Windows XP and Vista have built-in firewalls, but you deserve better.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

Stop Paying for Software
Free ways to keep your computer safe

May 10, 2009

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, The Post-Standard

   The best way to save money is to stop spending it. That's the idea behind my new series on the best free software for Windows and Macs. This week I'm recommending three ways to increase the safety of your PC or Mac.
   When you buy a new PC, you sometimes get -- pardon my language -- a lot of crapware with it. That's software you probably don't want that times out after a few months unless you pay for the "full" version.
   The worst offender among crapware is security software -- antivirus programs, antispyware software, firewalls and more. It seems that many of the companies that make Windows PCs think we're all too dumb to recognize a sham when we see one. Those programs are just come-ons angling for your credit card.
   Don't let them do it to you. Get the software I'm recommending this week and toss out the stuff you didn 't ask for. And don't be too smug if you're a Mac user -- Apple bans crapware from other companies but has been known to dabble in it itself.
   Let's start with antivirus software. The free stuff is just too good to get me to pay for any of the other stuff. I use Avast on my Windows PCs (www.avast.com/eng/download-avast-home.html) and also like AVG (http://free.avg.com). AVG said some weeks back it was dropping the free version, but I'm happy to see the company changed its mind.
   On my Macs, I use iAntivirus from PC Tools, also free ((www.iantivirus.com). Macs don't have any real viruses yet, but I'm convinced that they're coming. I just don't know when, so that's why I'm being cautious.
   Windows XP and Vista have built-in firewalls (software that stands guard at the door to the PC), but you deserve better. Get the free version of ZoneAlarm from www.zonealarm.com. Go to the "Download & Buy" menu, choose "Free Downloads" and pick "Free ZoneAlarm Firewall."
   The firewall on every modern Mac is as good as they get, so Mac users simply need to turn it on. To do that on the newest Macs, click on System Preferences in the Apple menu and click on Security. Choose "Firewall." Click "Allow only essential services." On older Macs, choose Sharing in System Preferences, then click the Firewall button and the Start button.
   What about spyware protection? So far, it's a Windows-only problem. Windows users can get the free Ad-Aware program from this site: http://tinyurl.com/c2k3az. Mac users should be cautious about anything that seems fishy, but so far there is no Mac spyware and no Mac antispyware software.
   This series will resume in a few weeks with a look at free Registry fixers for Windows.