The Minimalist Approach To Security Tools On Your Computer [Windows]

Tim Brookes 13-10-2011

simple security toolA few years ago when Windows Vista was the OS of choice, I chose not to use an antivirus. Instead I relied on a couple of anti-spyware solutions, my router’s firewall and good old common sense. This decision was partly due to my reluctance to pay for overpriced subscription-based security software (despite plenty of decent free alternatives The 10 Best Free Antivirus Software No matter what computer you're using, you need antivirus protection. Here are the best free antivirus tools you can use. Read More ) and concern over resources and boot time Use Soluto To Improve Your Windows Boot Up Time Read More . In short, I didn’t want my AV interrupting a very important game of whatever I was into at the time, and took my chances accordingly.


A minimalist approach might not be for everyone, but here’s a few ideas and tips in case you were curious.

Pick Your Tools

These days I do use an antivirus, but not because I was burned by malware. Put simply, I don’t even notice my current AV of choice running thanks to a speedy dual-core processor and plenty of RAM.

For a lightweight solution, Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is a free, no-fuss and fairly effective yet simple security tool Free Security Suite for Windows: Microsoft Security Essentials Read More that won’t bog your PC down too much. It provides protection against viruses, spyware and other malware and is regularly updated to detect the latest threats.

simple security tool

Using an antivirus alongside this solution is also possible, and from a personal standpoint my number one choice is Avast! Free. Not only will it play nicely with MSE but also updates itself daily (only notifying you once the update has been applied) and provides some pretty powerful features including a sandbox mode Avast! 6.0 Free Antivirus For Windows Released, Adds AutoSandbox [News] Read More that allows you to open files in a safe, virtual environment.


I’d recommend it as a “minimalist” solution mainly because it can be configured to suit your needs, and toned right down if need be. There’s no annoying pop-up adverts, very little required in the way of maintenance and it also comes with an optional browser plugin which helps identify untrustworthy websites and displays a rating in search results.

simple computer security

That browser plugin can certainly help you make more informed choices when browsing the web, and that’s exactly what you want to be doing if you’re not using an antivirus, or simply have the bare minimum. If a dedicated antivirus is too much then don’t forget about the good number of online virus scanners The 7 Best Free Online Virus Scan and Removal Sites Need to check for a computer virus but don't have antivirus software installed? Try these excellent online virus scanning tools. Read More that allow you to check your PC for problem without installing a thing.

Which brings us on to browsers. Whichever you choose, make sure it’s the latest version and keep on top of updates. It’s really what you do with your browser that makes the difference here, and while none are watertight; security is top priority these days. Plugins (especially Flash) should be regularly updated too, as should browser extensions (which you want to be picky about).


Last but not least PeerBlock is another optional security measure, and a fairly lightweight one at that. It controls what your computer “talks” to over the internet by blocking certain “bad” I.P. addresses and is totally configurable to your needs.

simple computer security

Be Careful

You could go all-out and download all manner of additional security programs, enable mail scanning and run Ad-Aware every night, but simply being careful online will save you hassle. Not opening dodgy files and email attachments from people you don’t know (or even those you do) is a good start.

Heeding browser warnings about suspected phishing or malware sites is always recommended, but also make sure to check URLs when signing in to banking or other important accounts. Webmail services like Gmail are a great alternative to desktop email applications and provide that extra layer of spam and virus detection before the malware even touches your PC.


simple computer security

You can even route existing POP3 accounts through Gmail Top 4 Freeware Spam Blockers That Actually Work Read More and do everything from your browser, which eliminates the need for additional mail scanners. Be wary of USB sticks Start A "Dead Drop" In Your City & Share Files With People In The Street Who’d have thought in 2011 - the year of the fibre optic broadband connection - we’d be cementing USB sticks into the wall to share files? Not me, but that’s exactly what the term "dead... Read More that aren’t yours as these can become vessels of disease just waiting to infect your PC. Oh, and if “Microsoft” calls then there’s a good chance they’re trying to scam you Cold Calling Computer Technicians: Don't Fall for a Scam Like This [Scam Alert!] You've probably heard the term "don't scam a scammer" but I've always been fond of "don't scam a tech writer" myself. I'm not saying we're infallible, but if your scam involves the Internet, a Windows... Read More so be extra careful with the software you install.

Finally keeping the software you regularly use updated is paramount. This includes the OS itself, so don’t slack on updates. Other applications can also develop vulnerabilities so these are important too.

simple security tool



At the end of the day all this advice probably sounds very familiar. You could argue that all these things should be done even if you’re running at DEFCON 1. Regardless, if you are tempted to skimp (and I use the term lightly) on security you’ve got to be extra careful.

Personally I think this kind of caution will breed safer computer habits than a “don’t worry, Security Centre 2012 Pro and 20 spyware scanners take care of everything” outlook ever would – especially since there are so many threats no amount of security can guard against. What do you think, gang?

Image Credit: Abraham Williams

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  1. Dave Peterson
    October 14, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    I use "web of trust".  It gives a nice indicator for browsing sites -- MSIE, Chrome and Firefox.

  2. Michael
    October 14, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    My ISP provides  free anti-virus,and on top of that,I always connect using a free sandboxing app called Sandboxie,giving me an extra layer of protection.

  3. Nithin V.Raman
    October 14, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Suggestion: WinPatrol - lightweight HIPS software.

    • Tim Brookes
      October 14, 2011 at 12:06 pm

      Thanks for the tip! I've come across WinPatrol in the past but never got round to trying it out.

    • Oldgoat1957
      October 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm

      @Nithin - WinPatrol is excellent - might be a little overwhelming for the "average" user, but a great free tool (paid version too).

  4. Johann
    October 14, 2011 at 3:10 am

    All good advice but two anti-viruses, browser add-ons, peerblock and routing pop mail via an extra account is hardly minimalist!

    I get by with making sure that my router is locked down and MSE.