Choosing the Best Anti-Virus Program
With all of the potential dangers to your computer on the internet it is imperative to have a reliable anti-virus program installed on all of your computers, whether at home or at work. Most companies already make it a company standard to protect the business computers. If you don’t actively install one on your home PCs you are leaving yourself open to a myriad of problems including viruses, malware, spyware and much more.
Computer viruses can be really mild to major catastrophes that can cause the entire hard drive to be ruined. The money it costs to try and fix a virus once it’s already gotten a hold of your computer is very costly and even then, it may not work.
The best course of action is to prevent the viruses and other nuisances from getting to your computer in the first place. Preventative measures such as choosing and using the right anti-virus program can save tons of money as well as protect all of your important files, documents and pictures.
In this detailed review, we’re going to tell you all about the top rated anti-virus programs on the market and how to tell the good from the not so good. Each virus protection type that is available has their own set of pros and cons.
Learning what the pros and cons of each type are can make sorting through them much easier. You’ll be able to choose the one that will fit your needs and the needs of your computer with confidence that your computer is safe. We’ve listed the top rated anti-virus programs available for different needs you may have.
Bitdefender is the top rated choice among consumers in many top ten reviews that have been done. In fact they have been rated number one for three years now. It has a multitude of features that it offers and none of them compromise the performance of your computer in any way. Included in Bitdefender’s impressive feature list is:
- Incoming and Outgoing email protection so you never have to worry about what is in your email box.
- IM protection so even your instant messaging programs are protected
- Auto cleaning of any infected files
- Has the highest rating available from AV-Test: Advanced +
- Passed 12 out if 12 tests, obtaining the Virus Bulletin VB100 certification
- Quarantines viruses and problem files when needed
- Scans even the compressed formats
- Includes a bootable rescue CD in the event you can’t access the start up menu
- Can be used with Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista and even XP
- Registry start-up protection
- On-demand vulnerability scanner that is enhanced for maximum protection
- Includes movie, work and gaming modes with no interference to computer performance at all
- Includes the following types of protection:
- Browser exploit
- Offers a separate anti-virus for Mac users
With Bitdefender as your anti-virus program, you can be confident that your computer is safe from getting attacked regardless of what you’re doing. Surf the internet, play games, send instant messages, read your email, use your USB drives and plug in devices, and interact on social media without worry.
Bitdefender runs silently in the background without slowing down your computer or affecting the work you need to get done. With three basic levels of protection: Antivirus Plus, Internet Security and Total Security plus a host of additional (purchased separately) services that you can choose, your computer will be protected from anything you can imagine that would try and attack it or slow it down and affect performance.
There are a few drawbacks to Bitdefender. Consumers have limited password management, the default settings for the firewall leaves out some protections that you will want to have running, if your system is already infected with malware it can be difficult to install and there is an increase in boot and shutdown times.
Those drawbacks are very small compared to the benefits the Bitdefender offers its users, which include being rated the best anti-virus software for gamers and also for cleaning a computer that is already infected with a virus.
One of the things Kaspersky is known for is its exceptional customer service. With email, chat, forums, and telephone options for customers to contact them, they are available for anything you need in the best and most convenient way for you to contact them. Their A+ rating with the BBB further backs up their excellent customer focused mentality. While some of the competitors charge for customer support, Kaspersky doesn’t.
Why is customer service so important? Well, since viruses are constantly changing and evolving, you need to have the support there at the ready if you run into issues with something that comes across the scans. In 2014, Kaspersky was awarded Best Virus Removal Tool from AV-Test. In 2013, they also got the Innovation Award from AV-Test. Some of the features that Kaspersky offers its consumers include:
- Controls, analyzes and restricts the actions and behaviors of applications, preventing exploitation of any vulnerabilities your system may have
- Prevents excessive battery drain when the computer is running on battery power only by reducing the usage of resources.
- Allows for the rollback of any malicious actions that occur and detects dangerous behavior that can hurt your computer with the System Watcher feature.
- Can stop 100% of any undiscovered attacks as shown by an AV-Test in 2014.
- Offers a 30 day free trial for consumers to try before they buy
Kaspersky works in the background without affecting the performance of your computer…install and forget all about it while not giving up one ounce of safety. With a full line of anti-virus tools, you will rest way, knowing you have great anti-virus protection and have access to exceptional customer service if you need it. Comes in a Mac version AND a PC version.
A few drawbacks to Kaspersky include a low detection rate when compared to companies like Bitdefender, and slow virus scan speed. While it doesn’t slow down your computer, it DOES run the scan slowly which can be a nuisance to some users.
Another well known and excellent anti-virus company is Avast. In addition to their Pro version, Avast is one of the rare companies that provides free anti-virus for the consumers that really work. Of course they want you to like it so much that you upgrade to the Pro version which has tons of additional features and protections.
