Black Friday is almost upon us, and the steep hardware discounts mean new computers for many. To help you during these tough economic times, we've refreshed the Security Starter Kit for 2010. Although nothing can replace common-sense browsing, this collection of freeware security tools will help you protect new machines and old from pernicious threats, large and small. Longtime readers will notice that in addition to changing up our recommended antivirus program, we've fleshed out the Web browsing safety category, and made other changes as well. If you're looking for more than freeware security programs, check out the CNET Windows Starter Kit for 2010.

In this year's version, you can expect to see Avast chosen ahead of AntiVir as our most favored antivirus app. Despite its odd interface, Avast scored higher than any other freeware antivirus in a third-party test, and it doesn't skimp on protection, either, with e-mail, network, rootkit, and behavioral guards along with its top-rated virus protections.

We're still recommending Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for spyware removal, but we've also added PC Tools' standalone ThreatFire as an excellent way to strengthen behavioral detections and prevent spyware from infecting you in the first place. Recent improvements to the program have made it incredibly light on resources, and in our days of empirical testing we didn't notice it slowing down our computers at all.

New this year is the expanded in-browser security category. We've recommended five browsing tools that are available as add-ons, and we took care to make sure that they applied to as many of the major browsers as possible. However, Firefox's deep add-on toolbox makes it naturally the browser with the most diverse collection of security tools, so expect to see it heavily, although not exclusively, represented.

PC Tools' ThreatFire. (Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Firewalls used to be the forefront of security, but now they're just another tool you should have. Microsoft has made the native Windows 7 firewall impressively useful, but we realize that not everybody has Windows 7, and even those who do might want an alternative. This year, Online Armor joins Comodo on the list.

In Encryption, TrueCrypt remains the gold standard. The Thunderbird extension Enigmail joins it as a must-have tool for keeping your private e-mails as you intended them--away from prying eyes. In Parental Control, we've added OnlineFamily.Norton. It's not strictly desktop based, although to use it you must use its desktop hook, called Norton Safety Minder. Symantec has created what looks to be a unique and free approach that includes an emphasis on parental education and attempts to foster parent-child communication about how to use the Internet safely. We're of the opinion that anything that helps parents realize that browsing the Internet is far more than a TV with options is a good thing.

If you disagree with our security and safety choices for the Security Starter Kit, please let us know in the comments below.