~ This was originally written for friends only, so please take it with the good humour that was originally intended! ~
This page is the express opinion of the author and is created for the benefit of the inexperienced computer user. If you don’t test and compare a lot of computer programs, this means you!
I have been using, modifying and programming personal computers (PC’s) since before most people even knew personal computers existed.
From decades of experience as a “power user”, I have learned that there are four unique tasks your computer will need to perform if you want a rock solid, reliable PC (or laptop), especially if you are going to use it to access the Internet.
Below I will offer you my suggestions for what I believe are the very best programs for each task. For every new PC you buy, you will want to install these programs on it before you do anything else. I don’t make any money from my recommendations, I only mention them to help out newbies (new users) and because I really believe they are the best programs for their intended task.
Install these programs on all your computers, now and in the future, and you will always be using a fast and safe computer that should rarely fail. Suggesting these programs to your friends will also make you look like the expert, so write ’em down!
The trouble with many computer users is that they are newbies and remain newbies for years, even if they develop some basic computer skills in that time. Often they may think that they are using a protected PC, but in fact they are running inferior programs that are slow and ineffective. Poor PC protection is even worse than no protection at all – because the user thinks (s)he is safe, until a nasty virus or malware hits and it’s too late.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know it all. Also, don’t trust the “expert” you bought your computer from. They often know little more than you do. Salespeople want to sell you what’s on their shelves and may lack the in-depth computer software experience needed to give you the best advice. That’s partly why I wrote this document.
TIP: Internet links to the programs I recommend are given below. Not all the files need to be downloaded, so read the text FIRST and THEN get the combination that will work best for you.
TIP: Once you have the programs, keep them all on a backup DVD or thumbdrive, so future PC setups will be quick and easy. Note that these programs will work just as well on an older PC as they will on a newer one.
TIP: Each recommended program gives you three licences, which should be enough for all the PC’s in a typical home.
I am not a Mac owner, so these recommendations are for Windows based PC’s only.
Software Essential No. 1: Your Firewall
If you know a bit about Microsoft Windows you will probably have seen the Windows firewall option in the control panel. But don’t be fooled – that “firewall” is very weak and you will want to get a third party upgrade immediately.
I recommend the company ZoneAlarm as the producer of the best firewall in the market. The good news is that you can their firewall software with complete functionality for free.
Even though the basic version of their firewall software is free, I will be recommending a more complete ZoneAlarm package, as I will explain later in this document.
If you just want the firewall alone for some reason then here is the link to get it, but I suggest you wait until you finish reading the rest of this document to make up your mind. Link to ZoneAlarm Free Firewall Only. ZoneAlarm now has a paid-for version called Firewall Pro, but there’s no point in getting it if you can get the AntiVirus as well for the same price.
Software Essential No. 2: Your Anti-Virus (AV) System
Viruses are malicious programs that can cause all manner of havoc on your computer. It doesn’t take very long surfing the Internet to work out that you need special programs to protect you from viruses and other nasty’s while you are online. What’s worse is that they can even get into your computer when you are offline, too.
Many new users will ignore buying a firewall or antivirus program for as long as they can. With this attitude, one thing is guaranteed – they will eventually be asking a friend, or paying a technician, to fix their computer.
You will find that there are many different anti-virus options available, either free and at cost. The trouble is, some of the paid-for ones are even worse than the free ones and can slow your PC down to a crawl.
So which program is the safest and quickest antivirus system for your needs? And is your current choice good enough?
First of all, if you have a free AV program, forget about getting the best protection. You are getting the quality of protection you paid for. Keeping an antivirus system up to date is hard, continuous work for any software developer, including the most talented ones.
The companies that create the best AV programs deserve the small annual fee you pay for their work, because your Antivirus will (or should) be updated daily (or even hourly). You are only going to get the best from the people who get paid well for their work. You know what they say about getting paid peanuts…
Secondly, if you are given a commercial AV program with your new computer, you are best off uninstalling it. This is especially true of Norton’s (Symantec) AV – it slows down a PC so much I personally can’t wait to get rid of it.
The program I have found to be the best, and the one I recommend, is ZoneAlarm Antivirus suite. The great thing about ZoneAlarm’s AV suite is that it packs their powerful firewall in with the AV package – and wait for it – its FREE to test, and works fully for 14 days. This is a huge benefit to the cash-strapped computer user who wants to test their current system, or needs a quick fix for a problem they know they have. You can get it here…ZoneAlarm AntiVirus… but again, I don’t recommend getting this unless you are really broke. A better option lies ahead, so read on.
TIP: NEVER use Norton’s Antivirus, even if you get it for free. It will really slow your computer down.
Software Essential No. 3: Your System Cleanup and Optimiser
Your car needs a service every 12 month or so to keep it performing well. Like a car, your computer’s operating system will degrade over time and will get really slow if you don’t keep it “well tuned”. To reverse the impact of this gradual slowdown, you need a program that can do “general maintenance” and keep your PC operating at it’s best.
This is what System Optimiser software does – it cleans up your system and keep it running efficiently. I personally use Tune Up Utilities. With over 400 international awards, I believe Tune Up Utilities is the best software of its kind in the market. You can read about it here: Tune Up Utilities
But there is another Optimiser program that not only works well but is also good value. ZoneAlarm has created a premium suite of software that includes everything we’ve discussed so far, including a system optimiser program of their own. Their flagship product, ZoneAlarm Extreme Security, has so much technology in it that it really is a no brainer to buy.
