Spyware and Privacy
Awareness of spyware and adware grew very quickly several years ago, with a number of free programs rising to prominence. Indeed, so much an issue was it that Microsoft saw fit to include protection in Vista. Despite this, it's always worth having more than one program to rely upon.
Ad-aware by Lavasoft is probably the most well known of the anti-spyware programs, since it was the first beneficiary of the rise in awareness of such problems. In the free version there's support for manual scanning and quarantining of suspect objects, with a number of scanning modes including smart and full system scans. There's also the TrackSweep feature, which improves privacy by removing the traces left by your web surfing.
Another historic favourite is the brilliantly named Spybot - Search and Destroy, which is renowned for being particularly fast. This is because it uses a slightly different system than the likes of Ad-Aware where, instead of searching the whole registry, S&D checks key places in the system where spyware has to be present to become active. This makes it a good accompaniment to other spyware software, which work in slightly different ways.
Finally, another program definitely worth considering is Spyware Blaster. This is a preventative program, where instead of searching for spyware it stops if from being installed in the first place. It doesn't catch everything, but it certainly helps thin the numbers significantly.
Another invaluable program is CCleaner. Unlike the other programs here, it can't be classed as a security application. However, if you want to keep your system running smoothly and without fault then this is one application you'll want.
The program rolls several functions into one, easy to use program. It cleans up all the detritus left behind by Windows and other applications, freeing up space on your hard drive. It also features a registry cleaner, removing the keys left behind by previously uninstalled programs. There's also a Startup manager, though it's only possible to delete the entries rather than disable them, which is slightly annoying. Despite this, it's a great little program that'll help keep your system running smoothly.
This is just a small selection of options. If you've got any favourites, why not come by the forums and let everyone know?