As far as anti-virus goes, I've come to like NOD32 the most of any other anti-virus. It's very light-weight and seems to do an excellent job detecting viruses every now and then before they have a chance to infect your computer. Also, it updates it's definitions more frequently than I've ever seen from any other anti-virus program. NOD32 is the best out there by a long shot IMO. Outpost firewall is a favorite of mine too. Although, the anti-spyware portion of it doesn't seem to do anything. It never gives any kind of warnings so you really never know if it's trying to do it's job or not.
Malware protection is another story. I'm like you, always having to clean someones computer. Can get to be quite exhausting too.