No one likes to end up with a computer that is so infected with viruses and spyware that the only option seems to format it and start over again.  Keeping your computer safe from infections is actually not too difficult.  Here are some tips on how to avoid problems:

Stick to websites that you are sure are legitimate sites.  Do not visit websites that look like they were quickly thrown up, or have a lot of pop ups on their pages.

Do not download anything that you are not absolutely certain that you do not want to download.  If you are on a page and a box pops up randomly asking you to download something (even if it says it is a virus scan), do not do it.  If you allow an unfamiliar item to download, you greatly increase the likelihood you have just infected your computer.

Do not open unfamiliar email attachments.  Even if the attachment is from a trusted friend, it is possible their contact list was hijacked and used to send out spam email.  Only open an attachment if you are certain it contains legitimate information.

Do not click on unfamiliar links in emails.  There are lots of people out there trying to impersonate real websites, such as banks, PayPal, the IRS, etc.  Legitimate companies do not send you emails asking you to click on a link to update your account information.  If you receive an email that looks like it could be the real deal, go directly to the company’s website and log in to your account to check it out instead of clicking on a link from your email.

Keep in mind nothing is really free.  Those “free” music/poker/porn/games websites make their money by throwing up advertisements and sometimes that involves putting spyware on your computer.  Avoid these types of sites.

Run antivirus software.  Antivirus software does not catch everything, but it is still better to have it catch some problems than none at all. Curious how to pick an antivirus software?