The 20 (Mostly Free) Downloads You Can't Do Without

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Security Software

Security software may be the ultimate must-have: You always need to keep your PC safe from hackers, crackers, and malware makers. The following programs can help ensure that your computer is secure.

Avast Anti-Virus

One of the most critical applications for your PC is a good antivirus program. Most PCs ship with some kind of antivirus trialware, such as McAfee or Symantec, but after your trial period you must pay...and pay...and pay, as antivirus software typically requires an annual fee.

Not so with Avast. It's free for personal and home use, and unlike big commercial programs, it won't bog down your PC by taking too much RAM or system resources. Despite its lean build, it protects your computer as the bigger programs do. It offers live virus protection to stop your machine from being infected in the first place, virus scanning and virus killing, and various protections against e-mail viruses, Web-borne viruses, and other threats.

Download Avast Anti-Virus

Ad-Aware 2007 Free

This longtime favorite spyware killer recently underwent a face-lift, so if you're using an older version, be sure to upgrade. And if you haven't used it before, consider it a must-have. After all, not only does it kill spyware, but it's free as well.

It's exceptionally easy to use, and lets you customize spyware scans as well as schedule them. When the program reports what it finds, you can tell it to kill the potential infections, put them into quarantine, or ignore them. The new interface is much slicker-looking and easier to use than earlier versions.

This program lacks just one thing: real-time spyware protection. For that, you'll need another antispyware utility--the next must-have below.

Download Ad-Aware 2007 Free

Windows Defender

Spyware is so noxious and so hard to detect that you should use more than one antispyware app. Windows Defender is a very good choice for a second layer of security. It's free, it does a nice job of finding and killing spyware, and, unlike Ad-Aware, it offers real-time protection.

It also has some extras, such as tools for monitoring all the software and processes currently running on your PC, and for stopping programs from running on startup if you decide you don't need them.

Download Windows Defender

Outpost Firewall Pro

This is the best firewall you've never heard about. It's rated by the Moutsec.com firewall-testing site as one of the most effective you can get. Unlike the Windows XP firewall, it blocks dangerous outbound traffic as well as inbound traffic. It also guards against the leaking of personal information from your PC.

Outpost Firewall Pro offers features not found in many competitors. For example, it can block banner ads on the Internet, as well as block ActiveX controls, scripts, applets, and other potentially dangerous content. It also provides real-time spyware protection. The program contains prebuilt profiles for many applications, too, so it knows how to handle their Internet access.

We have a 30-day trial version in our Downloads library. A one-year license, which includes updates and support, is $40.

Download Outpost Firewall Pro (trial version)

NOD32

You've probably never heard of this oddly named antivirus software, but that's no reason not to give it a try. It provides real-time protection against viruses, scans and disinfects your system, and takes up little RAM and processor time in comparison with the big packages from Symantec and McAfee.

The program can integrate into Outlook and Outlook Express to protect your e-mail against malware, and it scans for spyware and adware in addition to viruses. One nice touch: It performs all of those scans at once, whereas some other tools require multiple scans. The utility also gives you plenty of control over how to handle potential infections, including moving them to quarantine and deleting them.

Our download link below will take you to the developer's site, where you can obtain the software to try it out for 30 days. A full one-year subscription is $40.

Download NOD32

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