How do I lock down my PC and keep it virus and malware-free?

I’m running Windows XP SP3 and the install is a couple years old. The computer has been getting sluggish and error-prone lately, probably due to malware. I’ve decided the most painless fix is to do a reinstall of the WinXP system. After I’m done, what practices can I undertake to keep this computer free of problems?

Is it a good idea to have the Administrator account as a separate account which is never used?
What is the best Antivirus / Malware software money can buy?
What is the best backup solution for my current files? Do any of those online solutions work?

Thanks.
I should mention what I’m using now.
-AVG Free, doesn’t seem to catch much
-AdAware
-Hijack This

A lot of PC-geeks use Sandboxie, or, Returnil, free or paid, which is a Virtual like environment, and or a Disk Drive Image Backup, if something goes wrong with your system you just install another Image Copy of Windows and you are good to go again…Other than the above, simply buy and use Kaspersky 2010, another PC-Geek favorite…

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SurfUp says:

A lot of PC-geeks use Sandboxie, or, Returnil, free or paid, which is a Virtual like environment, and or a Disk Drive Image Backup, if something goes wrong with your system you just install another Image Copy of Windows and you are good to go again…Other than the above, simply buy and use Kaspersky 2010, another PC-Geek favorite…
References :
http://www.sandboxie.com/
http://www.returnilvirtualsystem.com/
http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/
http://usa.kaspersky.com/getkaspersky2010/?icid=50000038

LARRY S says:

I go to download.com and install either free antivirus program, AVG or Avast. I also would download malwarebytes, superantispyware and adaware, for spyware removal. All are free programs and thus far has protected me.
References :

IcKyBoY says:

Well, there is no such thing as a ‘virus free, malware free’ computer. Virus makers get smart so they program there virus’s in such a way in which it ‘slips under the radar.’

But to answer your question, i recommend Norton. It doesn’t have false positives and its not so annoying when it finds a virus.

And its a good practice not to be the ‘super user’ or ‘administrator’ of a computer unless you have to.

The best backup solution would to just to get an external hard drive and backup all your data there. I haven’t tried any online solutions but I know that if you get emailed a phish and you fell for it then you would get compromised. So stick with an external hard drive.

If you have further questions go here:

computerhelpus.webs.com

The owner lets you make threads on all your questions. Even gaming!
References :
computerhelpus.webs.com

rgp says:

You can use Microsoft Security Essentials. Its free from microsoft website for genuine windows users.
You can also use Registry Mechanic 9 to keep your system error free.
Also the software called Malwarebytes antimalware is very good.

I’m using all the three mentioned above and my system is running very well.

Best of luck…
References :
http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/?mkt=en-us
http://www.pctools.com/registry-mechanic/
http://www.malwarebytes.org/mbam.php

noah says:

try installing avg free, and mayby spybot.
then proceed to smash the computer with a hammer.
References :
time to upgrade mayby?