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All versions of MicroSoft Windows need anti-virus and anti-spyware software to block malicious programs from infesting and even taking over a PC. If you are interested in the reasons for this, the first link at the left takes you to a review that was written by software developer and MicroSoft-hater, Rick Downes, of a 2006 anti-virus called Windows OneCare Live. OneCare was MicroSoft's first attempt at something that a lot of users thought should have been more in the first order of business: taking care of the many security holes that Windows presents.  Virus and spyware blockers can be expensive (and/or a pain) to use.  For example, the newest version of Norton 360 costs $68.27 to download from Amazon, must be repurchased every year, and is a total hog of your computer's resources.  There are, of course, free anti-virus programs, some of which work perfectly well.  This writer has for years been advising folks to use Avast Home Edition, for instance.  The trouble with Avast is that it also comes in a full-featured, “Pro” version that costs about $40 a year to use, and the free version can be a nuisance with nagging pop-ups that promote the Pro version.  Avast also wants you to re-register it every year.

Now MicroSoft has seen the light.  The new version of OneCare Live, known as MicroSoft Security Essentials, is equal in reputation with the best anti-virus programs.  It's free, easy to use, works with Windows 7, Vista and XP, and does NOT nag you to buy or register anything.  However, owing to anti-monopoly constraints, it also does NOT come pre-installed in any computers.  You have to download and install MS Security Essentials yourself.  Here's the recommended way to do this:

1. Make sure your system meets the minimum requirements for running Security Essentials.  (Which turn out to be pretty easy to meet--see the link at the left.)

2. Back up your data.  Use a USB stick or CD or whatever.  Remove or unplug the media after the backup and put it in a safe place.  You never know.

3. Update your PC completely from the Windows Update site.  This is an important and often-neglected component of Internet security.  Also, check the date and time on your PC's clock and correct it if necessary.  Also, make sure your Java is up to date.  (See the Java Update link at the left.)

4. Remove ALL the anti-virus products installed on your PC using Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel.  This includes any programs that may have never even been activated.  Then, just to make sure, click the Cleanup/Uninstall Tools link at the left and scroll down until you see the products you just uninstalled, and read and follow the instructions to be found at those links. Sometimes Add/Remove Programs is not enough.  (I'm looking at you, Norton and McAfee.)

5. Finally, use Internet Explorer or Firefox to get to the Securities Essentials link at the left, and click the Free Download button there unless you have a 64-bit (kind of newer) PC running Vista or Windows 7.  In this case, you should click instead on the “More languages and versions” button (directly underneath the Free Download button,) and choose the 64-bit download for Windows 7/Vista.  As you proceed through the installation, choose all the default responses including the one about turning on a firewall.

6. After the installation is done, Security Essentials will want to update the virus definitions and run a quick scan.  This won't take long and is very important to do. If it finds a virus during the scan, let it take the default actions to remove it. Security Essentials knows what it's doing.

MicroSoft Security Essentials is now running quietly and efficiently in the background, keeping your computer safe and free of virus and spyware infection.  It will update itself as needed and perform the default scheduled weekly scan at 2:00 A.M. every Sunday morning.  To change this default or to run an immediate, full scan at any time, there are two good ways to bring up the Security Essentials window: a] hit the Start button and type 'sec'-- this will make the full title, MicroSoft Security Essentials, appear at the top of the Start list-- click it or just hit the Enter key for the Security Essentials window; or b] click the MicroSoft Security Essentials icon in the System Tray.  If this icon is hidden, click the little “Show hidden icons” triangle at the left end of the System Tray, and then click “Customize...,” scroll down to MicroSoft Security Essentials, and then select “Show icon and notifications” under Behaviors.

Remember to use Ccleaner and Malwarebytes on a regular basis.  Contact John if you have any questions or issues with MicroSoft Security Essentials or PC maintenance.
March 6, 2012

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