Less is More!
Less running or installed on your computer is more secure. With less running on your computer there are fewer attack vectors (http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,290660,sid14_gci1005812,00.html).
To make sure we are all on the same page consider that everything that us running on a computer is a potential weak point where the system can be compromised. Unnecessary or occasionally used programs should not be set to start when your computer starts or you log into the computer. Sun Java is a good example here Java does not start until it is needed.
Some Things are *Not* Optional
This is not to say that there are some thing s that should be running as they specifically add security. Three that come to mind are personal firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware. Honestly the line between the last two has been blurring and we should have "anti-malware." Aside from the fact that there is no marketing value in malware and no one would buy it...
In keeping with the theme that more is less I won't do a deep dive on removing excess programs right now, but will look up some good references and post them in another blog entry.
Stay tuned for the next "Cup of Hot Cocoa" episode where I discuss patch warfare.