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Solutions: For free virus protection, try Avast

AVG Free Anti-Virus has said it will no longer have updates after June 25 and that I must purchase AVG 8.0 in order to be fully protected. Will AVG Free work without updates and do you know of any other good "free" programs? (Editor's note: Please see July 21 correction below.)

That is too bad. I know a lot of people like and use the free AVG antivirus. I'm not surprised, though. I don't see how any software business can stay in business without charging for its product. I would imagine that it will still work but would not allow you to apply updates. But in the world of virus protection, that is like flying without a net. A new virus written on the day after your update expires could wipe out your PC. I would not recommend going without updates. I have heard very good things about the free version of Avast antivirus (www.avast.com). But don't be surprised if they also one day decide to stop giving it away.

I have Norton AntiVirus, but it slows my computer too much. Is there an antivirus product that will keep my computer safe and fast?

This is a common complaint with antivirus programs. I recently read an article from someone at Symantec, which develops Norton, saying the company was creating a version that would have zero drag on the system. This would be quite impressive, but I'm not sure I understand how that would work since it has to use CPU, disc and memory resources. I use Microsoft Live One Care for antivirus and antispyware protection and find it to have very acceptable overhead. But Symantec also makes excellent products and if you're comfortable with Norton AV, maybe its new product is something you should look into.

I feel I should start catching up with the rest of the world and start learning Windows Vista. I run XP Media Center. What is involved in switching? I have run Windows Vista upgrade advisor and only have a couple of program issues and no hardware issues. My biggest concern: Do I have to uninstall XP before installing Vista or do I install Vista right over XP?

I'll probably surprise you with my answer, which is to consider staying with XP. All things being equal I would choose Vista, but my No. 1 rule of home computing is: "If it's not broke, don't fix it." Unless your PC is less than a year old and has at least 2 GB of RAM, it may be underpowered to run Vista at its highest efficiency. Unless you're buying a PC or have a compelling reason to move to Vista, you may be better off with the status quo. Yes, you can update over XP, although a clean install is preferable.

Could you please give me more guidance on what vendors to check with to get the $549 laptop you recommended in your column June 23?

I've bought more laptops in six years than my wallet cares to mention. In each case I just checked the Sunday paper sales inserts from electronics and appliances stores. I've never had a problem finding a laptop for that price. I've had good luck with HPs and Compaq, but any of the major brands should be considered. And aside from a "dorm room accident" here and there, they have held up relatively well.

Send questions to personaltech@sptimes.com or Personal Tech, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Questions are answered only in this column.

Correction

Published July 21, 2008

Last week a reader wrote in to say that his version of AVG Free Anti-Virus would no longer be eligible for updates after June 25. This only pertains to version 7.5. Version 8.0 is the latest version and is free along with its auto updates; however, it will not run on Windows ME or Windows 98.

Solutions: For free virus protection, try Avast 07/18/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 3:47pm]
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