There is more to securing your computer than just buying an antivirus program. Think of it like a car, you lock the doors, but if you leave the windows open, you are vulnerable for someone to just reach in and take what they want. Keep in mind you really cannot protect yourself from every possible attack on your computer, but you can be protected from everyday attacks. More or less, keep the honest person honest. If you see a bicycle locked to a pole, most people wouldn't even try to steal it, but if someone really wants it, they grab a set of bolt cutters and walk away.
First step is to deal with those pesky pop ups saying "Updates are available". No I do not mean turn them on, click on it and actually do the updates. They are not created to annoy us, they have been created to fix any loop holes, vulnerabilities and general errors in the operating system. Next is to update all of your software, most programs will do it automatically or prompt you to do it when you log in. Some of these programs are Flash player, browsers Java, ect...
Next is to install a Antivirus, this will help with the day to day files you run and normally will catch virus' as they happen. For most people any free Antivirus will work, for instance AVG Free. But if you want more than just basic protection Kaspersky and Bitdefender amongst other companies have some very good paid programs with more features depending on your scenario.
Firewalls are important, as it really is your first defense from automated virus or human attackers. In most cases the basic one that comes pre-installed with Windows is sufficient to keep you protected. Again like antivirus there are several paid alternatives that will provide more flexibility and control.
Luckily staying safe online and protecting your valuable documents is not expensive, but it will take time. Set up a routine to ensure all software is up to date; make sure that your virus protection is constantly scanning any files that you open. Do regular virus sweeps to catch any virus hiding in other files.
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