Most users I know run Microsoft products. A few of you may benefit from some basic tips to keep your computer out of BestBuy or your local computer vendor for repairs. The first and probably most important is also the most difficult to get people to abide by. Use UAC (user access controls). By default Windows XP uses the administrator account which is convenient when an operating system is first loaded but most users load all of their programs on a PC in just a short time. After you get everything installed run as a ‘user’ account and not an administrative context. This will prevent most spy ware and viruses from trashing your system. Even if you accidentally download some malware it will most likely at the worst trash the user profile but not the system which is a pretty easy fix.
Vista by default has UAC turned on. This is annoying at first but is a positive action by Microsoft in order to cut down on end-users trashing their systems. UAC may be disabled but I wouldn’t recommend it. A majority of computers that become compromised with spy ware is because malware or viruses entered through a profile that had administrative privileges and then self installed.
Antivirus must be installed. Most computers I come across don’t have it installed or it’s so out of date it might as well not be installed. It’s a small fee to pay or even free to avoid the headache of infecting your computer or worse other computers.
Scripting attacks may be prevented by staying out of crappy sites. One problem is some popular sites still seem to host ads from vendors that are known to install malware. Using a registry based block lists is a quick and free way to avoid these pitfalls.
Peer2Peer software is another way to trash a system. Installing poorly written software for the purpose of downloading music and whatnot is a pretty sure fire way to hose a system. While in college most of the computers I have seen that run poorly are because a Napster type of software was installed and some of the files downloaded from the network were virus ridden. The peer sharing software themselves sometimes have ad-ware built in for the purpose of bombarding your computer with trash. So the alternative sucks but pay for it using iTunes or something along those lines.
With regards to email, if it looks too good to be true then it probably is. Do not click on links or download images from it, just delete and/or report it as spam.