My current software recommendations

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I get asked fairly often about what is the best antivirus program to use, what antispyware program should be used, etc. Today I am going to summarize what my current recommendations are. Keep in mind, these recommendations change from time to time.

Whenever these things do change, I will do another blog post like this. As long as you are subscribed and read my blog on Mondays, you will be kept up to date.

Antivirus: AVG Free (free)
(Important update: I am no longer recommending AVG as the preferred antivirus.  Please see this post for an update.)

About a year ago I was recommending the paid version of AVG in order to get the full-time spyware protection (I actually got a two-year subscription myself). You can now get that less expensively (and just as effectively) with another product. If you have the fully paid version of AVG, that’s fine. But when combined with the next item in this list, the free version should be all you need. Get it here.

Antispyware: Malwarebytes full version ($24.95)
This is the other important component to protect your computer from malicious software, also known as spyware. Many people have spyware on their computer and they don’t even know it. Malwarebytes detects several types of spyware that AVG does not cover, such as several browser hijackers. The full version costs $24.95 (one time, not a subscription) and runs all the time in the background, stopping the junk from getting in. It’s a lot cheaper than hiring someone to remove it for you. I recently did a Malwarebytes video review.

Automatic backup: Karen’s Replicator (free)
I have been using this program and installing it on customer’s computers for years. Once everything is configured properly, it just copies your important files from your computer to an external drive on a regular schedule. It is important that you don’t have to remember to do it – that’s what makes it virtually foolproof. The trick is deciding what needs to be backed up, and putting it all in the right place to start with. Get it here.

Web browser: Firefox (free)
This is another program that I have been recommending for a long time. If you are using Internet Explorer version 7 or 8, you might like to try Firefox. If you are still using Internet Explorer 6, you need to either upgrade IE, or switch to Firefox (for security purposes). You can check your version by clicking Help – About. I love Firefox because it is so customizable. I have it set so that I don’t see any ads on any of the websites I visit, and I don’t see any Flash content unless I choose to. I can also group bunches of websites together and have them come up in a group, each in its own tab. All of these configurations are done through “add-ons” – there are thousands of them and they are all free. Get it here.

MS Office alternative: Google Docs (free)
If you are sick of paying Microsoft hundreds of dollars each time you want to upgrade to the latest version of Word or Excel, consider using Google Docs. You just need a free Google account (if you have a Gmail account, you have a Google account). This free service from Google allows you to create documents and spreadsheets with the .doc and .xls extension, just as if they were created with Word and Excel. When you email one of these to someone, it will open in MS Office just like any other document. An added bonus is that the files can be stored “in the cloud” (actually on Google’s servers), so that you can allow others to read or even edit those documents (with varying levels of access). Get it here.

Screen shot software: Gadwin’s (free)
I started using this program over a year ago, and now I use it almost every day. It makes it quick and easy for you to take part of your screen and paste it into an email or a document. If you are trying to describe an error message, it’s much easier to just show the other person than to try to tell what it looks like or what it says. I did a full review of Gadwin’s on my blog a while back, and the people that use it now seem to love it as much as I do! Make sure you get Print Screen, which is free (not Print Screen Professional). Get it here.

PDF file reader: Foxit Reader (free)
If you have not changed anything on your computer, you are still opening PDF files with Adobe Reader. It is free too, but it is severely bloated and it hogs memory. Plus Adobe is constantly sending out updates to it which are annoying and they interrupt my work. Foxit Reader is a simple little program, and all it does is read PDF documents. That’s all I want it to do, so it’s perfect. When you download and install it, watch out for check boxes that are checked by default to add toolbars and other junk to your computer. I have made this my default PDF reader and it does fine. Get it here.

Do you have other programs that you like? Tell us about them in the comments.

This week’s video: How does this guy do this?

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December 14th, 2009

having gotten this far, I think I'll make a comment or two:
(1) how DID the guy with the water bottle do it???
(2) re malware, etc. It would be nice if there was a warning somewhere such as "if you have symantic, this will interfere with that software!" You seem to think that everyone walks up with a virgin machine, to fill up with your software. That's a nice position to be in, but the last machine I bought came with Norton …
Maybe your suggestion is to remove Norton, etc and proceed with your reccommendations?
Also: the last time I tried, Google Docs could not handle macros — an absolute necessity for me.
Otherwise, a very stimulating newsletter. Maine is still here when you get tired of warm weather!

Scott Johnson
December 14th, 2009

Thanks Owen. I would not recommend removing Norton and then proceeding with the recommendations, because that would leave a gap in between, during which you would have no antivirus installed. You can install AVG and get it updated, then there's no reason to leave Norton on your computer beyond that. Malwarebytes does not conflict with Norton.