Along with the regular firewall and antivirus I software I have running all the time, I also do occasional scans with other programs. These are all passive, meaning you have to tell them when to run, so they aren't on all the time using up all your resources. For most people there is always going to be some sort of spyware lurking around. A good firewall should stop any of them sending out any information. Plus most spyware is just to tailor ads anyway.
To my knowledge none of these scanning programs contain any nasties either.
Primarily I scan with these programs and I regard them as must-have programs:
Spybot Search & Destroy
-This one takes about five minutes to scan my system and can slow things down a bit as it's scanning. It's amazing how much crap it will pick up just from the stuff regular sites give us.
-This will always find a MRU list. That must be a list of cookies from Female First as they only started being picked up when I began . the site.
There's usually some other thing I find, but it's nothing bad.
They both run a bit differently. Ad-Aware is faster than Spybot, but they both work a bit differently to each other.
I've recently started using Hijack This.
It's scans for browser hijacker programs. (The link has a page with information and a download button)
There is a bit of spyware called Cool Web Search which installs a search tool bar of the same name. Even if you don't have it installed, there is the chance it may be hiding somewhere. (Although I've never found it on my PC)
Where to get them.
Spybot Search & Destroy (The link's in the middle of the page at the top of the list):
Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition:
Cool Web Search remover:
I haven't tried this one yet, but it looks to be ok and it also only runs when you tell it to:
I got this link via the "Australian Net Guide" magazine website.
Microsoft has finally brought out their own spyware remover too:
Windows Defender (Beta 2) x86
This one also works passively. Ie. It's not always using up your RAM by continuously running. That does mean you'll need to run it yourself though.
Firstly, don't think of viruses or hard drive failures as things that may happen. Think of them as things that will happen. I've got back-ups of back-ups and tight security, but things do happen.
Most viruses and trojens etc will latch onto Windows, so one great way to avoid a lot of problems is to have at least two physically separate hard drives.
One with your operating system on it. Eg. Windows. The other one with all your stuff on it.
This also helps to keep Windows running more smoothly because the constant addition and removal of data (photos etc.) fragment the hard drive, which means Windows ends up with bits of itself all over the place.
It's like having a book, then putting the pages of the book in different places all around the room, then having to keep scribbling out the index and writing in the new location of the page.
Backing things up:
I've got three physically separate hard drives in my computer and one external. -Three is plenty though. This way you can have a duplicate folder of your photos etc on a second hard drive. When, not if, one of your hard drives fails then you still have all your data backed up.
I also burn back-ups onto DVDs as back-ups. Don't rely only on a backed up DVD or CD though as they can also stuff up. If possible make two back-up copies of your photos on two different brands of DVDs or CDs, and make sure they are reliable brands. Sometimes there will be a bad batch of discs, so using two different brands should ensure you have at least one good copy.
I keep my photos on one of my hard drives too. (I really should have two copies on two separate hard drives)
Store your back-up discs away from your computer. That way if there's a fire in one of the rooms then you may have a chance at grabbing one or the other.
For really important stuff, you could put them in a fireproof safe or even store a secton set of discs at someone else's house.
Along with DVDs, I use an external hard drive for back-ups. That way I can just grab it if there is a fire.