Although it isn’t possible to fully protect your computer from a huge array of viral, spyware, and other malware threats, a good anti-virus application goes a long way to securing your PC. Now that most computers are permanently connected to the internet, it is more important than ever to ensure you have an up-to-date and reliable anti-virus package on your computer. Some people still don’t have any installed, thinking that because they are careful what they download, they will be safe. Others don’t like the thought of losing even the slightest amount of performance from their PC. However, the importance of getting a good virus scanner cannot be underestimated – and this lesson is often only learned after a virus infection.
Fortunately, there are plenty of good anti-virus packages in existence. This article focuses on the free versions, which you can download and install instantly (however, free may only be for “home use”). There are many different AV packages, but they are not all created equally. Only ones that can be recommended as doing a good job will be listed here. AV-Comparatives is a good resource for comparing current levels of effectiveness for each product.
Anti-Vir Personal Edition from Avira, has grown in stature over the past few years – to the extent that this would be our personal favourite from this list at this moment in time. Anti-Vir is relatively lightweight and quick to update, which are important points to consider for any power user – and the resource usage is minimal in comparison to many other products. As the detection rate is also extremely good, this seems like an ideal product for AV protection. Manual and background scanning are fast and the program options are very configurable. However, there are some drawbacks... as although core virus/rootkit scanning is provided – e-mails aren’t scanned as they arrive. Other AV solutions often provide a free e-mail scanner, alerting you to the fact that an e-mail may contain a viral attachment before you even open it. Avira Anti-Vir doesn’t do this, but it will alert you to the virus if you attempt to open the attachment. This does have the same overall effect, however it is nice to have real-time e-mail scanning. On balance, this product is excellent for experienced computer users as it provides a high level of protection with a lightweight resource footprint.
Download Avira Anti-Vir from : http://www.free-av.com/
AVG Anti Virus
AVG is one of the more widely known free anti-viruses, and probably the most popular. AVG free edition is a brilliant choice for beginners, as it is so easy to use. Almost all areas of PC use are protected (including e-mail scanning), so it is relatively easy to install AVG and let your PC take care of itself (assuming you allow AVG to update automatically on a regular basis). The detection rates are good, and among the top of the free AV applications. Drawbacks are that there is no technical support provided (which is fair, considering this is after all free!) and that software footprint is heavier than other AV software. Experienced users may be frustrated with the heavy resource levels (especially evident with real-time scanning), but novice internet/word users would benefit from the ease of use. Choosing this AV package is a choice between ease of use and resource usage, but is a good option if you don’t crave maximum performance.
Download AVG Anti-Virus from : http://free.avg.com/
This anti-virus requires registration to obtain the free version, and provides detection rates comparable to AVG (slightly behind Avira in recent tests). It also provides e-mail, P2P and IM scanning, plus other more advanced features such as active webpage scanning. The interface is simple and easy to understand, creating a product placed between Avira and AVG in terms of the effectiveness/simplicity balance. If you use an older system (below Windows XP), then Avast is going to be the best choice – as older OSes are still supported, and the application is light enough to run on older hardware. You can even skin the interface if you wish, with some great free designs available.
Download Avast Anti-Virus from : http://www.avast.com/
Avast Anti-Virus Screenshot
Ultimately, the choice of anti-virus software depends on the balance of simplicity to use, detection effectiveness and the system resources consumed. Each of the 3 main AV solutions outlined in this article are good choices, however they will each be suited to a different type of user. More technical users will probably prefer AntiVir, for ease of use choose AVG and for a combination of the two try Avast.
There is no harm in trying them all, but do be sure to only have one installed at any particular time so they don’t interfere with each other. Anti-Virus protection isn’t the only system security software you should be using, anti-spyware and possibly additional firewall software are recommended for maximum coverage (which will be outlined in a follow up article).