"A safe home is a welcome home" – so goes for your computer, as it houses almost everything from your tax returns to your first year old’s birthday party pics. And yes, Windows doesn’t do anything to protect you (it does, but not much). The problem with being the most owned OS in the world is that you’ve numerous attackers, who figure out ways around the present level of security that your system offers – or rather what your system offers by default. This is the sole reason why someone should go for a different solution.
In the world of security, you need 3 things: an antivirus, Firewall, and an Anti-Spyware program. Oh yes! you can’t skip on even one here. Remember: your system is only as good as its weakest point! Luckily, there are plenty of free alternatives to choose from.
It’s appalling that Windows doesn’t have a built-in antivirus. So you have no option but to go for one. Instead of coughing up thousands of rupees, why not try a free alternative?
AVAST Home Edition
Avast is one 1 place above AVG Antivirus as it’s the only freeware application that not only has strong virus scanning but also comes bundled with network protection, web shield, web script blocker, and P2P and IM Shields. It’s a great freeware application that beats all the rest in protection without hogging system resources.
ZoneAlarm is one of the best and the simplest firewall program that I’ve ever used. It has excellent control over blocking incoming and outgoing traffic from your PC to outside networks. However, some would find it annoying its asking which programs need to connect to the net. You can overcome this simply by checking the program to "Always Allow" mode. Some firewalls don’t ask you which programs ought to connect to the internet, or they just simply allow connection without filtering. With ZoneAlarm, it brings the onus on you – and rightly so. After all, the user is the biggest security asset or threat to an OS. ZoneAlarm comes in standard firewall only mode and a suite version, which includes a virus scanner.
As there are many good ones, 2 of them being Spybot Search & Destroy and Lavasoft Ad-Aware SE . Both these perform the job well with each offering constant updates and good protection. They’re simple to use and give good recommendations for removal of harmful spyware – which is especially necessary if you use Internet Explorer.
All these programs can slow down the system slightly – but this is a trade-off you have to pay for good protection. Also, just don’t forget to regularly update the programs.
Having taken care of security, it’s entertainment time with:-
I’m sure most of you use the built in Windows Media Player, the latest version being 11. This Player is good for most people, but those who prefer something small and streamlined (and not as bloated!) would appreciate some alternatives.
The first and foremost is the Video Lan. This player is one open-source video solution you’ll ever need to play movies. It’s got all the essential codecs (which Windows Media Player lacks) that one needs to play movies, including quicktime, real video, and flash.
Are you one who doesn’t like Video Lan but would rather stick with their own player and yet play all the files? If so, you’re a perfect candidate for K-Lite Codec Pack. This odd sounding software has all codecs that Video Lan has, and it allows you to view your movies with your own player of choice. There’s also a K-Lite Mega-Codec pack , which comes with its own player, namely, Media Player Classic.
Though these players can play all multimedia files (including audio), they don’t give you all the features of a full fledged audio player. The best example of such a dedicated audio player would be Winamp. This software has been around for a decade – and it keeps getting better. It has more features than any of the above players, plus it comes with a great media library to quickly search for music. Couple this player with the K-Lite Pack and you’ve got a killer all-in-one media player.
Windows has a decent built-in image viewer – the Windows Picture Viewer. Certainly not the best, but it does the basic job. Those who’d prefer more functionality, look no further than FastStone Image Viewer and Irfanview. Both these support numerous formats that Windows Picture Viewer doesn’t, such as high resolution RAW images. Both have simple editing features to resize and color correct images on the fly. Looks wise, though, FastStone is much better than Irfanview.