But unlike their competitors, they don’t have a low quality, substandard free version. Their free version doesn’t have all of the additional features, but it DOES protect your computer just like the Pro version does. For this reason, many people choose to upgrade due to that superior quality.
You won’t experience any performance lags or issues, whether using Pro or the free version. If you opt for Avast Pro, you will get everything you could ever want to protect your computer system with and it will run silently in the background without affecting the run time of your computer regardless of the OS you use.
They also offer a free MAC version as well that includes such features as file system protection, infected website protection, drag and drop file scanning and email protection as well as other beneficial features.
Avast is so confident in the quality of their software, they offer a 60 day free trial so you can test drive it before you purchase the Pro version. Some of the features you will have access to in the Pro version include:
- Registry startup protection
- WebRep which scans links and gives you color-coded ratings on those sites for security purposes
- 30 day money back guarantee after the 60 day free trial
- SafeZone which gives you peace of mind for secure and sensitive transactions like banking
- AutoSandbox which allows any untrusted programs to run while thoroughly protecting your computer
- Controls for the 2014 interface that are touch compatible
- 25 years experience in the anti-virus, computer protection field for added peace of mind
- Virus database updates that are streaming in real time so you are always aware of the latest and most recent threats.
Some of the less popular issues that come along with Avast is that they use pop up ads that will come up, trying to sell you more Avast products. They tend to be a bit pushy when it comes to trying to get their free customers to upgrade to a paid membership. If you think that Avast is the anti-virus for you, give them a test run and see what you think. Over 200 million users say it’s excellent!
AVG is another well known brand that offers a free version but it is not as high of quality as the paid version or the free version of Avast. There are over 187 million users using AVG, making it an option that many use, especially when they can’t afford higher quality software to protect their computer systems.
Some of the features you will receive when you use AVG anti-virus protection include:
- 100% money back guarantee
- 24/7 customer support if you ever need assistance with anything
- Try them out for free before you purchase
- Checks your links before you click on them for maximum protection
- Multi-layered technologies give you confidence while you are on the internet
- Protects you from any harmful downloads with Online Shield.
- Encrypts and protects all your private files with password protection
- Have an Android? AVG has mobile protection for android users that is free
A few of the deterrents to AVG IS the less than stellar virus detection ability the free software has. Many times users have also discovered that once AVG is installed, it will affect their computer. It is also slow to get updates on the current viruses so it can update the anti-virus programs and scans a well.
Avira may not be as well known as some of the other anti-virus programs mentioned but it is still an excellent anti0virus program that offers trustworthy service you can rely on. The different offerings of anti-virus tools that Avira has have all performed well in lab tests.
There is a free MAC version that also provides an award winning malware detector. Between the anti-virus protection and the malware, your MAC will be clean and virus free. Some of the great features that come with Avira anti-virus protection include:
- An easy to use, simple interface
- Fast scans
- Can monitor your child’s social media interactions
- Can be set to prevent notifications during gaming sessions
- Was a strong performer in independent lab tests
- Was rated as stopping 100% of undiscovered attacks for the AV-Test 2014
There are a few things that Avira users have discovered that are not optimum such as the slower boot time the anti-virus seems to cause and that it can take awhile to update. In addition, it seems to have persistent reboot prompts which can be annoying as well.
An all-in-one anti-virus program is well known by most that have ever looked at anti-virus programs at all is McAfee. On some computers, users may find that having McAfee makes them sluggish. There are a lot of things about McAfee that make it a popular choice for many.
In 2011 it won the lowest number of False Positives from AV-Comparatives. They offer paid versions for both PCs and Macs and run sales from time to time. What are some other features that users will get to enjoy?
- Anti-bot protection
- Try it for free for 30 days
- Has two way firewall protection
- Offers users a 30 day money back guarantee
- Provides customers with free tech support should they ever need anything
- Can be relied on to stop 100% of undiscovered attacks, as tested in the AV-Test 2014.
A few of the things that customers aren’t too fond of include draining system resources when running scans, any updates that the system does always requires a system restart, which can be an inconvenience, if the computer is already infected, it is not that great at getting it cleaned back up and another product may have to be used instead.
Another highly popular name in anti-virus protection, you may have encountered Norton as a free offering when you purchase a new computer. With over 175 million users, one of the biggest focuses of Norton is having excellent customer service for their users. They offer both a Mac version and a version for PCs as well.
Some of the many features that you will enjoy as a Norton customer include:
- Free 24-7 technical support
- Constant updates so you are always kept abreast of the latest virus threats
- They offer many different anti-virus services for their users
- Norton was chosen by PC Mag as the Editor’s Choice 7 times
- Norton stops 100% of undiscovered attacks – AV-Test 2014
There is not much bad to say about Norton. Some customers feel that customer support could be improved and if you require better anti-phishing protection you will need to upgrade to the Norton Internet Security. Otherwise, customers are generally pleased with the protection they receive from this well known anti-virus company.
