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Firewall helps protect your computer from hackers. If you've been having troubles with your Firewall, don't turn it off, rather, go into security options and make sure that it knows when to make exceptions. A Firewall can block important downloads and slow down online gaming and so on, but without the Firewall, you're going naked against hackers.
Still don't have an Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware? Install one right away!
Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware software work based on a database of known malware. In order to keep your data safe, you need to keep that database up to date. That being said, be careful that you only go with known, reliable security software. There are a lot of programs out there that claim to be anti-viral software but are in fact Trojans and malware designed to create pop-ups and crash your computer under the guise of protecting you.
Still using Windows 98? That may be why your computer is acting funny. By keeping your operating system up to date, you can deal with two problems. First of all, you'll find that your anti-virus software is more compatible when you keep your OS updated. This means that you won't be experiencing system crashes and errors whenever the software tries to update. Secondly, you can more easily tell the difference between a real virus or hacking attempt, versus the issue of just plain having an outdated operating system that acts slow, isn't compatible with your software, and makes it hard to get work done on your laptop or PC.
Don't just download everything that comes your way in your email. Make sure that you know what it is, and that you scan it for viruses before right clicking and saving target as.
When your computer is always on, and always online, it's always open to an attack. Turn your computer off when you go to sleep or leave for work (or home, if it's your work computer), and you'll not only stay safe, you'll save electricity.