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Free Tools To Secure Windows Against Malware

Introduction

Everyone wants a secure operating system. No one likes to have a computer infected with malware that slows down the PC, destroys files or steals sensitive information. Often, that operating system isn't very secure by default. If it's also a highly popular OS, such as Windows, then more tools are needed to enhance its security, simply because its default defenses will be targeted and bypassed by more attackers.

There's no security magic bullet, but using multiple layers of security can drastically lower the chance that your system will become infected by malware or be attacked by malicious hackers.

Some security tools are free, some are easy to use and others are so complex that a normal PC user couldn't possibly figure them out. What most PC users want is for their system to be protected "automatically" with minimal effort on their part. They don't want to tinker too much with complicated programs, and they would prefer not to pay too much extra to secure their computers.

I often help friends and family — usually, people who aren’t very technical — set up their new PCs and Windows installations. They always seem to ask me to "install an antivirus" as well. They know that there needs to be some "extra" protection on their PC to truly keep them safe, but they don't really understand what exactly is needed to achieve that. Therefore, they ask for a program that everyone knows protects PCs against "bad stuff" — an antivirus.

What they really mean, though, is that they want their PCs to be safe, regardless of which app or tool achieves that, as long as they don't have to bother with it after everything is set up. As such, I've looked for tools that offer as much protection as possible that are accessible by the vast majority of people. (It helps that the tools I've chosen are also free.)

In fact, most of the tools I'm going to mention require only slight or no tinkering at all after installation, or are very easy to use even by nontechnical users.

Some more advanced and complex software may offer stronger protections, but if the users don't understand how to use it properly, or they don't want to take the time to learn how to do it, they might just end up uninstalling it to save themselves the headaches.


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  • humus
    EMET does not support Windows XP.
    Reply
  • humus
    SuperAntiSpyware and ESET On-Line Scanner - both are free and effective stand alone tools.
    Reply
  • mjmacka
    @EMET Microsoft doesn't support Windows XP anymore. There is no way to secure that OS. You should be running a newer version of Windows or Linux instead of XP.
    Reply
  • John J Miller
    to those that say switch to Win 7 or 8... there are some of us out here who can't afford the required hardware needed to run either one correctly.
    Reply
  • computertech82
    Avira is rated #1 this year. SuperAntiSpyware is pretty good at malware, usually better than malwarebytes.
    Reply
  • alpha27
    heh im running mse, comodo and avast, I think my cpu handles them well...heh i7
    Reply
  • jacobian
    Rather sadly, much of the history of Windows security vulnerabilities is due to poor security practices among the users and software developers. Not using administrator account by default could have saved many headaches, and we had Windows 2000, a fine multi-user OS, since when, 1999? (I don't mention NT4 since it wasn't meant to be a consumer-level OS)
    Reply
  • gerr
    16034431 said:
    to those that say switch to Win 7 or 8... there are some of us out here who can't afford the required hardware needed to run either one correctly.

    http://www.amazon.com/HP-Stream-200-010-Mini-Desktop/dp/B00R7R1GWK

    If Windows 8.1 can run on that, you must really have an old system.
    Reply
  • atwspoon
    to those that say switch to Win 7 or 8... there are some of us out here who can't afford the required hardware needed to run either one correctly.

    Wait what? name a system in the past 10 years that cannot run Windows 7. I have installed the OS on numerous laptops and premade desktops from 2006-present. If your machine is more than 10 years old, you're doing it wrong.

    "If you want to run Windows 7 on your PC, here's what it takes:

    1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

    1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)

    16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)

    DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver"
    Reply
  • gravewax
    to those that say switch to Win 7 or 8... there are some of us out here who can't afford the required hardware needed to run either one correctly.
    win 7 and 8 have very low hardware requirements. if you have a machine purchased in the last 15 years it mostly probably will run just fine, if in the last 10 it will almost certainly work.
    Reply