Another name in anti-virus software that may or may not be known to you is Trend Micro. This company is a recognized authority in providing cloud security. They offer a Mac version as well as a PC version by the year.
With their attention to the Post-PC era, you will get support in the physical, virtual and cloud worlds. There are several features users of Trend Micro will benefit from:
- High performance in competitive tests
- Threat intelligence that keeps you updated to the latest real time threats
- Try it out for free for 30 days before you buy
- Protection is cloud based
- Has the best phishing detection rates of most , if not at of the antivirus software
- The company has been around for over 25 years
- Offers customers a 30 day money back guarantee in case you are not satisfied
- Will stop 100% of undiscovered attacks, AV-Test 2014
A few of the things that customers don’t like about Trend Micro include having slow boot times, can be difficult to get installed if the computer you are installing it on is already infected, it will not provide you with a bootable rescue CD and sometimes it can mark a valid program as a malicious one.
Now this may not be as popular a name as one of the others above that you HAVE heard about, but even if you haven’t heard about this anti-virus software, you will want to pay attention. Bullguard is a very affordable option for those who want reliable and good control. It has many certifications that make it an excellent choice if you need to be money conscious but still want a great anti-virus program.
There are many features that a Bullguard user will be able to benefit from these include:
- Online support 24/7
- Is a very easy to use interface
- Provides 5 GB of online backup storage for your items, folders, files, etc.
- Excellent parental controls
- Rates well in all of the detection tests that have been performed
- Offers users a 15 day trial
- Has an anti-spam feature
- Offers multiple protection layers which catch more viruses than ever
- Has a game mode as well that works without having to disable that particular app.
A few things that customers have a hard time with are no telephone support is offered to any customer, spam filters can make NON spam items as spam, there is no Mac version offered at this time. Tech support is no problem so if you have trouble installing, don’t hesitate to call for help.
eScan is a great choice for those looking for a lighter and very affordable alternative to traditional anti-virus protection. It doesn’t offer full protection but it has many features that make it stand out as a good choice for those looking for something less intense. It is extremely affordable as well.
Some of the great features that users of eScan will receive include:
- The eScan toolkit that is great for getting rid of strong infections
- Real time protection that stays up to date
- Free technical support that is 24/7
- Uses very little memory
- Stops 100% of the undiscovered attacks, AV-Test 2014
- Is very easy to use
- Has above average detection rates of malware
- Blocks unauthorized applications with Endpoint Security
Some of the problems that can occur with eScan include having a slower browser when it is running, slows the email; download times, has below average ratings for malware removal and blocking and as mentioned above, does not offer full web protection like many others do.
One of the things that Zone Alarm is known for by users is the two way firewall which is not only one of a kind; it provides users with more security than any other system out there. All of the Fortune 100 companies use this firewall which makes it a great choice for business computer protection and personal computer protection.
With over 85 million users, there are many features that users benefit from including:
- Social media monitoring
- Free Online storage
- Parental controls
- Data encryption
- Identity protection services
- Spam protection
- Malware protection
- Phishing protection
- Credit rating damage protection
- Free download to see if users like the interface
- Winner of the PC Mag Editor’s Choice 11 times
- Offers users a 30 day money back guarantee if they are not happy
- Offers enhanced browser protection
- Offers real time anti-virus protection
As you can see, while the name may not be super well known, the features this affordable anti-virus offers is above many others with a better known name. You can protect three computers for the price of one.
There are a couple of things that customers could do without when it comes to Zone Alarm. These include the large memory that it needs to run the software which can slow down the computer speed, the interface may be a bit confusing for some users and there is no Mac version available.
5 Common Types of Viruses and Malware
You may wonder what anti-virus software actually protects your computer from. We’ve listed some of the common viruses and malware issues that may frequently try to attack your computer.
- Worms – This type of malicious program is set up to do some kind of damage or harm by either stealing bandwidth or creating backdoor security breaches that can be used. Sometimes they can delete files or send files through your email. Worms usually move very fast and the intent to spread to other computers through the internet.
- Trojan Horses – Sometimes these viruses are called Trojans and they can ruin a system if not caught and eliminated. Trojans are activated by downloading an infected program and then executing it. This can cause data loss, theft of data and can also harm the entire computer system. They never present as anything harmful which is why people download them unwittingly.
- Spyware – Spyware does exactly what its name suggests. It spies on users and gathers information about you secretly. This information is used to sell to others, but it gets much worse than this. Spyware can even be used to take over your computer in the more serious cases. It can collect banking information, addresses, personal information and anything else that it is designed to gather. Some types will even install software and can change your settings as well, taking days to straighten out.
