There is a lot of hype about “the Internet” and it seems to have created an image that makes it sound much more daunting than it is.
Yes, there are security issues and, yes, viruses can be a problem. In our opinion, however, neither of these issues are as big as they are made out to be for the home user provided sensible precautions are taken.
When we set up a computer for a client, we prefer to "partition" the hard drive (HDD). This divides the HDD into separate sections which improves management and security as well as improving performance. Typically, for example, partition C is reserved for the System, D for Data/personal files and E for Downloads.
Once all the software is installed, we create an image of the system (partition C) so that, in the event of a major system problem, the original system installation can be recovered fairly quickly, and a lot quicker than re-installing everything from scratch. This adds slightly to the initial cost but the cost is easily recouped if a problem occurs. In our experience, it is not unusual for systems to develop problems over time!
We also insist on installing anti-virus protection and ensuring that it is up to date before the computer is handed over to the client. The choice of anti-virus software is at the client's discretion, but we do point out that there are free alternatives to the more heavily marketed and better known brands. Especially if a static IP address is involved or 'always on' broadband, we recommend the use of a firewall - noting, however, that since Service Pack 2 Windows XP now has its own firewall as an integral part of the system. Some of the anti-virus options, and other useful software (mostly free!) can be viewed here.
As standard practice, we also install the current versions of Acrobat Reader and WinZip, both commonly used compression tools for downloading and transferring files on the Internet.
We cannot emphasise enough, however, the importance of keeping your anti-virus protection up to date.
Here is information on threats that you may find useful: