As you know antivirus are pretty much essential if you are running Windows on your computer. Let just get something straight right away, if you want an excellent protection on your system, you have to pay for it. Luckily for those who don’t want to spend money on software, there are free solutions. They aren’t as good as the paid versions, but they will do the job reasonably well.
There are five major brands that provide free antivirus: Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, and Panda. Both Bitdefender and Panda free versions are “cloud based”, which means that it’s not your computer that does the protecting stuff, but a server on the web. They claim it is fast, light and secure, but how secure is it when your internet connection goes down and the server can’t reach your computer? This brands claim they will still be efficient by 90%, or 80%, or whatever. There is just no consensus on the efficiency of a cloud based antivirus on an offline computer. So let’s cross this two of the list. The real choices you should take in consideration are: Avast, AVG, and Avira.
The best way to make up your mind is to check on independent labs. What are independent labs? They are a bunch of people that test antivirus in a very professional way, and then sell the reports at high prices. Luckily there are a couple of sites that offer some reports for free: AVComparatives and AVTest. Forget about searching the web for opinions, if you really want to know the truth about an antivirus check this two websites. I’ve have been following their results for the past three years, while testing each product, so I’m ready to give you an opinion.
Avira is my favourite. It’s the best for virus detection, if Avira says a file is infected it’s because it’s really infected. It also stands out on blocking and cleaning. But nowadays virus are the least of your problems. Most of the infections come from the internet, and thrust me, there are a ton of things crawling the web ready to infect your machine. So one of the things you may need for browsing the internet safely, besides common sense, is a link scanner, and Avira’s link scanner is awful. It forces you to install an add-on on your browser and it gets constantly in the way. Oh, and did I say that Avira constantly bothers you with pop-ups trying to convince you to buy the paid version? Don’t get me wrong, you can still work around this problems, and if you have good informatics knowledge this is definitly your best option.
AVG it’s one of the oldest free antivirus and it’s still a pretty good choice. In the last months it received high scores from independent labs, reaching almost the level of top tier security products. But this Moravian antivirus has a big problem. In the last few years it gained a reputation for having a high level of false positives. What is a false positive? It’s when the antivirus makes a mistake by telling you a file is infected when it really isn’t. So it makes it hard to believe anything AVG tells you, specially if you have illegal software installed on your computer, which you really shouldn’t have.
That leave us with Avast. This antivirus is not the best at anything, but it’s good in everything it does. It has a good link scanner that works with all browsers without the need to install additional add-ons, it just runs silently on background. The antivirus is only reasonably good, but you can install additional security software, like MalwareBytes or ClamWin, without experiencing compatibility problems. Finally it has an Email Scanner that scans your emails for virus (dah!). If you check your emails on the website through a browser, you won’t need to install this feature. Email Scanning is only for people who use email programs like Thunderbird or Outlook Express. Avast is my recommendation for the common user. It’s light on resources, simple, fast, and all of its features run flawlessly right after you install it, without the need of additional configuration. Its interface is clean and pretty straight forward, it has a low false positive rate, and it does not annoy you with pop-up adds.
There is just one thing you need to be careful: when you install Avast chose “Custom Installation”, somewhere during the process you will be asked which features you want to install. There will be three columns, one for the major three features, other for optional features, and other for languages. Just keep it simple and make sure to uncheck all the optional features, because they will not bring you any real advantage, besides slowing down your computer I guess…
And that’s it. If you’re a computer newbie who doesn’t want to spend money on an antivirus, get Avast!