March 29, 2007


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Security can be free
On your PC if not in international politics
By John ďjaQĒ Andrews†

Every now and then I bust on anti-virus software.

Itís not that I donít think it works, but itís one of those cutting off your nose to spite your face things: you might be a little safer, but at the expense of decreased computer performance and monthly fees. Itís one thing if youíre responsible for a thousand users on a corporate network and want to make sure nothing potentially bad gets through; itís quite another if your home computer is frustrating you even though you sprang for the faster processor and extra RAM.

Most people really donít need anti-virus software running constantly on their computers. Those always-on applications, especially from market leaders Symantec and McAfee, tend to think far too highly of themselves and nose into all of your business. Theyíve evolved from simply checking for known viruses to interrogating every program that tries to run on your machine, blocking Internet access seemingly at random and generally telling you that your computer, to be safe, really shouldnít be running anything but anti-virus software.

This is, needless to say, bunk.

Like it or not, though, viruses and spyware are all but certain to wiggle their way onto any Windows computer at some point. Itís a good idea to scan your PC every now and then ó say, once a week ó for malicious files and clean them off. There are numerous tools out there thatíll do it for free, too.

ē Virus cleansing AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition can be downloaded from and has many of the features of the big guys, including automatic updates and scheduled scanning. You can run it in the background if you want, but as I said, regular scanning will take less of a toll on your PCís performance than constant monitoring. Avast! Home Edition ( offers a similar feature set.

You can also scan your PC directly from a Web site, It canít clean everything, but will give you the name of any virus it canít remove so you can search the Internet for a removal tool.

ē Spyware exposing Thereís a bonanza of free software for spyware removal. Some of the most well-known include AdAware ( and Spybot Search & Destroy ( Grisoft also offers a downloadable program and Trend Micro has an online scanning tool. Only Spybot gives you real-time protection in its free version.

Microsoft recently released its own spyware detection tool called Windows Defender. It was in beta testing for a while as Windows Anti-Spyware, but has now graduated to a free download at It runs in the background or scans when you tell it to.

ē Firewall building The very cheapest firewall for Windows XP users is built into Windows XP itself, accessed through Network Connections in the Control Panel, or through Windows Security Center if youíve installed Service Pack 2. It doesnít have advanced configuration options for control freaks, but itís perfectly adequate for most users.

Sorry, control freaks, I didnít mean to call you control freaks. To get your control freakiness on, try ZoneAlarm ( for a free option that you can upgrade with cash money to really freak out.

ē There can be only one Whatever security solution you choose in each category, run only one. Two firewalls will constantly interfere with each other and two anti-virus programs, well, ask your friendly pet store employee why you shouldnít have two bettas in a tank together. Thatíll give you the general idea.

3/22/2007 Paper that's not paper

3/8/2007 Use any file
3/1/2007 Audiobooks for free
2/22/2007 What's for sale today?
2/15/2007 Prints in your pocket
2/8/2007 Watch this
2/1/2007 How open is your source
1/25/2007 iPhone it now
1/18/2007 Simplify, simplify
1/11/2007 Vista time!
1/4/2007 Google killers?
12/28/2006 Tech that didn't happen
12/21/2006 Do not want
12/14/2006 Meet the new web
12/07/2006 Extreme price shopping
11/30/2006 They want what?
11/23/2006 Zat†zany Zune
11/16/2006 Shop smart
11/9/2006 Your data's new home
11/2/2006 Hotkey heaven
10/26/2006 Computer to go
10/19/2006 Tech news roundup
10/12/2006 A different drummer
10/05/2006 Who needs TiVo?
09/28/2006 Disk drives without disks
09/21/2006 Movies, just click your mouse!
09/14/2006 Laptops for less
09/07/2006 GPS everywhere
08/31/2006 The printer dilemma
08/24/2006 A series of tubes
08/17/2006 More music, more places
08/10/2006 How big is your drive?
08/03/2006 It's a WiFi world
07/27/2006 Fancy a spot of memory?
07/20/2006 Under the sea
07/06/2006 eBaysic training
06/29/2006 You paid money for that?
06/22/2006 Processing ... processing ...
06/15/2006 C:\Run for the border
06/01/2006 The keyboard is mightier
05/25/2006 Geek phone home
05/18/2006 Super highway information
05/11/2006 How to host a site
05/04/2006 If they mated
04/27/2006 Apples to apples
04/20/2006 Flash uber-drives
04/13/2006 Web site, by you
04/06/2006 Ayyy, jaQ's right!
03/30/2006 Choose wirelessly
03/23/2006 Tax programs cometh
03/16/2006 And the Spammie goes to...
03/09/2006 Take in the Vista
03/02/2006 Cheap moviemaking
02/23/2006 Go directly to iJail
02/16/2006 Will you stamp your e-mail?
02/09/2006 War of the machines
02/02/2006 Faster than a speeding packet

01/26/2006†Free software made simple
01/19/2006 The Worst of CES
01/12/2006 Radio you
01/05/2006 Making Movies
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