BEFORE YOU TURN IT ON
Let’s begin with the very FIRST thing you should do with your PC before you even turn it on: Decide on which antivirus software you’re going to use.
Yes, Microsoft Defender (formerly Windows Defender) still exists, is on by default, and it’s good enough to keep your PC from being immediately hacked the moment you plug it in to the Internet. Furthermore, it consistently scores well in tests against various forms of malware and “real-world protection tests” performed by leading antivirus and malware reviewers.
Norton AntiVirus, however, has long been “the gold standard,” so let’s see what else is out there.
On August 26, 2020, PC Magazine ranked Norton AntiVirus Plus with a score of 4.0. While four products received PC Magazine’s coveted Editor’s Choice award due to their combination of features, performance and price, Norton did not receive the award this year, nor did it receive the highest score.
The following competitors scored higher than Norton’s product, all earning a 4.5 and PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice awards:
- Kaspersky Anti-Virus
- Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
- Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus
The other Editor’s Choice award went to McAfee, which scored a 4.0, ostensibly because it held it’s own with respect to protection but beat them all on price:
You pay $59.99 per year for unlimited McAfee licenses. That’s rare. Most competing companies offer one-, three-, five-, or 10-license subscriptions. For example, nearly the same subscription price gets you 10 Sophos licenses, three Kaspersky Anti-Virus licenses, and just one Norton license. Roughly $40 per month gets you a one-device license for many antivirus products, among them Bitdefender, Webroot, and Trend Micro. Price-wise, McAfee has the competition beat.https://www.pcmag.com/reviews/mcafee-antivirus-plus
Norton clearly considers themselves to be the Rolls Royce of antivirus and security protection, but these days, they’re clearly just another Chevy, Ford, or GMC. Yes, Norton is a good product, but it’s certainly not worth Rolls Royce prices for just one license. Furthermore, if you look at their top of the line security suite, Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate Plus, you’ll that it lists for $350 (discounted to $300). Fortunately, that one does come with a license for “unlimited PCs,” so if you have a large family with a lot of devices, and a fair amount of financial assets requiring protection, Norton may yet be the product for you. On the other hand, if you have five devices and average needs, you’re probably better off with one of PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice award winners.
Five other products matched Norton’s product in features and performance, while two scored below it.
Security Suite Software
All major security suites include antivirus software, generally the same or better versions of their stand-alone antivirus packages. Most, however, include SO much more than antivirus, including anti-malware/adware/spyware/phishing, a personal/PC firewall, spam filter, local and/or online backup systems, privacy protection, password manager, VPN, ransomware protection, system tune-up, and parental controls, not to mention the ability to load light packages on your smart phones. To help you figure out which one might be right for you, look no further than PC Magazine’s 2020 Security Suite evaluation.
Unless you’re brand new to computers, now’s the time to plan which additional software you would like to buy/download and install on your computer. Here are some of my favorite, go-to software products which absolutely cannot be beat. If you need the link, just Google the name:
Display Fusion: If you have more than one monitor, you’ll want this absolutely outstanding and free software on your system. By comparison, Display Fusion’s Rolls Royce ability to perform fine adjustments of your monitors’ configurations and settings, including position, rotation, color, refresh rate, resolution, zoom, timeouts, fading, snapping, wallpaper and more make Windows 10’s monitor configuration look like a crappy, one-wheel skateboard. The professional version adds a few additional features but no gain in performance. Check the features carefully before you cough up any additional money. Combined with a modern, high-quality USB 3.x or C docking station with additional monitor capability, and your three-monitor setup will absolutely shine. I don’t know if there’s a limit on the number of monitors this software can handle. One gentleman used it to manage 24 separate monitors powered by six high-end graphics cards each supporting four Full HD monitors in a high-end workstation.
Microsoft Office: This is the de facto standard office product used by students, professionals, and people of all makes, models, and walks of life around the world. NOT free, though.
Libre Office: As its name suggests, Libre is an excellent FREE open-source alternative to Microsoft Office and gives it some serious competition. I used a much older version exclusively for about three years between 2005 and 2008. It includes nearly all the same functionality as Microsoft Office Professional, including Writer (Word), Calc (Excel), Impress (PowerPoint), Base (Access), Draw (diagrams), and Math (formula editor). If you don’t think it’s worth it, think again. Entire countries like France, Spain, Italy, Taiwan and Brazil have adopted LibreOffice as their de facto standard for both government as well as personal use.
Mozilla Firefox: By far the most useful and free browser on the planet from a company that actually values your privacy.
Tor Browser: Based on the latest version of Firefox, but for when your business is just none of anyone else’s business, fully commensurate with everyone’s Constitutional Fourth Amendment protections “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Hint: For those of you who never commit any crimes, ALL searches are seizures are, by definition, unreasonable, although they may, on occasion, be the result of law enforcement error, ignorance, or worse, contemptuous flouting of the law. The good news is that the latter constitutes firm justification for a lawsuit, IF you can show damages. You cannot sue the police just because you don’t like them or are a stalwart member of a brain-dead, law-breaking organization like AntiFa or BLM. Of course lives matter: ALL lives matter. If you feel compelled to slap a color in front of “lives matter” you’re the racist.
Project Libre: Free competitor to Microsoft Project.
Notepad++: By far the most useful free text editor on the planet.
NAPS2: Stands for “Not Another PDF Scanner 2.” Before you toss that old scanner in perfect working order except for the fact it’s manufacturer refuses to update the software for Windows 10, download and install NAPS. I’ve used it with a 2019 scanner as well as with a 1997 scanner. Saves to PDF, multiple image formats, and even has an OCR function. Good stuff.
Irfanview: By far the most useful free image editor on the planet. Excellent for cropping, auto-adjusting colors, and saving images in various formats.
Paint.net: By far the most useful free intermediate image layering editor on the planet.
Gimp: A useful and free alternative to Adobe Photoshop.
7-zip: By far the most useful free file and folder compression and encryption utility on the planet.
VLC Media Player: By far the most useful free video player on the planet.
Audacity: By far the most useful free audio capture, editing and rendering software on the planet.
Free Video Editing Software: It’s not software. It’s a link to perhaps the best comprehensive review of many different free products I could find. Don’t let the word “free” stop you, as some of these are used in professional video productions ranging from commercials to full-length movies you may have seen in the theaters. I’ve tried half a dozen of them, but none of the ones I tried are as easy and straightforward as older products like those by Pinnacle and even Microsoft Movie Maker. If you have recommendations…
If you find trying to wade through 24 options as daunting as I do, here’s a quick cover of just 3 titles:
TURNING ON YOUR NEW COMPUTER
Yes, by all means, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.