The latest version of Firefox is out now - go and get it here. I know many of you are still using Internet Explorer, so now is the perfect time to give it a go. Firefox is safer, prettier, more customisable, more standards compliant, prevents popups, stops viruses and spyware getting at your machine, has tabs so you can have lots of sites open in the one window, and has all kinds of cool extra bits you can add in if you want. It will import all your bookmarks from IE really easily, you barely have to do anything. If you're using IE to read this, go and try Firefox now, for me. You won't be sorry.
And before the Opera fans start complaining: Firefox is what I use, I like it. But as long as people stop using IE, I don't care if they use Firefox, Opera, Safari, or anything else. Anything but IE.
While we're at it - if you've been using IE, then you've probably got some spyware and stuff littered about your PC. Here are three things that *all* Windows users should have installed - they're all free, and easy to use:
Spybot Search & Destroy: A spyware cleaner. Finds, removes and blocks loads of nasty, hidden programs.
Ad-Aware: Another spyware remover. Ad-Aware and Spybot can sometimes each find things the other one missed, so it's best to run them both regularly.
AVG: Anti-virus software. It's fast, free, and sits in the background keeping an eye on everything. If you don't have an anti-virus package installed, please get this immediately. I had Norton Anti-Virus for a year, a commercial package, but it didn't do the job for me. Once I'd installed AVG, it found several viruses that had been lurking there the whole time. Do regular scans, but once it's installed, it'll quickly scan every file you try to open. It updates itself, so that you're always protected against any new viruses that come out.
And two things you can install if you like:
Thunderbird: An email client. Outlook and Outlook Express are bloated and unsafe, and up until very recently, merrily ran scripts by default that could do all sorts of damaging things. You don't have to use Thunderbird if you've got all your safety updates installed, but it's faster and nicer.
Firewall: If you're on the internet, people can see you. Firewalls make you invisible, and slap anyone who comes too near (sort of). If you have a router, it has a built in firewall that is perfectly fine. If not, then use the one that comes with Windows Service Pack 2. If you want a separate one, go for Sygate Personal Firewall - I use a router at home, so the PC (or "the 'Half Life 2' machine " as it's now called) doesn't have a firewall installed.
Spybot, Ad-Aware and AVG are essential (as is Firefox, I'd say), to keep things clean and safe. If your system is riddled with spyware and other stuff, you will need to go deeper - some really nasty spyware needs its own removal tools. If you're using a Mac, of course, you can happily ignore all of the above - although I still use Firefox on mine, because it does everything I need.