There are plenty of free security tools out there, but few include technical support, and many of them bug you with ads and nag screens.
Those are just two of the reasons to spend a few bucks on a pro-level antivirus solution. Of course, why spend a few bucks when you don't have to? Until tomorrow, you can get Panda Cloud Antivirus Pro 1.3 absolutely free. Regular price: $29.95.
As with most paid AV programs, that price is for a one-year license--and so is this freebie. Next year at this time, you can decide if you want to pony up for another year, or just stick with the feature-reduced (but still very effective) free version.
Cloud Antivirus Pro promises protection from viruses, spyware, and rootkits. It can disable Autorun to help protect you from viruses that propagate via flash drives, and the Pro version includes "automatic USB vaccination" to keep you from getting or spreading that kind of malware. (Interestingly, I just had such an encounter with an infected flash drive.)
Also included with the Pro version: 24-7 multilingual tech support. For anyone who wouldn't have a clue what to do in the event of a virus infestation, that could prove mighty helpful.
You can read more about Panda Cloud Antivirus over at CNET's Download Blog. As noted there, "during the registration process, the checkout cart will state at some point, 'Your card hasn't been charged yet.' This is apparently a cart template and does not affect users who are taking part in the license key giveaway." So don't freak out.
I continue to rely on Microsoft Security Essentials for malware protection, but just the other day I had to rescue my parents' laptop from an infection that MSE missed. Maybe a pro-level tool like Cloud Antivirus would have done a better job.
Bonus deal: Just in time for Halloween, Steam has a deal for fans of zombie-whompin': Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 (PC) for just $14.99. These games are crazy-fun, and if you like getting scared, turn the lights down when you play them.