Hi Kerberos, welcome to Wilders.
This is what is set up on my system currently with Windows XP Pro. They all play together nicely and are very simple to use, update and maintain:
1. Acronis True Image (paid product) Total system backup, and incremental backup to various media, including CD/DVD, additional Hard Drive etc. Use this when you have first installed a FRESH copy of windows and again when you have installed all your KNOWN stable programs, do this BEFORE you have transferred your data onto the system. Even better still, have your data on a different partition as well as a BACKUP Drive.
2. Nod32 Anti-virus (paid product) Anti-virus software.
3. Spyware Blaster (FREE) Spyware Prevention.
4. Spyware Guard (FREE) Real time scanner for Browser Hijack prevention.
5. Spybot Search and Destroy (FREE) Spyware removal and protection, with registry monitor. If running the above 2 programs, your system should remain fairly clean.
6. AdAware (FREE, paid PRO product available) Spyware removal. What Spybot Search and Destroy doesnt pick up, this will.
7. Security Patches (FREE):
8. Zone Alarm (FREE, paid PRO product available) Firewall with visual outgoing alerts.
9. Proxomitron (FREE) Proxy. This allows a program (local or remote) to sit between your web browser and the Internet at large, to monitor everything and change it if you want to.
10. Kye-U's filters (FREE) Rule Sets for Proxomitron giving greater protection against exploits.
11. Ewido (FREE, paid PRO product available) Anti-Trojan.
12. IE Spyad (FREE) Adds a long list of sites and domains associated with known advertisers, marketers, and crapware pushers to the Restricted sites zone of Internet Explorer.
13. Mozilla Firefox (FREE) Safer Web Browser - try some of the exploit tests in the "Polls" section here at http://www.wilderssecurity.com/index.php
it's scary stuff, enough to have most sensible people start looking for better solutions. The programs listed here should be enough to thwart the majority of these current exploits.
14. Mozilla Thunderbird (FREE) For email. I don't use it because I only have Hotmail.
15. Prevx (FREE, paid PRO product available) Host Intrusion Prevention.
16. Hosts File (FREE) Website Filter blocks garbage websites.
17. MJ Registry Watcher (FREE) Registry Monitoring.
18. Keymaker (FREE) Password Generator.
19. Replicator (FREE) Backup program.
20. Crap Cleaner (FREE) Deletes all Temp files and MRU (Most Recently Used).
21. Process Guard 3 (paid product) Locks down and protects all your programs at the lowest level in Windows.
22. Netgear FR328S ProSafe Firewall (paid product) Cable/ADSL Hardware firewall and Router with External Modem backup facility.
The above will give you a very tight system. Ultimately it comes down to safe practices, and it is always best to practice and think of safety, otherwise it will remind you and it wont hold back in doing so... it's a bit like gravity, very unforgiving...
You may also want to take a look here
for further discussion on security and how to make your system that much stronger and here
Hope this helps.
Let us know how you go