“Which antivirus?” the age old question! But somehow the answer beats every time. New software and updated versions are released frequently which makes it even harder to find the right product. The threat of all kinds of infectious programs (virus, trojan, worm, spyware, and adware) somehow clinging on to your device while you are surfing on the web is the nightmare of every user. Those of us who have lived with a virus-infected computer know that there are few pains that are felt as acutely as living with a bug-ridden PC that likes to think before it gets to work. In order to help you with answering the riddle of “which antivirus”, I am enlisting the Top 7 in the market. I shall be focusing more on the free software as these are the preferred choice of most home users with a brief review of top professional antivirus programs in the end.
Antivirus software are evaluated on three grounds generally, the ability to detect security threats, ability to block them and tendency to label normal files as viruses (detecting ‘false positives’). Here are some of the good Antivirus programs that are widely used today:
Avira Antivirus is one of the frequently used software in PCs currently.
Pros: According to most reviews it ranks among (2nd according to AV comparatives) the top antivirus programs in detection of new viruses, fifth among least false positive detection rates, and top in efficiency of removing security threats. Avira is available without cost for non-commercial use only, it has to be bought for commercial use and predictably, it keeps encouraging PC users to upgrade to full paid-version.
Cons: Avira isn’t the best at speed of scanning. It is also not so efficient at detecting rookits (malware designed to that take over administrative control in Windows and cause antivirus programs and other essential processes to malfunction).
Avast has not been on the market as long as Avira has been but it has progressed pretty rapidly and easily ranks among the top software of its kind.
Pros: It is ranked among second best in false positive detection, gets advanced plus rating in file detection (according to AV comparatives Oct 2012) and top ratings in malware removal. Some laurels in its hat include boot-time scan which will detect viruses before they have had the chance to get activated, it can also test files by putting them in a ‘sandbox’ where it monitors new files to see how they behave and thus detects first-time viruses, pretty cool, huh? It also automatically rates the safety of websites by reputation.
Cons: Avast! is also the program that I use personally and it has never given me any trouble so far. However I find its repetitive vocal declaration of ‘Avast database has been updated’ a bit annoying, but you can turn it off from Settings. Boot-time scanning is of premium utility but may lead to long boot-times or hang-ups in computers with old hardware, but lets face it, we are lucky to have a boot-time scan anyway.
3. AVG Antivirus Free
AVG Free Antivirus is not doing too well in the independent comparisons but has still succeeded in maintaining a slot in Top 5 free antivirus programs.
Pros: Its file detection ranks 10th according to AV Comparatives Oct 2012, ranks poorly in false positive tests, but it is quite efficient at removing and blocking threats. It has a separate rootkit scan utility. Its malware detection and removal is particularly efficient, comparable to that of Malwarebyte AntiMalware Free. It also offers protection against exploits (small programs that are designed to cause unwanted changes in a computer, usually acquired through fishy internet sites) which is not a usual feature in free Antivirus programs.
Cons: On the downside AVG is not very good at Phishing-site detection, programs that try to acquire your personal information like credit card details through scams, as it claims and not as efficient at blocking malware as it is at removing them.
4. Panda Cloud Antivirus Free
As the name indicates it is a cloud-based program which means that its main bulk of storage and functioning is online.
Pros: Panda Cloud only functions fully when the system is connected to web but again since all viruses these days are brought to your computer through the Worldwide Web, this isn’t a drawback. Good thing about Panda cloud is that since its mainstay of execution is online so it takes very little space on your hard drive as well as on the processor while running (which has been a significant issue with top ranging antivirus programs in the past). It has a lot of backup support available online which can be used to disinfect the system as well as up-to-date virus definitions. According to AV-comparatives it ranks 3rd in virus detection and is moderately efficient in differentiating between false-positives.
Cons: On the other hand, it is not good at picking new phishing sites. It uses a lot of backup support from internet thus the cleanup process may become very slow with a slow internet connection.
It is the official antivirus provided by Microsoft, is available for free but has to be downloaded and installed, doesn’t come bundled up with Windows.
Pros: It is lightweight, straight-forward and simple enough to be used by non-techie computer users. AV-Comparatives ranks it 13th among the tested antivirus programs as far as file detection rate is concerned but its false positive differentiation is very good, hardly marks any uninfected file as a culprit.
Cons: What is not so good about Microsoft Security Essentials is its pretty slow speed of system scan and cleanup. It may be good choice to keep an uninfected system safe but not one’s top pick to clean an infected system.
6. McAfee Antivirus Plus 2012
Once a very popular program for protecting your system, it has now fallen out of favor for various reasons. Has no free version, weighs down on system’s resources and speed too much, and doesn’t do too well on independent tests of detection and removal. Still it does a decent job of being an antivirus and is frequently part of many systems.
Norton Antivirus 2012
Considered to be one of the best security suites that money can buy, interesting and attractive interface, effective in both detecting and blocking suspicious files, has many other features like parental-lock etc, but it is not free.