I have to say, however, that if you put the security arguments to one side for the moment, IE is definitely more polished and more user-friendly --- and that's why I continue to use it. Popular plugins work straight away without having to manually copy files to another folder -- one particular plugin isn't supported at all in Firefox. As for Opera, it's okay but it's page rendering can sometimes look very crude.
Depending on your definition of 'polished', I much prefer Firefox's sleek, clutter-free layout to IE's much clunkier, dated look. IE also frequently crashed on my previous computer (at least once or twice every few weeks) - something which has never happened to me in the few months I've been using Firefox. As for user-friendly...personally, I think that both browsers are on par with each other here. Both are easy to configure and work with, and are equally suited for the average home user. Opera, on the other hand, comes with so many options and features, it can be rather mind-boggling for a first-time user. Then again, given its many functions and tools, I suppose that's only to be expected.
As for plug-ins, I've never had any issues with that before, mostly because the websites I visit generally use basic HTML in their scripting, with no fancy-wancy flash movies, introductions, graphics, games and the like. However, for visiting of websites that offer flashy graphics and enhancements, IE is definitely the way to go. *Nods* Save for the occasional one or two times, I've hardly ever had any problems trying to load a website on IE. Firefox has zilch loading issues for me as well - at least, for the general circle of webpages I usually visit, which is good enough for me. LiveJournal's update feature isn't supported by Opera however, although most other websites work well enough.
Hmmm...does Opera sound like it is fighting a losing battle here? Not necessarily so - I would still pick Opera over other alternative browsers like K-Meleon and Avant any time, although right now I'm still sticking to Firefox as my standard choice.
I'm seriously thinking of switching to Firefox even though I know next to nothing about it. I'm currently using IE and I've had to re-format my pc more than 5x already because I kept getting hit with all sorts of malware. If I switch to Firefox, will I still be able to use/run the programs that I have right now or will I lose some in the process?
Err, what cleverboy12 said. IE isn't the root of your malware problems - lack of sufficient security precautions taken is. Switch to Firefox if you like, but first and foremost - get yourself a decent anti-virus program (AVG Free Edition works great for most), firewall (ZoneAlarm, Sygate, and Kerio are all excellent, and all offer free versions of their firewall products), and anti-malware software (Ad-Aware, Spybot, MS AntiSpyware...), and once you've done that, you'll find that your need for constant reformatting will be greatly reduced, switch or no switch.