What's new

Help me advise someone on software?

If you were going to switch from commercial computer security software (McAfee & Spysweeper) to freeware for a Windows Vista system, what would you use to protect your computer?

My work provides, and requires me to use, some commercial products on my home system; so, I'm rusty on what's available free for:


I'm helping SWMBO's friend, who isn't terribly techno-savvy, and whose life defines resource constraints. It'd be helpful if whatever she uses is as close to fire-and-forget as possible. She's using commercial, subscription-based protection software, but the subscriptions expire soon. Heck, I'd buy her a renewal on the subscription services if they're the best available; but, I recall from various vague memories that many experts believe they aren't.

I'd sure appreciate any help.

Last edited:
Another endorsement for Avast. Been using it for 4 or 5 years now with nary a problem. Consumer reports also lists as one of the best anti virus programs beating out several very expensive programs. I would also recommend Ad-Aware from LavaSoft. Another great product for spyware.
Many ISPs provide a free protection suite, I would suggest she look there first.

I've never found a free protection suite that I really liked, but among the ones I tried, I think Zone Alarm is the best.

Whatever you choose, I'd recommend that you get all components (firewall, AV, Spam Filter, etc.) from the same company, even if you have to pay for one or two items. That way, they will be sure to install easily and work well with one another.

Personally, I'm running the McAfee suite right now, but only because that's what I get free from Comcast. If I were to pay for a package, I'd go back to using Norton 360 in a heartbeat. ($60/yr subscription, and quite a bargain at that price.)
AVG free for anti-virus

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for just about everything (the free version has to be updated and run manually, but it works really well....especially if you already have some sort of bug or spyware, etc....it really gets rid of everything!)
for free software for windows vista
firewall-Zone Alarm, get the free firewall only
antispyware, Spybot search and destroy, Lavasoft Ad-aware, Windows defender
Linux should cover almost everything. My next machine will either be another mac or will run linux. I don't want to have to worry about that stuff.
Virus - AVG
Spyware - Spybot
Firewall - Comodo

Comodo carries a complete line of products which are all very good, but their firewall is the best (easiest to configure) of any that I"ve tried. AVG has probably one of the best heuristic scanners on the market. In other words, it picks things up that aren't defined better than most.
there is a free Ad-aware version (anniversary) available , this soft is quite good for spyware, bots ... highly recomended.
AVG Is very good for a free antivirus solution ,
Linux should cover almost everything. My next machine will either be another mac or will run linux. I don't want to have to worry about that stuff.

One word: Wubi. :wink:

Anyway, Avast for antivirus, hands down. I loved the free version so much I begged and pleaded at the office to get it on all our computers. We have it running on a total of 17 systems and haven't had a problem yet. It's completely automated but the free version requires you registering once every 12 months (though that could have changed in the two years we've been running the paid version).

Comodo is a pretty decent firewall but usually the Windows firewall + the router's firewall is good enough to keep most crap out. Though I admit I have a separate system running as a firewall... :biggrin:

As for antispyware, Spyware Blaster + Spybot: Search & Destroy. Between those two you'll cover all your bases. Ad-aware has definitely earned my praise but I enjoy some of Spybot's features a bit more.

Avira AntiVir protects against viruses and spyware. Out of all the free AVs I've tried, Avira was by far the lightest.

As for the firewall, I'd suggest sticking with the Windows one. A non-savvy user will be more confused by a third-party FW popping up and asking permission for certain programs to make outbound connections.
i would say it 100% depends on her system and needs. if she has an older system or a "Weak" performer stay away from norton like the plague it will eat a ton of resources and slow the machine down a lot.

AVG offers an ok free version but it misses a lot of stuff, heard good things about Avast never used it myself though. stand alone scanners for adware spyware i would rank spybot S&D way at the top it is fast and it offers some run time protection.

little more info would go a long way, what type of internet access does she primary do, what are her system specs, things like that. if you are uninstalling norton be sure to download the latest norton removal tool before you try as norton likes to mess up on uninstall and cut off all net connection. fun little program when it messes up.
It's a Dell Inspiron 1525 IIRC. It's a Windows Vista laptop with 4 GB RAM and what appears to be a sufficiently large hard drive.

Beyond recreational surfing, I know she accesses a work server remotely using a broadband card. She's an education consultant, so she's not doing high-end computing; just basic internet, server access, and basic office software.

Thanks again!
Last edited:
oh i had a long winded post written up about if it was norton... just reread and saw it was Mcafee and spy sweeper. McAfee is a joke anti virus software IMHO, if i recall it was the free antivirus you got if you were an AOL member and i don't really recall working on a single comp that it could remove viruses off of when they were found. Spy Sweeper used to be freeware we stopped using it at the shop i worked at when it went to pay versions, there are better free alternatives. Avast, spybot search and destroy, AVG free. AVG free and Avast will not play well together so pick one of the two as an anti virus (heard good things about Avast and know AVG can get annoying at times). spy bot is more or less a scanning utility but it offers some protection in real time one of my fav free programs.

smart surfing habits can pretty much take care of 99.99% of the need for any kind of firewall/anti virus. very few people know how to safely surf the net unfortunately, i would say go freeware over what she is using right now. getting it setup at the start to make sure her programs that need net access work with new antivirus/firewall is key. after that i doubt there will be much of anything she has to fiddle with other than running an occasional scan.

hope that helps
I use the following items:

- Avast
- smart surfing
- update your Windows system regulair

Smart surfing is the most important!
Mmm, actually all 3 of them are the most important... :)
Top Bottom