I've had a couple of people e-mail me asking what they should install on their new Windows 7 computers since some of the firewalls and anti-virus software they've used in the past aren't compatible.
Long time readers of my blog will know the epic battle I've always had with anti-virus. To the point where during the Windows Vista timeframe I didn't run anti-virus. Obviously I don't recommend the average computer user to do that. But I could never find any anti-virus software that was both free, fast and not annoying.
In Windows XP you could tolerate anti-virus and 3rd party firewalls constantly nagging you and having annoying spinning icons in the system tray. In Windows Vista because the OS experience was so much cleaner than Windows XP anti-virus software like AVG or Avast always seemed drastically out of place and frankly noisy and annoying.
I was thrilled when Microsoft announced they were dropping Windows Live OneCare, a rather heavy security suite and replacing it with what was then codename Morro, now Microsoft Security Essentials. Why? Because it promised and delivered a Windows Defender-like anti-virus solution, namely fast, nag-free and out of the way. I would strongly recommend to everyone Security Essentials. It's a lightweight, fast and nag-free anti-malware application. Meaning it deals with viruses and spyware. In my opinion there is no competition anymore in the free anti-virus space, this is it.
Even if you've just brought a Windows 7 PC and have a trial version of Norton or McAfee I'd even recommend removing them and installing this instead.
As for a firewall. Post Windows XP SP2 this is really a non-issue. I'd recommend using the built in firewall. There's no need to clutter the machine with anything else.
And finally as a first line of defence against phishing and driveby malware if you're running Windows 7, you've already got Internet Explorer 8 there. Great. From a security standpoint there's no safer browser. If you're still on Windows XP or Windows Vista I'd suggest upgrading now. I know most of my readers use Firefox and that's fine for more tech-savy users. But I wouldn't recommend it for your average computer user, the data is clear, For phishing Firefox blocks 80% while IE8 blocks 83% and more malware in general Firefox catches less than 30% (other browsers were even less). Internet Explorer 8 was blocking 81%.
In short: Use Internet Explorer 8. Use the built-in firewall and install Security Essentials.