As you are probably aware, there is a lot of Windows malware that makes your PC load more slowly, have annoying popup windows or even steal your data and files.
Recently, I discovered a fantastic program that can help you get rid of all this. It is Sandboxie. Sandboxie allows you to run programs in a protected area of your computer (a sandbox), so they can’t write anywhere. Whatever they install or write is put in the sandbox, and you can delete it whenever you want.
If you run a piece of malware in the sandbox, it will install itself fine and start doing what it’s meant to do, but if you close the sandbox it will be closed too, and if you delete it, everything will be gone.
You can retrieve files from the sandbox by copying them to another location (just make sure they aren’t malicious), and you can even specify directories to which the programs won’t have access (e.g. where you store your sensitive documents). You can even specify that you don’t want programs in a certain sandbox accessing the internet at all.
This is much lighter and faster than running an entire virtual machine, as Sandboxie intercepts the calls to the operating system and replaces them with its own code, but it’s also less secure, because people might find a way around it. Even so, it will protect you from a good 99% of everything you open.
I use it mainly to install incompatible versions of libraries (python et al) next to each other, and it works great. It costs 22 euros to buy, but it’s very worth the money. By the way, I am not affiliated with Sandboxie or its creator in any way, I just found it a very nice piece of software. Start using it and save yourself a lot of headaches in the long run.