Another longtime security champ, WinPatrol from BillP Studios, tackles the other side of online safety: It monitors your system for unauthorized changes-- the kinds made by malware and browser hijackers--and then lets you delete any offenders. It can also disable or delay startup programs so that your system boots faster. For users who want to know more about the programs running on their PC (including hidden and cryptic ones), WinPatrol Plus ($30) includes a database of tens of thousands of them. Amazingly, this program is now on version 20.
AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition
Alas, WinPatrol can't defend your PC against viruses and the like. For that you need something like AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition, one of the most robust free security tools ever. (In a recent test, it detected 98.5 percent of known malware.) And this is no mere scanner; AVG offers real-time protection against malware infections, plus a LinkScanner component that thwarts Web attacks while you surf. Why pay for antivirus software when this ever-improving gem does the job gratis?
Irfan Skiljan's IrfanView has long been my go-to tool for cropping, resizing, and otherwise manipulating images. It's not an editor so much as a tweaker, enabling you to make simple changes to a screenshot or photo, and to add a few special effects when the occasion warrants. IrfanView loads within a second after you click its icon, and it occupies just 1.5MB of space on your hard drive. The program hasn't seen many major changes in recent years, but that's a good thing.
GNU Image Manipulation Program
Of course, IrfanView doesn't support Photoshop-level image editing. For that, turn to the GNU Image Manipulation Program, affectionately known as GIMP. It replicates many of Photoshop's best features, offering filters, special effects, masks, layers, and everything else you need to create digital works of art (or works of digital art).