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Q.  Should I Buy Anti-Spyware or Anti-Virus Software? 

Task Manager shows I have 50+ processes running, and I have no idea which ones are slowing down my system. Should I regularly run SpyBot, AdAware and other freeware, or should I pay for a supposedly better program? I read so much negative about every program and I am quite confused about them. If they really are worth the money, I am willing to try them. Can you give me your opinion on the best anti-virus, anti-spyware and popup blockers?

A.  I hear from some readers who run two or three anti-virus programs, and half a dozen anti-spyware tools. Personally, I think that's overkill. WAY overkill. In fact, anti-virus programs can end up fighting with each other, and cause system lockups. And running multiple anti-spyware tools at once WILL slow down your computer.

There are at least a dozen highly touted anti-virus and anti-spyware tools -- some commercial and some free. So I understand your confusion as to which ones are best for you. It's natural to assume that the paid-for variety is of higher quality, but that's not always the case. 

Here's my personal arsenal against viruses, spyware and annoying popups:

--  CA Antivirus from Computer Associates (formerly called EZ Anti-Virus). You can get a 3-month FREE trial, courtesy of Microsoft and Computer Associates. I've used this program for several years, with nary a glitch. Scans emails, web pages, downloads and your hard drive for bad stuff. I dumped Norton's resource-hogging anti-virus a while back and am VERY happy that I did.  

--  Microsoft's FREE Windows AntiSpyware does a great job of scanning your system for spyware, and locks down your PC with real-time prevention measures to make sure you don't get zapped by spyware again. 

--  The FREE Google Toolbar is great at blocking annoying popups. It also adds a handy Google search box to your browser's toolbar, and can automatically fill out web forms.  

--  XBlock Systems offers an excellent FREE tool called X-RayPC. I use it as an adjunct to anti-virus and anti-spyware scanners, as a diagnostic tool to help identify questionable processes on a machine. X-RayPC combines the best features of HiJackThis and the SpywareGuide database to show you at a glance EVERY process that's running on your machine, as well as startup programs, browser helper objects (BHOs), toolbars and downloaded program files. The built-in expert system gives you a Good, Bad or Undetermined rating for each, and shows the name of the software developer so you can decide whether to keep or nuke an item. X-RayPC is very easy to use, but since it's powerful enough to remove important files from your computer, I recommend it only for advanced users. 

Works For Me!

This is what works for me. They're all free, they all come from trusted sources, and they work great. Automatic updates in each program help them keep pace with changes in the malware universe, and I have to say the proof is in the pudding. I do a LOT of web surfing, downloading and email handling. And so far, so good! 

If you have a set of anti-virus, anti-spyware and popup blocker tools that do the trick for you, let me know here. If you use a PAID tool or service, tell me why you think it's better.

It is important to note that there is never one fix for a question.  What may work for one person might not for the next.  Depending on the problem and the way it is described by the Computer Owner there may be Six different approaches to a positive outcome.  If the first answer I give you to your question doesnít work let me know and I will send you another.  Just give me details.

Let me know if you need anything else.

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