I've recommended AVG Free anti-virus for years (update: I now recommend Security Essentials), I used to run it back when I was using Windows XP. I've still not, after using Windows Vista for two years, got around to actually installing any anti-virus on my main machines. But when my sister got her new laptop, as she had administrative rights I made sure to install some before handing it over.

There are other free anti-virus software out there, such as Avast which like AVG Free is licensed just for personal usage. Avast however I found to be more annoying than AVG, and by annoying I mean with stupid things being thrown all over the screen and stupid animated icons in the tray.

AVG Free up until version 8 was plagued by this annoying update window that popped up when there was an update to install. It was by far the most annoying feature of the program. AVG Free 8 however seems to of fixed this, to date while using the laptop I've yet to see AVG Free open a stupid window saying updating or any other annoying bubbles - once its been configured properly.

No doubt as many of my readers know, I detest heavy security suites. Honestly they cause more problems than the security issues they're supposed to be protecting you against. On Windows Vista all I would recommend somebody install is AVG Free 8, they don't need some bloated security suite which half takes over the system. However getting it configured right so it doesn't ruin the user experience is important, and cannot be done using the default settings.

I hope to make this the first of a few guides. Whenever I see somebody else's computer I am shocked at how much junk is on the system, and how ugly it looks, you only need to look at some of the screenshot threads on Portal Forums to see how bad some people's systems are - no wonder Mac marketshare has gone up 1% if people associate Windows with such a bad user experience - a bad user experience almost entirely created by 3rd party applications, often times installed by the computer manufacturer, but sometimes installed by security suites that people are frightened into buying.

Part 0: Finding it on their website.

Grisoft have no doubt made it harder to find the free version, and when you do find it you get prompted at several screens to try and full internet suite. I think it has moved off their main website, or is very buried, but you can find it on free.grisoft.com.

If you do have problems finding it, a search engine will no doubt track down a copy of it. Just make sure to get it from somewhere trustworthy like CNET's download website.

Part 1: Installation and first run.

After clicking accept past the licence screens the first option we get in the installer asks us if we want to choose "Standard installation" or "Custom Installation". May I suggest we pick "Custom Installation".

After that we get an activation screen, just hit next on that and then we're prompted to select which modules you want installed, typically I'd recommend un check everything other than the core program, e-mail scanners are known to cause issues with some e-mail clients. As are document scanners and other programs if they're ever offered I'd recommend avoiding them and relying on the core resident scanner instead.

Next we get asked to install the "AVG Security Toolbar", no thanks, deselect the check box and select next. It'll then ask us where we want to install, the default location is fine. It'll then go ahead and complete the installation.

Once the installer has finished it'll open up the first run wizard.

Step 2 of 7 asks us how often we'd like to install updates, for me this appears to be greyed out, the other section however asks what time we'd like our daily scans to take place. I typically would disable automatic scans, but you can set this how you like.

Step 3 of 7 asks if we want AVG to collect data about our usage habits, select yes if you want, or no if you don't.

Step 5 of 7 and asks if we want to update now. Sure why not.

It then prompts us to register, I'm fine thanks, clicking next and then finish will complete the first run wizard.

At this point I would typically delete the icon it left on the desktop (without asking for my permission to do that).

Part 2: Configuration.

We're almost done, now we just have to tidy up a few loose ends.

Double click on the AVG icon in the system tray, which should open the application control panel.

From here, at the top of the window in the menu bar is the "Tools" option, clicking that and select advanced settings.

I'd suggest turning off all the silly notifications, we don't need it throwing something up on the screen just because it updated itself.

The last thing I want to touch on is a new feature in AVG Free 8. This is called the "Link Scanner". Basically what this does is load a browser add-on which scans any links with AVG's database, the results look like this:

It places a little status icon next to every link, and whenever you bring the pointer near it throws open that little window saying about the website, and offering an advertisement to upgrade to a more bloated security program.

No thanks. I want the browser to work how the people who designed the browser intended, I want to see the web page how the designer intended. I'm not a fan of 3rd parties throwing their code into the browser willy nilly, I recommend this option gets disabled. Internet Explorer 7 on Windows Vista is sandboxed and isn't vulnerable to drive-by downloads and the like, plus the phishing filter let's you know of any dodgy websites that may try and steal your details anyway, this seems unnecessary to me, and overly bloated.

There's two ways to go about doing this. The first and most obvious way is to disable it from within AVG itself, at the main control panel, double click on "Link Scanner" and there's an option to turn it off.

Simply deselect the option and OK your way out. This does have one problem, it turns the AVG tray icon into ugly mode, to notify you something is wrong.

So I've tried disabling it via Internet Explorer's add-on management controls, and AVG doesn't seem to realise its disabled from in there, keeping it happy looking.

You can disable it from Internet Explorer by clicking Tools and selecting Manage add-ons. Then you just need to find AVG Safe Search in the list, and click disable. Restart the browser and its back to normal.

Step 3: Enjoy your computer, knowing it isn't overly bloated like it would be if you installed something like Norton or McAfee.

Once that is completed, you've got AVG Free 8 installed how I would install it on one of my machines. Streamlined and out of the way, how all security programs should behave out-of-the-box.