Computer tech questions from the computer naive

Hi All,
This may have been asked before, I know it’s kind of basic, but here it is.
Do I really need anti virus software on my computer?
I got on the phone with the Dell Solution Station (their tech support service: $239.00/yr) to find help with a website issue.
The tech told me that I had a lot of junk folders in my computer, and that he would clean them out. (I just had this done the day I bought the tech support service. Maybe 2 weeks ago.) So, he had control of my computer and he did his tech stuff. While he was doing it he commented that I really ought to get the virus protection, that my computer was unprotected…I said I would think about it while he worked on my computer.
Well, as the call was being wrapped up (my issue coulnd’t be resolved–not complaining–it was because I am a guest and not a registered user of the website), he asked me again if I wanted to buy the antivirus software. We got on the subject of the tech support I had purchased: turns out it is not unlimited as I was led to believe, but limited to three incidents (three “major” issues–not sure what determines if an issues"major–" the fact that I called?).
Well, I did buy the virus protection. $89.95 plus tax, $97.00 total, for two years, and it is supposed to be good for not just mine but the other computer in the house too. He installed it. But by the time it was done, I think he was sick of me saying “Excuse me? What?” (he had a strong accent), and he was sort of trying to get me off the phone. After we hung up I realized I didn’t find out how to install it on my son’s computer. Guess my son will have to figure that out. (Don’t want to call back and use up one of my three “incidents!”)
All in all, I feel the guy knew what he was doing. I don’t FEEL like I got screwed…but I feel like, after putting out over $300 for computer services that I don’t really understand, I still…don’t understand any more better.
Maybe if you are a computer whiz, you can do this stuff yourself. I’m not. And I really depend a lot on this little notebook. All my assignments and coursework for school I have to get online. My banking info is in it, I pay my bills on it, plus, my 9-year old son uses it all the time to watch goofy YouTube videos of goofy people playing video games.
Is there an up-to-date, up-to-the-minute Idiot’s Guide about this stuff that could help me? I don’t know what all those programs are in my computer. I don’t know what is in all those folders, or where they came from or how they got there. I don’t really know what a browser is or a domain or–anything. I need this not only explained, but translated in language I can understand.
The tech did help me the first time I called–issue resolved. And they didn’t count it as one of my “incidents” either. But did I do the right thing by spending $300-some bucks on this stuff?
So, three questions.

  1. Do I really need anti virus software. Uses: school, internet shopping, browsing, banking, watching YouTube videos.
  2. Is there a book about computers that even a caveman could understand? That is up to the minute.
  3. Was spending $300 on this stuff–$239.00 for tech support for a year and 97.00 for virus protection for 2 years–ridiculous? For a tech naive individual?

My god no! what a waste of money!

Virus protection IS something you should have, but there are light, effective clients available for free. Mind you viruses aren’t the number one threat any more, and some simple tips (And a modern OS) can keep you very safe

Id’ recommend MS Security Essentials.

I would say paying $97.00 for antivirus was indeed ridiculous. There are many good free antivirus programs available, all effective. Some of the most popular are:

Microsoft Security Essentials

Of course it’s the tech’s job to [del] extort money [/del] sell you things you don’t need, but you shouldn’t even pay 1¢ for AV software.

I knew I should have done my homework FIRST. He told me b/c my computer was just cleaned out, NOW was the time to install it.
I guess it’s just that protecting this thing is so important to me…I can’t afford to replace it.
I appreciate your responses…I would like to know more.

Antivirus software protects you against known threats. It will not protect you against zero-day exploits or particularly clever malware (or phishing, identity theft or spying). So it is a good idea to have (on Windows at least), but by no means does it absolve the need for good security practices.

(I don’t know about Mac, since it is getting popular antivirus might be necessary, but you don’t need an antivirus on Linux. In general, Unix [read: anything but Windows] is much more secure against those kinds of threats.)

New versions of Windows ship with Microsoft Security Essentials, so you shouldn’t have to buy anything if you have Windows 7. If you have an older version of Windows, get Avast, AVG, or any other free antivirus out there. No need to pay.

