Viruses have become a part of owning a computer and going online with it. I can remember back in 1995 when I first was introduced to viruses through the University I attended in the Bay Area. I brought home a disk from school with a Word document on it and didn't realize a virus had tagged along from the schools network. When I put the disk into our family computer at home it didn't take long to figure out I'd brought home a computer virus. Needless to say my parents weren't happy and our computer was broken for a while until we could get the virus completely deleted from the hard drive. It wasted hours of our time and cost us a trip to the computer store to get it fixed. About 1 in 5 computer users reported having a virus of some kind on their PC's last year and the average cost is roughly $100 to handle it. The total estimated damage done by viruses last year was close to $3.5 billion. Amazingly enough there are still millions of computers that have no antivirus software installed on them to help protect the system from malicious software. Even if you only download and install a free antivirus piece of software like Alwil you are better off than with nothing at all.
Most of the recognized names in virus protection software like Trend Micro, McAfee, Check Point, and Symantec all have programs that cost money and require a renewal fee each year to be active and up to date on virus protection. You'll probably spend about $30/year to protect your computer from viruses, but trust us, that is money well spent given the hassle that surrounds your life when your computer doesn't work anymore. It does seem that in the last few years the amount of large scale viruses spreading around computers and the Internet has dwindled, but the overall threat is still there. It only takes that one time to infect your system if you open the wrong email or visit a webpage that installs a virus onto your system. Which antivirus programs are the best? In a recent study done by Consumer Reports (CR) they listed Check Point ZoneAlarm and Microsoft Windows Live OneCare as being the best at detecting viruses while PC World notes that BitDefender, McAfee, and Kaspersky Lab have superior detection capabilities. What we found is that most of the virus detection software programs do a pretty good job of finding viruses and removing them from your computer. With many of the programs costing roughly the same amount ($30 to $40), what should you look for in order to differentiate the one you buy from the others? You want antivirus software that is easy to use, one that has fast scan speeds, and featuers that are relevant to your computer use level. I use McAfee ViruScan Plus and I must agree with CR that the scan speeds can be atrociously slow. I try to setup the scan for a time of day that I don't need to use my computer since it only bogs it down. Companies like Trend Micro with Antivirus Plus and Kaspersky Labs offer virus protection software that scans quickly and are very easy to use. Some software also offers firewall protection like F-Secure of Alwil and others have Rootkit detection services like that from CheckPoint. One thing for all home computer users to consider is running multiple virus scan software programs at the same time to ensure the safest environment. Often paying for 1 program and using a free version as a backup works well. Some people complain that the antivirus software takes over too much of their daily routine while online or using email and this can be tiring if you are always being asked if you want to permit certain operations or allow certain downloads. Certain pieces of software are sometimes not compatible with others on your system and this can cause conflict and errors that are also a total hassle. All antivirus software that we could find is available on a trial basis first (30 days or so) which should give you a general idea of how well it fits with your system and other programs that are installed. No sense in spending $40 on Norton Antivirus if it locks up your computer or causes errors that you can't solve. You can find antivirus software programs in stores like Circuit City, but we suggest downloading them off the companies website online and then registering online with a credit card to get the "full" version installed properly. Once the software is on your computer, it will tell you when you need to download new versions or get updates online. The one thing I like about McAfee is how automated the whole process is, it's almost like I don't have to do anything to stay protected. If you are interested in reading more in depth reviews on each antivirus software program, go to CNET, PCMag.com, or ConsumerSearch.com. One last note, if you want to avoid the vast majority of viruses, you can always buy a Mac from Apple. Not that they don't have virus issues, but they are not nearly as prevalent as those found on PC's.
Best Antivirus Software:
Trend Micro AntiVirus plus AntiSpyware 2008 ($40) is the top rated virus protection program we could find and in almost all reviews it comes across in the top 2 or 3 selections. One big plus over the other antivirus programs is that Trend Micro also throws in their AntiSypware software as a bonus. AntiVirus Plus will safeguard your files from harms way. The security software does automatic scans and provides you with updates on the latest outbreaks that exist. You get complete protection from viruses, worms, spyware, and Trojan horse programs. Features include an email safety scan, protection against rootkits, and free email support. Another main reason Trend Micro scores so well in tests is that their software is less likely to cause system conflicts on your computer. Eventhough other antivirus programs rate better for detecting viruses, Trend Micro has the best overall reputation and their scan speeds of your system are faster than most. You can buy it at TrendMicro.com or in retail stores like Circuit City.
Free Antivirus Software:
You might think that free software for virus protection will not give you computer enough security, but that is not the case for the most part. Two antivirus programs considered reasonably good and that are free are Alwil Avast Home Edition and AOL Security Software from McAfee. You can find details about Alwil online at Avast.com - the antivirus software is free to download and CNET gave it a 5 Star rating and Consumer Reports says it's the "best free antivirus program". Detection good, not great, and it does a decent job of scan speed. We would recommend using it in conjunction with another paid program like Trend Micro as an insurance security program. As for AOL, if you have a registered screen name with them you can get FREE McAfee virus protection, spyware protection and firewall. Comcast Broadband users also get access to McAfee programs for free (that's what I do). If you go to AOL.com you will find a link to their "downloads" section which has information on the free McAfee Virus Protection software and Comcast.com has similar details on their high speed internet page.
Top Rated Antivirus Software Program:
Check Point Zone Alarm Antivirus performs better than almost all other programs in all surveys. Their detection capability is the best without giving you false alarms to things that are not malicious. Their antivirus software is $30 with a renewal fee of $20 a year. The scan speeds can be slow, but your protection is first rate. I used ZoneAlarm personal firewall for years and always thought the program was well done and easy to use. The Zone Alarm Antivirus software was so popular that Check Point software bought it a while back and gave it the added lift it needed. You can find it online at Zonealarm.com.
What about Norton Antivirus?:
The power of marketing has made Norton the most popular antivirus program on the market, but even though they sell more copies than any other antivirus software company, reviews are not that impressive for Norton. I switched over from Norton to McAfee about 2 years ago after my system just couldn't function with Norton installed. Each time Norton Antivirus tried to run their security software scans or updates my system essentially became useless. We read lots of the same complaints online from fellow PC users saying that Norton conflicts with their computer to a point that it renders things useless. Not one of the sources we found gave Norton a top score, let alone put it in their top 5 choices. Perhaps Symantec (the manufacturer) will solve these problems, but for now we say avoid this software program.