Keeping your PC safe from hackers and Trojans or viruses is something that you need to pay careful attention to. The likelihood of attack or infection is vastly reduced by taking even the smallest steps.

There are many very good anti-virus and security tools you can use to protect your PC, but two of the best are from Microsoft itself. Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Defender offer a first line of defence and are available for free.

Security Essentials will protect you from the vast majority of attacks and it runs constantly in the background, protecting you all the time. Even though it’s always on the look out, Security Essentials doesn’t take too much processor power so your PC will never slow down to a crawl when it’s running. You can manually scan your disk for any viruses or issues if you suspect something, but it will be constantly monitoring your PC to let you know if anything tries to get on your machine.

The software is kept constantly updated and Microsoft is always monitoring threats that might get around Security Essential’s defences. The list of threats is updated and sent to Windows Essentials daily to ensure that your PC is as secure as possible.

There’s a three-tier system of notifications to let you know how your PC is doing. Green means you’re protected and everything is running normally, amber indicates that there’s something not quite right that you should investigate and red means there’s a threat that needs your action. However, even in that case Security Essentials will tell you exactly what you need to do to keep your computer safe. 

Also from Microsoft is a tool called Windows Defender. If you’re already using Windows Vista or Windows 7, or if you’ve downloaded the free tool to use with Windows XP, then you’re already familiar with Windows Defender. These versions of Windows Defender were strictly anti-spyware, while Security Essentials handled the broader antimalware duties. If you've got a brand-new Windows 8 machine, however, the two are merged together so Windows Defender is actually a more comprehensive antimalware tool.

Windows Defender is part of Windows 8, and it’s enabled by default so you get protection right out of the box.

Visit the Dell Tech Zone for more advice on family computing.