Due to recurring questions on the same topics, ie Viruses, Modem HiJacking, Auto dialers, Pop Ups, Slow PC Ive made a list of free utilities that I use and Ive seen recommended by other AAM users. They should help you to keep your home PC running smoothly and free of trouble. The list isnt meant to be comprehensive but the tools are widely used by what Id consider to be more experienced users. If you use any others then feel free to list here. I'll update the first post to save time as and when I can. This list shouldnt dissuade users from purchasing any of the more recognised utilities (eg Symantec, Nortons, MS tools) and certainly the list should not be used with confidence in a business environment. ADWARE/SPYWARE Yahoos Spyware . This is now my spyware remover of choice. The app is 3mb and the GUI is very nice to use by way of giving details on the reg entries and file locations of infected/offending files. (and you get a search toolbar) Adaware is probably the widest used and is used to protect from unwanted ads/tracking cookies and malicious sites Microsoft have a beta spyware release which is getting some good reviews, but Ive seen users post that its missing items like Bonzi Buddy which is one of the more basic adware installs Others to try are Spybot, Spywareblaster List of other removal tools. I used to think if you had adaware youd be ok, but Ive revised this thinking after finding adware programs, after running other removal tools, after running adaware. See the list link above and try as many as you can/want. FIREWALL Zonealarm is a firewall to protect from hackers and other security breaches. Note: Win XP has its own firewall so turn it on. Go to My Computer, then My network Places, then View Network Connections, then right-click on the connection you are using and choose Properties, then click on the Advanced tab. For official instructions from MS on how to turn on the firewall click here Other free firewalls mentioned are sygate ANTIVIRUS AVG is free anti virus software, follow the link and click on the free edition version POPUP BLOCKERS Either use Googles or Yahoos toolbar, both have popup blockers and other useful tools. OTHER BROWSERS Check out Mozilla firefox or opera As posted by SpaHam you need all the other programs listed above to stop spyware adware malware active x hacks registry hacks popups sneaky toolbars porn diallers and keep downloading bug fixes which are HUGE from Microsoft every month .......but ONLY if you USE Internet Explorer. This is all true but Ive had problems using firefox so tend to use firefox with IE open beside it. Google for problems with firefox and you'll see what I mean. WINDOWS UPDATES Get the latest service packs, updates and improvements from windows updates. If youre not sure which ones you need, the update site will look at your machine and tell you what youre missing. Auto Diallers, Modem hijackers Modem Hijackers can, in my view, be the most dangerous type of for the home user. Viruses may wipe your mp3 collection, worms may slow your internet connection, but if you unknowingly get hit with a modem hijack for any length of time and its dialing your local satellite ISP service at up to 5 euro a call, when your next phone bill gets delivered by a securicor van, it may be too late to do anything about it. Have a read of what comreg are(nt) doing about it. Update oct'04. Comreg have recently (sep '04) blocked a number of country codes due to excessive hijacking complaints from those locations. See the appendix in the following pdf . This does not mean you wont get hit with a hijacker dialing another country or a satellite ISP. Using all of the above anti-virus, anti-adaware/spyware/virus/hacking tools/browser tools can and should prevent you being affected, however, if you have been hit and the above s/w isnt doing anything, the following usually happens.. You delete the dialup, and then reboot only for the dialup to reappear. This is because an executable or a dll is downloaded to your hard drive and a registry entry created to run the file on boot to create the dialup. You'll need to clear both of these. First of all try and google for the '"dialup program name" and virus', and you may get removal instructions. Alternatively run the Start up Program viewer app that lets you see whats being run at startup, and remove anything susupicious. Google for anything youre unsure of. REGISTRY CLEANER For those who dont know what this is, the registry is key to how windows works. Old and obsolete entries can slow a machine down, there are any number of tools, (most quite small) that will clean the registry for you. I currently use tweaknow which is free. You could also try Regclean which is also free Search download.com for registry cleaner to try another. Most others have a small fee (5-30 dollars) but let you have a trial version. DEFRAGGING (helps to speed up a pc) If a hard disk is filled up and then emptied, the disk tends to become very fragmented. That is, the data on the drive is scattered all over, rather than being organized into discrete areas. This causes the PC to slow down because it has to search so much for any data. A symptom of this problem is when the hard drive says it has much less space than you know that it actually does. The Windows defragmenter (usually found under the Start Menu/Programs/Accessories/System Tools) comes with Windows and is an adequate diagnostic tool. Other more powerful programs are available for purchase, but the prepackaged Windows version is generally adequate for most home users. Remember to run the defragmenter over night, since it usually takes a few hours to finish the process. You should only need to run the defragger every 2-3 months. Startup Programs If you havent cleaned up the pc in a while, the startup tray will be cluttered, slowing the pc down on boot. example, Ive seen 5 different media programs runing on startup (quick time, real player, media player, winamp etc) when in fact you dont need any! How do you get rid of these from startup? well, most if not all of programs have a setting you can click on to allow you to switch on or off the startup option, but this can be cumbersome. The tweaknow app will show you all programs installed, but if you want to keep a program and just not have it running on startup, try this Start up Program viewer , which Ive found to be very good. Download the zip, extract the file and install and you should find the program in your control panel. Some windows versions will let you run msconfig which will do the same thing, but MS in their wisdom have desupported it in later versions, so its up to you. I think the app is nicer anyway. You could also try Winpatrol which monitors the startup/run entries and notifies you if something tries to modify/add to them. Other For cleaning temp files and a lot other crap try this aptly named crap cleaner To see all the software installed on your pc try belarc. Ive found this useful for clearing up software I didnt know I had installed. For an advanced task manager try procexp. If youre having problems killing a process this should do the trick for you, theyve got a decent reg editor there as well. Most of the above links have regular updates and release versions so its up to you to check regularly for same. If any of the links are dead let me know and I'll update. Thanks to other contributors for links and instructions. HTH, Car. edited 19/02/05 for belarc/procexp and MS spyware links.