Ever hear the line, "The more I fix it, the broker it gets"?

Of course not, I just made that up. But it holds true for some protection programs out today.

Software companies want to keep us safe on the Internet and e-mail so programs are continually being updated/improved and many of these improvements have caused issues with the consumers and their computers. Here is the straight scoop, as I see it on anti-virus programs.

Longtime readers of this column are aware, that I have been an AVG user for many years but recently I had to change. The improvements to AVG 8.0 have rendered this program nearly useless or at least so hard to configure it is not worth the trouble. Users of the free version are constantly bombarded by pop-ups telling the consumer to update and virus scans last almost indefinitely. AVG has been removed from my computer, never to grace it again until they correct these issues.

Cox has its Security Suite of McAfee products that supposedly protect you for free. McAfee ranks second from the bottom on the list of protection programs I endorse. They do not protect you very well and they slow your computer down in the process. We will not even discuss Norton for the same reasons I dislike McAfee.

If you have either of these programs on your computer and you are satisfied with them, great!

There are other programs on the market today that will protect you with a minimum of cost and slight reduction in performance. One of those programs is AVIRA (www.avira.com). I have been testing AVIRA for a couple weeks and have seen only a few issues. The program is free to download at www.download.com when you click the AntiVirus, Firewall & Spyware link on the left-hand side of the page. Save the download to your desktop as opposed to clicking Run and when it is complete, double click on the icon on your desktop and install the program. Installation is pretty straightforward and setup questions are pretty easy.

One thing I really did not like about the free program is the daily pop-ups asking you to upgrade to the paid version. This can be bypassed so those who are interested simply need to e-mail me for the cure. The program runs constantly in the background but manual scans are recommended. It even found a couple things AVG missed. The program does not scan e-mail without a $20 upgrade but the daily virus scan should detect any bad e-mails and remove them.

Another alternative to AVG, Norton, McAfee and the aforementioned Cox Security Suite is Avast! Antivirus. It is also a free download at www.download.com by clicking on the AntiVirus, Firewall & Spyware link. Avast! has been around for some time and is highly regarded by many computer users. Avast! does scan your incoming and outgoing e-mails for viruses as well as automatic updates and daily virus scans. This program requires a free registration within 60 days of installation.

The only issue I have found so far is the inability to program the scans according to my schedule and the configuration is a bit difficult. The program itself runs well and so far seems to protect the computer. Stay tuned for updates and hopefully they will not make your computer "broker."


Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Services and lives in Ahwatukee Foothills. Send questions to mike@smotherscomputers.com or call (480) 753-7667.

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