- Rootkits – This sneaky malware is designed to hide from the usual ways malware is detected and can sometimes have access to a computer for days before it is caught without the proper anti-virus software. The purpose of the rootkit is to try and get access to the administrative access of your computer. Then it hides so you don’t know it’s there. Because of the ability is usually has to embed into the computer’s system deeply, it is very difficult to detect and remove.
- Ransomeware – this type of malware wants to prevent users from accessing their computer systems, prevent them from surfing the internet, accessing the hard drive and other problems. Then they will ask for payment to be made to the creators of the malware. You will notice this type of malware by the way it shows up. Usually you will get notices that a license has expired and you will be instructed to purchase another one and other forms of problems that you “must” buy a solution for. Creators of ransomeware have been able to get millions of dollars from users and they didn’t even know it was malware.
These examples above are not the only forms of malware that can infect your systems. It can be vicious and destructive, ruining hard drives and causing data loss that can hurt the user if it is not backed up elsewhere. (Always have a backup of your files and folders and documents) The good news is that most anti-virus software IS designed to detect these threats and get rid of them. They can quarantine and remove them before any damage or data loss has occurred.
How do you combat these malware programs and others like it? Purchasing a reliable and thorough anti-virus program that detects malware and spyware and making sure your computer is protected 24.7 will reduce the chances of infection drastically.
How do You Know if You Need Anti-Virus Software?
The answer is if you have a computer, you ALWAYS need antivirus software. While there are some programs out there like Microsoft Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials that are free to the public if you purchase a computer with a Microsoft OS, the truth is, the third party anti-virus software programs like the ones discussed above, perform better and out-protect your computer better when compared to the free, automatic ones. If protection is what you’re after, you will want to invest the money in good third party anti-virus software.
Free or Paid?
Many of the free anti-virus programs claim to have the same level of protection that the paid programs do. While it may seem like a good tactic to get users, free anti-virus software is not better than paid. While most free programs will scan for viruses, removing the problems is a challenge and most don’t scan for malware or offer other protections such as link protection.
Almost all of the features that an anti-virus program offers come from the paid program, but the level of protection you get is second to none if the anti-virus software is a good one. One of the companies we featured above, Avast, offers pretty good free anti-virus software but it still doesn’t beat the Pro (paid) version and won’t scan for and protect from the numerous things that can attack a computer system.
If you have no ability to get paid anti-virus software installed on your computer, it is better to use one if the free versions such as Avast or AVG until you can afford to get paid anti-virus software. Using something, even if it isn’t the top of the line or the best out there, is better than leaving your system completely unprotected.
How to Choose the Right Anti-Virus Software for Your Computer
So when it seems like all anti-virus programs are created similar and equal, how do you choose the one that will be best for you? Anti-virus software is considered entry level. It is the lowest tier but is still above the free programs. Which of the three levels you choose will be dependent upon what you do with your computer and how often you are on it.
Someone who uses their computer for business or work will want to get a higher level of anti-virus protection due to the importance of protecting their computer systems. A person who barely does anything on their PC but does like to get online a couple of times a week will need far less protection than the person using their computer for business every day, all day.
Each level of anti-virus software has different benefits and added protections. From basic level scans through the anti-virus plan, to having access to full sets of anti-virus tools that will keep your computer safe from the most vicious malware in the premium security suites, there are ways to keep your computer running well, keep your files and other content safe and to prevent system harm.
Typically you will find three basic tiers of protection offered in paid anti-virus software:
- Anti-virus software – The entry level version of anti-virus software. You can expect this software to protect your PC from even vicious and malicious viruses. Most anti-virus software has the ability to block or remove the worms, rootkits, and spyware that can be a regular occurrence when surfing the internet. The things that standard anti-virus software doesn’t normally do includes monitoring incoming and outgoing emails, quarantining and cleaning infected files, and creating bootable start up disks.
- Internet security suites – In addition to all of the tools you have access to in regular anti-virus software you will also get a multitude of tools that are found in entry level spyware. These will include things like antimalware, safety for online banking and shopping, vulnerability scanning to see where your computer may be weak or unprotected, privacy protection, secure browsing, PC tune up utilities and more. They also have added levels of security for your computer system.
You may find tools such as an alternate firewall to use in place of Windows, social network protection and parental controls that can be set to help protect your kids while they are on the internet and more.
- Premium security suites – This is the top of the line when it comes to anti-virus protection. You will get all of the tools that are normally found in internet security suites, but that is not all. You will get even more ways to protect yourself through tools like file shredders, system tune-up utilities, password encrypting and password managing, online backups and more. You get a whole army of protection with an arsenal of tools that are ready to keep your computer system completely safe from malware, spyware and more.
With all of the choices that are available when it comes to anti-virus protection, there’s no reason why you can’t find one that will fit your needs and preferences. Don’t rely on strictly free anti-virus protection, especially if you rely on your computer for business. Buying good anti-virus software is definitely an investment well worth making.