ZoneAlarm Extreme Security is quick and super smart and does everything you need it to. It is self-learning (meaning it asks you less questions over time) and easy to use – you hardly have to touch it. Best of all it only costs between $55 – $90 per year, depending on whether you can find it on special or not. There is also an even cheaper two year purchase option (which I use). Find out more here: Best Option – ZoneAlarm Extreme Security
So far I’ve discussed two options for optimisation software, and they combine differently with ZoneAlarm products. At best you will get Tune Up Utilities and a ZoneAlarm product, or else you can just get ZoneAlarm Extreme Security alone.
Using Tune Up Utilities and ZoneAlarm is more expensive and requires an additional program installation, but I believe the two programs combined will keep your computer in the best possible shape. Tune-Up Utilities runs seamlessly in the background and will work to optimise your system continuously – the ZoneAlarm option only works when you run it.
All installations are simple. The ZoneAlarm Extreme Security only option is less powerful but still very good. I recommend it to those who want to spend less but still have a very good result.
Software Essential No. 4: Your Anti-Malware/Spyware System
When trying to understand computers there is often a lot of jargon to learn. For example, what is the difference between a virus, malware and spyware? For those who don’t know, it’s generally about how the threat comes to your system and what the malicious computer code will do once it’s there.
Viruses run directly on your computer as a program, often being run accidentally from emails or infected thumbdrives, and can be quite destructive.
Malware and spyware usually comes in from websites and can usually only effect your browser. Malware will manipulate your browser in some nasty way, while spyware will record personal information and clicks, relaying the information to its controller for later sale to criminals or unsuspecting online marketers.
So when your browser has a homepage you can’t change, or a toolbar you can’t delete or some other problem, you will find your antivirus program won’t help – you need a specialised anti-malware/spyware program to fix the problem.
The best one I have found is Spyhunter, and you can download the scanning-only version of it here: SpyHunter Trial
Unlike ZoneAlarm products, this program must be fully paid for to remove any of the problems it finds. But because it is so good, it is definitely worth the investment.
TIP: To get the best price for each recommended program above, go to each website and request their newsletter sent to you before you buy. Over time you will eventually get a special price offered to you, so buy then and save some $$$.
FAQ – OK Cut To The Chase… What’s My Best Solution?
I have no problem with cost or installing programs. Just tell me what to get?
Download, install, register and run these programs:
Make sure you follow the instructions, it’s all pretty straightforward. Congrats, your PC is now Rock Solid.
I have no problem with cost, but I’m not really good with computers. What is the best and easiest option?
Download, install, register and run just these programs:
For optimisation just use ZoneAlarms’s inbuilt optimiser. Congrats, your PC is now seriously protected and ready to be maintained whenever you notice a problem. You can always add Tune-Up utilities later for the continuous optimisation it offers.
I can’t afford over a hundred dollars for software. How can I get this all for free?
You won’t be able to get Spyhunter to work for you without paying for it, so you’ll have to figure out a way to pay for it, or else get a less effective program. Spyhunter can be downloaded here:
As far as Firewall/AV/Optimisation software goes, you will want to ignore Tune Up Utilities and just get ZoneAlarm’s Extreme Security only. It will allow you to use it for 14 days, so make sure you clean up your system well before it disables itself. You can get it here.
Once the 14 days are up, totally uninstall the Extreme Security program and download the basic firewall/AV here:
Now install this and you will have a free firewall/AV program for the life of your PC. You will NOT have the optimisation software anymore, so you’ll want to get a free one somewhere else.
UPDATE: There is no free AV with Zonealarm anymore, just the free firewall. If you want AV, you will have to buy it.
Just remember, you get what you pay for. Think about how you might pay for Extreme Security and Spyhunter as quickly as possible.
TIP: Make sure you record your licence keys and keep them somewhere safe, preferably on paper and on your backup thumbdrive – the one I suggested you keep the install programs on for future easy access (handy if the internet goes out or you can’t get to it because of problems).
TIP: Just pay for the best options. Its not worth messing about with a slow and compromised computer.
TIP: Uninstall all other antivirus, antispyware and optimisation sotware FIRST before you start installing these programs. Reboot your computer AFTER uninstalling and BEFORE installing the new programs. Reboot after each install, starting with Spyhunter.
BEST TIP! Make sure you install SpyHunter first, BEFORE you install ZoneAlarm. ZoneAlarm will cause real difficulty with letting SpyHunter do its job if you try to install Spyhunter second!
Ok there you go – you now know the best 3 programs I use to keep any computer in top condition for life and how you can get a Rock Solid PC as inexpensively as possible.
I recommend running each program at least once a week, especially the optimisation, which is easy with the one-click optimise on your desktop. Defragmentation is optional, but do a full hard disk deframentation whenever you move or delete a large number of files. Hard disk fragmentation normally happens pretty slowly on your computer from normal computer use, but a large number of files moved and/or deleted can have a big impact. Even if you don’t do this sort of thing often, a defragging once every two to three months will be good for your computer’s health.
I hope this helps you keep your computer Rock Solid and protected. Enjoy!