I've said it before. I'm cheap. I like to get stuff for as little as possible, or even free. However, I've learned that with computers and the Internet, free can cost a lot. In many cases it didn't used to be that way. Life in the PC world was simpler and safer. But it just isn't that way now. Here are three examples: Antivirus: AVG Free was great for a lot of years. I used it. Microsoft Security Essentials provided good, basic protection. Both are still free, but both may cost you - in two ways. First, with free products comes reduced protection. They just aren't as good as paid protection, such as Norton. Probably eight out of 10 computers that have viruses also have free antivirus. The second way they cost you is in the "hassle factor." You'll find the need to upgrade them more often. They can bombard you with advertising. And they may fool you into installing a trial version of their paid products which you'll have to uninstall or roll back to free later. Optimizers, toolbars, weather and other programs: These are often designed to bring ads to your computer - lots of them. They can also keep track of your web browsing and such. Free optimizers often claim to find problems with your computer and make mountains out of molehills. Why? In order to sell you their paid products. They also probably will slow down your computer or cause other problems. The kid next door, your grandson or (you fill in the blank): While well meaning, these folks can often do more damage than good. They may be good for helping with simple things or showing you how to do something. However, you should think twice about having them clean a virus or other more complicated tasks. I may be able to add oil to my car, change the wiper blades or check fluids, but I take it to a mechanic for more complicated maintenance or repair. Sure, there is some good free stuff out there. But can you sort the good from the bad?