Free Antivirus Software

Avira AntiVir Personal Edition is my top pick for the best free antivirus software if you’re looking for the best protection against virus, spyware and rootkit threats. AntiVir is very light on resources and the detection rate of malware is outstanding, however, there are some reservations.

First, AntiVir does not include e-mail scanning, this is only available in the paid version. The lack of an e-mail scanner means that AntiVir won’t warn you of infected emails before you open them. However, should you open an infected email, AntiVir will still spring into action, so it doesn’t mean that you’re not protected from email-based infections. Second, AntiVir’s updates are very slow, and occasionally gets interrupted with server problems. Third, AntiVir has advertisements that appear with every update, altough you can disable these ads. Also, you can disable AntiVir’s splash screen if you wish, as some people find it intrusive. Finally, AntiVir has a time-limited license. It is renewable, but be aware that you’ll have to periodically go through the hoops.

Neither Avast nor AVG is as effective in detection of virus infections and other malware as AntiVir.

Avast! Home Edition main screenAvast! Home Edition is also an excellent free antivirus. Although its funky media player style interface is not to everyone’s taste, skins can be downloaded for free, such as the MacLover OS X skin. Avast is the least restricted antivirus out of the three, with both spyware removal and antirootkit capabilities, full real-time capabilities, including web, e-mail, IM, P2P and network shields, as well as boot-time scanning. Avast is fairly light on resources, and is also the only antivirus to continue support for older Windows platforms. Avast can be set as a set-and-forget solution through the use of their Silent Mode (“Customize” under the detailed settings for On-Access Protection Control), where malware is automatically removed.

On the other hand, Avast has a relatively high rate of false positives. Like AntiVir, it also requires periodic re-registration, whereas AVG Free does not.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition main screenAVG Anti-Virus Free Edition is a good set-and-forget solution, as it’s capable of both automatically updating and removing threats. This is especially useful if you want to set this up on a friend’s computer who is not so computer literate.

The latest version AVG Antivirus free makes further improvements to an already solid antivirus program. It now includes spyware removal, phishing and email scam protection and LinkScanner Pro.

However, AVG Antivirus free has grown considerably in size and resource usage, and has very slow scan speeds. AVG also had continuous problems with updating signatures on my computer. AVG has advertisements, but they can be disabled.

These three free antivirus software are excellent free antivirus programs that provides a real alternative to the major commerical antivirus software.

You can increase your protection if you run on demand scans with another antivirus. On demand scans can be run regularly to check for virus, trojan, worm, spyware, adware, keylogger, rootkit and other malware that may have been missed by your main antivirus scanner. If you have a good preventive security strategy in place, however, the extra protection an on demand antivius scanner offers is minimal.

You can also use one of the free antivirus mentioned above as an on-demand antivirus scanner. One advantage is that you can set scheduled scans if you wish.

Avira AntiVir Personal Edition: During the install, under “Choose Installation Type” select “Custom”, and under “Install Components” untick “AntiVir Guard”.

Avast! Home Edition: During the install, under “Configuration” select “Custom”, and untick all the items under “Resident Protection”.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition: In the interface, open the “Resident Shield Component” and untick “Resident Shield Active”.

a-squared Free main screenAnother option is a-squared Free, which started as a trojan remover but recently included the Ikarus antivirus engine. The detection rate is incredible, and a-squared also has context-menu scanning. Sadly, it is riddled with false positives, and the large update sizes make it unsuitable for dial-up users. And a-squared has a service that is running even when you aren’t using it.

Kaspersky Virus Removal Tool main screenKaspersky Virus Removal Tool is an excellent on demand antivirus scanner, with good detection rates and strong removal capabilities. However, it requires you to download the whole file again if you want to update the signatures. Also, the scan speed was exceedingly slow on my computer. Bear in mind that the detection won’t be as good as the current Kaspersky product, which has a newer antivirus engine.

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