Saturday, March 2, 2013

Securing Your PC

One of the biggest questions I get from people is what they should do to secure their computer. The Conversations go something like this:

Phone: ring... ring... (btw, it's the middle of the day while I'm working without Internet access)
Me: Hey, how are you doing?
Family member: Fine, but I had a quick question... I keep getting pop-ups that say my computer s infected, and my antivirus is out of date, so I should open the window and buy the clean-up service. Does this make sense?
Me: Do you have any security software installed now?
Family Member: The computer had something installed when it came, so I've just kept using that...

This then leads to some emergency troubleshooting, and the computer somehow ends up at my house while I try to get it fixed that evening, so the person isn't without a computer for a day.

Typically most of my family members also don't want to pay the annual fee for some service, so they try to find free alternatives, which seem to sometimes be worse than having nothing. Or a lot of programs I've used have really slowed down my PC. I remember one program that billed itself as having the smallest impact in system performance, but every now and then it would run and get stuck, using so many resources my whole computer was slower than dirt until I rebooted.

After a lot of reading of reviews, and finally pulling the trigger myself for my new computer, I recommend the following.

Free

If you're cheap, or jut very low on funds, Microsoft has it's own Security Essentials which I have used for a few years and it's excellent. Microsoft makes clear that it will protect you, but it would be better to get a paid program. But I never had performance issues nor viruses or adware with this running. So it's a great free alternative, just make sure you are careful what sites you visit (no downloading BitTorrents).

Paid (Best)

PC Magazine has had consistently great reviews of software products. Based on their reviews, and reading user reviews on Amazon, Norton Internet Security is the best option (Norton 360 is also excellent, but the difference is it includes cleaners for your computer, which I never use. The price on Amazon is close to Internet Security, so I chose whatever was cheaper that day).

I've been running Norton 360 on two computers, and it has been excellent. Very easy to use, and generally runs in the background.

The one thing I recommend is checking Amazon each year when your renewal is up. The annual renewal through Norton is something like $70 per year, which seems crazy, even for 3 PCs. On Amazon Norton Internet Security is $22, so the next year you can buy Norton again, then put in the key to get another year of service. It's more work, but saves you about $40 per year.

Peace.

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