With regards to you question for easy to understand reference books, have you looked at the “…For Dummies” range? There will be a general computing one there that may suit you, and they are a great introduction to a subject if you’re not sure where to begin.

Also, I have no clue why being a guest user on some website has anything to do with junk folders on your computer. Or why junk folders on your computer has anything to do with antivirus software. It sounds like you got scammed. In the future, all website issues should be directed to the website itself. Dell computer support cannot help you with those at all. Anything internet related, beyond simply connecting your computer to the web (or possibly Dell’s own website), is out of their hands.

Also, $300 for 3 “incidents” of support is absurd. That probably cost almost as much as your laptop. In general, you’ll save yourself a lot of money and time learning how to use message boards and Google to fix your own problems rather than buying expensive “support” which just tries to sell you more unneeded stuff. This is coming from a computer nerd who uses Linux though, maybe it’s a great deal for others. I just can’t wrap my head around spending almost the cost of a new laptop on 3 support calls.

Does it? Every time I’ve reinstalled Windows 7, I’ve had to download Security Essentials separately. Including a new retail copy I purchased about one year ago. I just assumed it was another case where Microsoft was desperately trying to avoid “anticompetitive practices” with every other antivirus provider.

Maybe so. I haven’t used Windows personally since before Vista, and I still have XP at work. Somehow I was under the impression MSE was installed by default on newer versions of Windows. Even if it isn’t, you can download it for free from the link cochrane posted, so there is no excuse for buying antivirus these days.

No offense, but why did you say MSE ships with Windows 7 if you’ve never used Windows 7?

Anyway, yes, MSE is still a separate download so that Microsoft can avoid yet another anti-competitive practices lawsuit from Symantec, McAffe, et. al. It’s available for free to every Windows 7 user, though.

Some OEMs (read: computer makers) might include it by default on their computers. But Microsoft won’t include it on the official Windows 7 DVDs.

Windows 8 has a feature called “Windows Defender” which ships with the OS and supposedly replaces Security Essentials. I think it’s too early to tell how good it is in practice.

And, confusingly, “Windows Defender” is a very basic (and not very useful) anti-spyware program that does ship with Windows 7. But it’s not a real anti-virus program, and it’s disabled when you install the (actually useful) Security Essentials. Perhaps DrCube conflated the two.

Because I thought it was true. Microsoft has made great strides in security over the last decade, and I thought including antivirus with the OS was exhibit A. Guess I misunderstood. Mea culpa.

Yeah I should have mentioned that detail. Supposedly the Windows Defender in Windows 8 is improved enough that Microsoft doesn’t think you need any more anti-virus protection than that alone. I’m not sure whether it’s the same (greatly enhanced) product as the version in Windows 7, or if it’s a new product with the same name, and I shouldn’t have assumed the latter.

I’d recommend AVG. I use it at home.
Any AV software adds an extra layer of security.

Apply WIndows updates whenever you can. At the least, allow iIndows to download updates and suggest to you when to install them. Also - keep Java (I assume you have it installed) and Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader up to date. Someone suggested to me that they heard a lot of those “fake AV” infections happened because of flaws in Flash. A while ago, someone IIRC got into the ad banner system at one advertiser, so you could be on perfectly legit sites and still get infected.

The biggest problem is that when a vulnerability is found, a fix is released, but a huge number of PC’s on the internet have not been fixed up in ages, so they’re sitting ducks for anyone looking for a system to exploit.

  1. Do I really need anti virus software. Uses: school, internet shopping, browsing, banking, watching YouTube videos.
    Yes, absolutely.

  2. Is there a book about computers that even a caveman could understand? That is up to the minute.
    Probably, but do you really need it?

  3. Was spending $300 on this stuff–$239.00 for tech support for a year and 97.00 for virus protection for 2 years–ridiculous? For a tech naive individual?
    Yes. Get Avast! Antivirus program - it’s FREE and has excellent reviews. The easiest way to install if you feel unsure is to go to and scroll down the page to ‘Security’. Click on ‘Avast’ and download the installer program. Click on the downloaded installer and Avast will be installed for you automatically. Easy!