you want to renew your antivirus software??” or something like that.  Every five minutes I was asked if I wanted to renew.  Makes me very very glad I splurged  on a MacBook Pro now… I’m so computer illiterate that I couldn’t even protect my old PC from being bombarded by a virus.  I remember I was so technologically challenged that when I thought I was hit by a Trojan (not that kind of Trojan, get that mind out of the gutter!), I had to call my sister to the rescue.  It turned out that it was actually “scareware”.  Scareware tricks you into buying their antivirus software by making you think you have a virus in your computer.  Tricky, eh?  Because of this experience, I thought I would reach out to my fellow computer illiterate folks out there (do I hear crickets chirping…is it just me?) and share what I learned on how to protect your computer with firewalls and antivirus software.

Let’s first explain what antivirus software and firewalls are.

Computer Pictures, Images and Photos

Antivirus software hunts and detects crap in your computer and kills it.  Kind of like what the white blood cells do for you (remember biology class?).  You need antivirus software to help you get rid of spyware, trojans, viruses and the sort.

Firewalls work by filtering the internet and blocking things so that the network can be protected.  Firewalls are especially important for larger companies with huge networks of computers (some people can’t access Facebook or certain websites from their work computer, and that’s why).  How Stuff Works (love that show!) explains in an easy to read format what firewalls are.

I would say that the key to using firewalls and antivirus software is to find something that is easy to use (if you’re just like me, and not computer savvy), because if you screw up, it can cause a breach in your computer’s security and it can be a pain to fix (not to mention cost you an arm and a leg).  Or worst case scenario, your computer will crash and your photos and memories will be gone…forever.

You definitely don’t want that worst case scenario happening to you.  So to protect your computer, you can buy the antivirus software or firewall protection at your local computer/ electronics shop, which can cost anywhere between $20 to $60.  To save money, you can also download basic versions of them for free too.

Here are some free basic antivirus software downloads:

Here are some cheap (or free) firewall downloads:

Of course, if you want added protection against malware, it will cost you.  Also, you would want something that doesn’t ask you whether you would like to download the “non-free” version of the software every five minutes.  It’s a pain in the butt to have to click “remind me later” while you’re busy surfing the net.  Not having to click “remind me the next day” was one of the primary reasons that drove me to switch to a Mac (sorry PC!).  I heart my Macbook Pro.

I hope that helps save you some money (and not to mention a headache) with protecting your PC computer from the crazy crazy internet world out there.

Have you had an experience where you’ve had to deal with a virus on your computer?  Any PC die-hards or Mac die-hards out there?

Article comments

James Fulton says:

I had the same experience some two years back for which i spend almost a whole day to remove it from my pc, Thanks to google and people who has shared their experience with such virus in forums. Most of the time antivirus programs wont work in such cases, so we have to manually remove them by editing reg keys…

Thanks for sharing this.


Moneycone says:

As a fellow machead I couldn’t agree more! Switching was probably the best decision I made! Got tired of cleaning viruses and subscribing to anti-virus updates. But I do realize it is only a matter of time before Mac’s would be in the crosshairs of hackers and virus authors – so I do run a Mac anti virus occasionally.

Highly recommend ClamXav. It is open source and free and does a decent job of scanning for troublewares. Hasn’t found any yet – and I suppose that is a good sign! 🙂

young says:

@MOneycone- Thanks! I’ll look into that too!

Mobile AntiVirus says:

Thank you for sharing your thoghts of Computer Protection on the Cheap

SavingMentor says:

There is a great website that does in depth studies of all the available antivirus programs, both free and pay, out there. They publish lengthy PDF reports that tell you which software detects the most viruses, how long it takes to do it, how hard it is on system resources, and how many false positives they have among other things.

Probably 6 months to a year ago I spent a long time reading through some of these reports. At that point I was using Avast Free on most of my computers. It turns out that it was near the top of the detection rate with few false positives and low system resource usage. Microsoft Security Essentials was the other top dog especially which is surprising both because it is Microsoft and because it is fairly new.

You can navigate through the site and read all the reports yourself if you want (they may have changed since I did) … but if you choose either of the two I mentioned you’ll be fine. Also, I recommend staying away from AVG … they have gotten really bad in the last few years unless they improved drastically again in the last few months.


young says:

@SavingMentor- Thanks for sharing your thoughts and that great link. Sounds like microsoft security essentials wins hands down. I’ll definitely make sure I mention it to BF so he can get rid of his AVG.

I’m a Microsoft Security Essentials user now too. Before that, I used AVG or Avast.

My girlfriend had this very annoying “Animal doctor” program on her laptop that kept popping up alerts on her screen that she had trojans… turns out that the Animal Doctor program itself was malware. Installed Malwarebytes Antimalware and Avira Antivirus (after uninstalling the crappy expired trial antivirus). I blame it on crappy-preconfigured machines from Dell and the like. I always wipe them out with fresh installations.

heffer says:

Nice. I like the bio analogy. Anyone using firefox on a mac is automatically more geeky than most people I think.

If you use a network router then you already have the perfect firewall, just make sure your wireless is secure and windows firewall is also turned on (PCs only.) I like the free version of AVG too, but I also like Microsoft Security Essentials (PCs only), also free, unobtrusive, and easy to setup.

At the end of the day though, the biggest threat to a computer is the person using it. Never open e-mail attachments if they look fishy, or are from people you don’t know. Don’t click on links in emails, for example, “your paypal account may have been compromised, please click here to reset your password” (even if the email looks completely legit!) Don’t download *anything* from websites you don’t trust (eg. images, PDFs, scareware, smilies ?_?, etc) Try to use a browser based email client like Yahoo mail or Gmail because they scan all your attachments for malicious content which your anti-virus software might miss, adding an extra layer of protection. And always get the latest updates for your OS, ASAP. Same goes for any browsers you use.

Computer infections are, for the most part, preventable, just by following those simple rules. Virus removal programs can only help so much, but ultimately the best defensive measure we have is to be cautious with our own actions on the intertubes.

Alex C says:

You should bare in mind that Mac’s are not immune to virus or malware attacks, yes they are not as common, but they are not immune. Most free versions of antivirus and firewall work just as well as the expensive ones, so don’t waste your money. The biggest thing is to not click links or open files that are from people you don’t know.

jill says:

i used to use AVG until i heard good things about microsoft’s security essentials. it’s free and doesn’t slow down my PC like the most recent bloated version of AVG did. worth looking into for your bf’s PC.

young says:

@Jill- Great- thanks for the suggestion! I’ll look into it.

@Alex C- yes, I know that Macs can get hit with viruses but it isn’t as common (which is great!). Thanks for the tip!

@heffer- How do you know I use firefox on a mac? I only like using it because I’m not used to safari, and you can only install the Alexa toolbar on firefox lol, I think. I didn’t know that getting the updates for the OS operating system will help (thanks!! I won’t put it off next time). Wow, you’re definitely computer savvy- thanks for the tips, heffer!

Krystal says:

I’ve been a Mac user for the past 4 or 5 years, and am LOVING not having to deal with viruses or anything like that. BF’s PC has been hit a few times in the past 3 years, but my computers always stay problem-free. 🙂

young says:

@Krystal- I’ve just been a Mac user for the past eight months and every time I go on a PC I get annoyed because its so slow (and because of the incessant reminders). How’s your new Macbook Pro for you? =)