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by Phil Ball

Q. I just got a new computer and want to protect it from all the bad stuff out there. But I’m on a tight budget so I’m wondering if there are any decent free antivirus programs out there? One friend says I shouldn’t trust what came with Windows and another friend says that Microsoft now has its act together. What should I believe?

A. The short answer is that they are both right. For older versions of Windows (XP, ME, or Windows 98), the friend who advised caution about using the security software that came with Windows is correct. The general consensus is that these older versions of protection leave a lot to be desired and cannot be trusted completely so it was wise to use other methods of protection than that provided with Windows.

However, your new computer should have Windows 7 on it and that is a whole new ballgame. Windows 7 uses Microsoft Security Essentials. This wonderful free download not only protects you against viruses, spyware and malware, it works quietly in the background and doesn’t slow down your system at all, unlike most of the other popular anti-virus programs. The security suite is integrated into the operating system and as a result it’s able to function in the background without hogging system resources and hindering any work that’s going on in the foreground. As per various tests conducted online, it’s able to detect and remove 99% of all threats in various virus and spyware forms. This performance is not only impressive but a huge upgrade over what Microsoft had to offer previously.

No need to buy expensive anti virus software or spyware solutions anymore. Just go and download the Microsoft Security Essentials for free from as soon as you connect your new computer to the Internet and you will keep your PC threat free. Just search the Microsoft website for Microsoft Security Essentials. Note that Security Essentials is also available for older versions of Windows.

Published: Courier 3/4/12 - Page 5C