For Firefox I recommend simply installing using the default method and then adding the adblock extension, which...
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stops probably 95 to 99% of the pop-ups I would normally get. For Internet Explorer I recommend moving to Windows XP if you haven't already and applying Service Pack 2. I also use the Google toolbar to block pop-ups. Like Firefox, these two steps prevent probably 95 to 99% of the pop-ups I would normally get. There are 3rd party pop-up blockers, many of which charge for their services, but since I've been satisfied with the above, I haven't really looked into them.
Spyware is a bit trickier. I think the first step to preventing spyware is to control the allocation of cookies in your Web browser and be careful when you browse. In many cases I've found that the sites that attempt to install spyware are sites I probably shouldn't be on (certainly not at work) in the first place. You should also implement a 3rd party firewall product that can prevent spyware (the default Windows Firewall is not capable of this). I recommend the following:
- ZoneAlarm Security Suite
- ISS Proventia Desktop or BlackICE PC Protection
- McAfee Desktop Firewall
- Norton Personal Firewall
Finally, Microsoft has placed into beta a Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware application. You can find details about it at http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx.
Additionally, they have produced a nice "Spyware Prevention FAQ" located at http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/spywareprevent.mspx.
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