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Computer Viruses and Other Nasties: How to Protect Your Computer from These Invaders

Can you protect your computer from all possible viruses and other invasions?

The quickest answer to this is "no." It's just flat impossible to protect your computer from all viruses, registry attacks, worms, spyware, malware, popups, and other such nasties.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that you can clean up and protect your computer against almost all of these undesirable intruders.

The first thing you need to do is download a program called Mozilla Firefox. It's a newer and better browser than anything offered by those guys in Seattle. For one thing, hackers have been concentrating their efforts on Microsoftâ products like Internet Explorerâ and MSN Explorerâ. This makes these browsers more likely to be attacked, whereas Firefox, at least as of this writing, seems more secure. And it does offer great popup protection.

Another thing you will like about Firefox is a feature called Tabs that lets you have numerous Web pages up at the same time with the ability to click back and forth between them. For example, you could have your favorite site, eBay's home page, a phone number directory, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and your favorite blog all loaded at the same time ? then just click amongst them as the moment moves you.

Here's what you'll really like about Firefox. It's free from the Mozilla.org, which is a sort of consortium of public-minded software engineers who develop and distribute freeware (free software). Mozilla is also responsible for a great, free email program called Thunderbird.

Thunderbird is a fast and efficient way to get and send email and has great spam filters. I've personally been using it for more than a month and haven't gotten a single piece of spam mail to date. Compare this with the stuff you get when you use other free email services such as MSN Hotmail.

Before you install either of these programs, you will want to rid your computer of any nasty software it has fallen victim to. A good way to do this is to download another great, free program, Ad-Aware SE from Lavasoft (Lavasoft.com). This program detects and eliminates objects such as a registry invasion. The Webopedia defines your registry file as "a database used by the Windows operating system (Windows 95 and NT) to store configuration information." A registry invasion happens when a "free" program changes your registry to automatically load spyware or some undesirable program. For example, a Web site called I-Mesh allows you to download free programs, share files, and search for music and videos ? but will alter your registry file to incorporate a service called GAINâ (GAIN Publishing) that you may find very annoying.

Ad-Aware will also find and eliminate known data-mining programs, aggressive advertising, parasites, and scumware, as well as selected traditional trojans, dialers, malware, browser hijackers, and tracking components.

You can also find and eliminate spyware with a program called Spybot Search & Destroy. It's available free at spybot.info/en/index.html. Install this program and then click on Search & Destroy and it will scan your hard drive in a matter of moments and then show you a list of "problems" it has found. It also tells you the type of problem, for example, "registry change."

Once the scan completes, all you have to do is click on a button titled "Fix selected problems." Spybot will first create a restore point (in case you delete something you wish you hadn't) and then fix all the problems that are check marked (if there is any problem you do not want fixed for some reason, just remove the checkmark next to it).

Finally, there is a great anti-virus program you can also get free. It is AVG Free Anti-virus and is available at Grisoft.com. AVG will scan your hard disk, then report and eliminate any viruses found. In addition, it automatically downloads information on new viruses from time to time to help keep you protected. This automatic download service is free as well.

Article by Douglas Hanna. Douglas is a retired advertising and marketing executive and long-time Denver resident. He is the webmaster of http://www.all-in-one-info.com, a free resource for information on a variety of subjects. Please visit his site to subscribe to his free newsletter, "Tips & Tricks to Save Money & Live Better."

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