Most people sleep better at night knowing their PC is well equipped to thwart oncoming malware attacks. Out of paranoia some actually install multiple antivirus programs -- even though that's overly counterproductive. Indeed, with everything that you do on your computer and the information that resides on it, the safety of your sensitive data should be top priority. That said, with a little experience you can traverse the Web in peace with minimal security in place.

Many readers will probably say "no thanks" and slip out the back door, which is totally understandable. I will tell you flat out that most people are better off with some form of antivirus watching over their shoulder. But regardless of whether or not you keep one on guard, having safe browsing habits is essential to keeping your computer malware-free.

To elaborate on that briefly, "safe browsing habits" means that those who spend their days on shady porn and warez sites need not apply. Recognizing the nefarious from innocuous is your greatest line of defense. With that disclaimer out of the way, today I'm going to share some essential guidelines I follow and a few tools to stay safe without an antivirus actively guarding my system.

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