I know, shed a tear for me. I'm such a martyr.
However, there are four simple things I could have done (and now do) to protect my data and computer. Most of them are free. One of them is pretty cheap. I now pass this information on to you, so you can avoid my own terrible tragedies.
1. Microsoft Security Essentials
There are many virus programs out there, but many of them are pricey and many more are invasive, making it difficult to run some programs (I'm looking at you, Norton). Security Essentials is a very basic virus program, it's free, and it runs when you want it to run. And it doesn't prevent you from running anything else. If you've got Windows, it's a pretty foundational security system.
2. Malware Bytes
Not every program gets every virus. And not every invasive software is labeled a "virus". Sometimes it's called an "advertisement". Sometimes it's known as "oops, I got on the wrong site". When a foundational program like Security Essentials is blocked, often Malware Bytes can still help you. It finds more than just viruses, and gets you out of the wrong site syndrome.
3. Web of Trust
Perhaps you're thinking, "If only there was a way to know which websites were bad to get on in the first place." Well, there is! Web of Trust is a cloud source to find out which pages and sites were found to contain malware or viruses. WoT is easy to run-- you just watch the circle at your toolbar or next to each link on every page. If it's red, don't go there. If it's green, it's safe. If it's yellow, you make your own wary choice. Simple.
4. Revo Uninstaller
Suppose you downloaded a program and it won't uninstall all the way. Or a program that leaves pieces for you to discover later. Or a program already installed on your computer that you can't get off, even with their own uninstall program (Yes, I'm still looking at you, Norton). Revo Uninstaller is your solution. You select the program and it will look for every piece of the program, wherever it is hiding and then politely ask your permission to throw every piece of the program into oblivion. It's very satisfying, really.
5. Online Backup
Sometimes we lose all our data, and we can't recover it. Physical backups are good, but if you're like me, you might forget to back up. Or you might get your back up stolen at the same time as your computer. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but it could happen. :'( The solution is an online backup that does it all for you without you having to worry about it. I recently (all too recently) signed up with Crash Plan, which allows me to have all my data backed up for $6/a month (or less if I sign up for a year or more at a time). I have found that this is necessary for me to keep my data secure, and not too much to spend compared to the years I have spend creating my data.
(Thanks to my computer guru-- my son-- for most of these tips)