People ask me fairly frequently what the best antivirus program is for their home computer. Generally I irritate them by first suggesting they purchase a Macintosh and don’t worry about malware, since OS X Macs basically don’t have any virus and spyware problems at all. (At least not yet.)

Since most people (sadly) reject that solution out of hand and want a recommendation for Windows-based antivirus software, I do provide them with more advice. The first idea is that people running Windows computers MUST run some type of antivirus program. I know some folks who still don’t, and they are (predictably) infected with a variety of different adware, spyware, and virus programs that bog down their computer.

As far as specific advice on antivirus programs, Symantec Antivirus remains one of the most popular choices. PCWorld has published a new (March 2006) prioritized list of malware detection software programs for Windows-based PCs, but Norton AV 2006 is actually fifth on their list. The top solution is BitDefender 9 Standard available for $30.

Not included on the PCWorld list, but certainly good to know about and consider, are open source / freeware antivirus and anti-malware programs. These are generally for home/personal use only, if you need an antivirus solution at work or school you (or your organization) will need to pay for a commercial version. Miguel Guhlin has a good sampling included in his download-a-la-mode list. These include (not in any particular order):

Stinger is a standalone program that can be run from a CD or other removable drive, and is “not a substitute for full anti-virus protection.” Download the most current version when you are ready to use it.

Armed with this knowledge and these tools, there is really not an excuse for any Windows-users to be running their computer without malware protection. Commercially supported antivirus programs are not expensive, but freeware solutions are also viable. Newer versions of some AV programs do support adware and spyware removal, but it is sometimes advisable to run a separate adware removal program. Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware Personal Edition remains an excellent, free choice (again for personal use) for adware/spyware detection and removal.

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