Linux can replace Windows for nearly any task (there are exceptions), but it takes a lot of effort and you have to have patience with yourself and the software. Remember that OSS is a different world than commercial stuff. Not everyone has the wherewithal to fully migrate. Despite what many users on this and other forums say, XP is a good OS and Bill Gates is not a nazi. If you are pleased with it, don't fix what isn't broken. For the spyware/virus/worms/etc. issue, here are a few tips that I use to keep my XP installs clean:
You can't remove IE, but you don't have to use it. Zap the shortcuts to it from your desktop and quicklaunch, then install firefox (http://www.getfirefox.com)
. You can also try Mozilla or Opera and see if you like them. Firefox just happens to be my fav.
Save your money and don't futz around with the likes of McAffee or Norton for your anti-virus. Those clowns want too much money! $$$ for the software, then $$$ for a subscription to definitions every other week, then more $$$ for a new version of the software when they stop supporting it! They don't even work that well. AVG is free, but impotent (yes, impotent). Get anti-vir (http://www.free-av.com)
. The software is free for personal use, and definition updates are free (and there are new ones almost daily).
See if you can finagle your way into a copy of pest patrol. It isn't free (or even cheap), but it is one of the better spyware blocker/removers. Also get Ad-aware (http://www.lavasoft.nu)
, spybot, and "hijack this!" if you have issues with browser hijacks, but be aware that HT can be a double-edged sword. Spy Sweeper works pretty good, but can be buggy at times and is a little too intrusive for me.
Use a webmail service or some client other than Outlook Express. I like thunderbird, but it wouldn't hurt to give Eudora a look (or one of the zillions of others listed at cnet and tucows).
Use XP's software firewall. It isn't real effective, but it is better than nothing. If you are on cable or dsl, DO NOT just connect your pc to the modem. Get a NAT box with a firewall (they call themselves routers, but in the strictest sense of the word they most certainly are not). Linksys, D-link, and Netgear boxes sold for cheap at walmart will do fine.
Remember, Linux isn't meant to be a replacement for windows. It is an alternative, and it has some maturing to do before it grabs a substantial share of the desktop market. Since the primary objective of OSS isn't market share or profit, that day may never come. So go with what you know if it makes you happy.