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Posted: 1:23 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011

The best free anti-virus programs

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When it comes to protecting your computer, the best anti-virus programs may be free.

PC World recently published its list of the Top 10 Antivirus Programs for 2011 and everything on the list was a pay service. On a scale of 5 possible stars, the lowest rating anything got was 4 stars. So the question is how can you pick one if they're all so good?

My answer is maybe you don't pick any from their list because there are many comparable services available for free. In fact, several of the pay services like AVG and Avast that are listed on PC World's tally also have streamlined free versions available.

My Virus, Spyware and Malware Protection Guide offers many picks for free anti-virus downloads. You'll find both AVG and Avast on there. And even though people like to pick on Microsoft, Bill Gates & Co. have a nice free option in their Microsoft Security Essentials.

Be sure you're regularly updating whatever free anti-virus software you get. I recommend that you do it on a weekly basis. Yes, it takes a little while and it's a pain like being told to floss your teeth. But it's so important. The paranoid among us will tell you to do it everyday. That's not bad advice either.

It's more important to get a free service and update it frequently than to get one you pay for that you never get around to updating. Avast is one service that has the ability to update automatically every day, so that's no hassle and no fuss solution offering the best of both worlds.

Finally, I want to reiterate that if you are a business owner and do payroll, maintain a checking account or make electronic funds transfers on a computer, you should buy a dedicated computer that's only used for financial transactions. No surfing the web on your dedicated computer. No e-mailing. No visiting Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. Stay safe by limiting your exposure.

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