Lavasoft Ad-aware

One of the most popular free anti-virus and malware utilities, this complete solution detects and removes all kinds of dodgy files, including trojan horses, worms and “malware” (a term applied to malicious software purposely designed to harm computers).

Ideal for personal, non-commercial use, this program provides a wide range of features, including a speedy virus scanner, anti-spyware protection for use against rogue applications that can spy on your computer use, real-time protection to stop threats immediately, safe Web browsing and a gaming mode. There is even a utility that scans your downloads, regardless of the file format, before they land on your PC.

The commercial “paid” versions that are available go further and can help to protect you from identity theft, online scams and malware on any external devices you may be using. The most feature-rich “Total Security” package provides all-encompassing security against all kinds of threats, including real-time e-mail protection, parental controls, a file shredder to permanently remove unwanted files, and a two-way firewall to stop hackers.

Ad-aware also scans your system registry and other folders to safely delete any rogue packages that may be attempting to relay information about your surfing habits to advertising companies. Inexperienced computer users will also find Ad-aware easy to use. Its “wizard style” interface allows for the step-by-step deletion of spyware.