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In this issue of my advice & tips, I am listing some of my favorite Internet protection tools…which are FREE for personal, home use. I have been using these tools myself for over 10 years, with exceptional results. Many of the computers I have repaired over the years have relied on the more expensive, name-brand products for their Internet security. After fixing the systems repeatedly, I was finally able to convince them that it would save them in repair bills if they would simply try the products I was recommending. Of course, it has affected the number of repair calls I receive, but they are happy. 🙂 Anyway, unlike what the big marketing departments would like us to think, cost does not always relate to quality.

That said, let me make a disclaimer here. Not everything that is free is good. I have also repaired a number of computers that downloaded every free screensaver, “smiley face” and spam removal tool that popped up on the screen or email. Typically, I strongly discourage the use of 95% of the free downloads available. The majority of them bring in spyware by the ton, which eventually leads to computer slowdowns, crashes, and viruses through the back door. But, there are a few companies that make excellent products…and bonus for this frugal shopper…they are free! So, back to Internet protection…

I’m sure you’ve heard it 100 times…do not surf the Internet unprotected. Below I’ve listed the protection needed for Internet use and my recommendations for free tools available for your personal, home use. These companies typically have a business/organization version that you can purchase, but there are only minor differences in the features, the main being real-time scanning. Plus, even if you decide to go for the full, paid version, these suppliers have proven to us to be a better value and most effective, without hogging system resources.

As a caveat, each of these suppliers has a free version of their software available for download via the website listed, however, we use affiliate links when available – which means we may receive a commission if you sign-up or purchase something – I can promise that everything listed on this page is on it because we have used the product or service, in both the free and paid version, and find it to be a valuable asset to our business. So, whichever you choose, know that the

  1. Virus Protection: Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft has a built in Windows Defender virus protection software. This typically is sufficient, but if you would like additional protection, I recommend Avast Free Antivirus Software.  It features automatic updates, scan scheduling and Outlook email scanning. All that is required for activation of the free version is an email address.
  2. Spam Guard: Mailwasher – Wash the email before it even gets to your mailbox! My favorite feature is the “bouncing” option that bounces the email back to the spammer to make it appear the my email address is no longer valid. Easy to use.
  3. Anti-Malware Software: Malwarebytes – No matter how careful you are on the Internet, you are going to get bits of spyware and malware saved in your computer. Update and run this program regularly to keep your system from being hijacked. Best cleaner tool I have ever used…it has cleaned up even the most deeply infected computers I have come across.
  4. Computer Cleanup: CCleaner – Keep your system optimized by running CCleaner on a regular basis. It cleans all your browsers at once, along with your temp files. In addition, it has an easy-to-use registry cleaner and a useful software uninstaller, along with other features in the free version alone.
  5. Virus Removal Tools & Guides: Bleeping Computer – Amazing source of information and downloads to cure even the latest infections. Includes links to a number of useful downloads, including the powerful ComboFix infection removal tool.

Using these security tools together will keep your system running smoothly and reliably. And before I close, I have one last bit of advice…

Though some of the above tools are able to catch infected email attachments, I still find it a good policy be very cautious in opening email attachments, especially zip and exe files. The viruses are getting sneakier, and without her knowledge, your dear Aunt Sue might have inadvertently sent a virus or worm hidden in the cute little dancing bunnies. I know the attachments could be safe, and are frequently charming or funny, but I like to lean on the side of caution and avoid any possible system crashes. A lot of my clients fail to heed this advice, but I guess I reap the benefits with yet another repair call.

Until next issue…Best wishes in your endeavors!

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