Choose Your Defender! 10 Anti-Virus Programs Reviewed and Compared

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Choose Your Defender! 10 Anti-Virus Programs Reviewed and Compared

Terminology 101

Malware in its many forms

MALWARE VS. VIRUS: The first thing you need to know is that malware is a generic term used to describe any malicious program. If it's unwanted and insidious, it's malware (or iTunes—zing!). Even though they're often confused, malware is not the same as a virus, though a virus is a common form of malware. Viruses are pieces of unwanted code that latch on to legitimate programs and can self-replicate. They're often unwittingly spread though email attachments, USB thumb drives, and file sharing.

WORMS: Like a virus, a worm self-replicates, but it doesn't need to attach itself to a host file. Worms burrow into your network looking for vulnerabilities to exploit and spread to other systems.

TROJAN: Like the horse of Greek mythology, a trojan masquerades as something awesome—a psychedelic screensaver or card game, for instance—but hides a terrible surprise. In other words, it appears to be something that it's not. Trojans can't replicate themselves like a virus, but once you run or install a trojan, it gets to work opening back doors or whatever evil deed the author intended it to do.

SPYWARE: Just what it sounds like, spyware is any unwanted program designed to spy on your activities. It might be a program that logs your keystrokes (keylogger) or tracking software that gather information about you without your knowledge or consent.

ADWARE: To keep it short and simple, adware bombards you with ads. Some examples include random pop-ups, unwanted banner ads, and browser redirects.

McAfee Internet Security 2012

Light on its feet, but too easily tripped up by malware

Two years ago we applauded McAfee for giving its security suite a much‑needed makeover. McAfee apparently decided to leave well enough alone, as the UI looks identical to both the 2011 and 2010 models. We’re not advocating change for the sake of change, but compared to the current crop of AV applications, McAfee’s menu layout has fallen behind the times and now feels stale.

McAfee did teach its old dog some new tricks, though nothing that will win it Best in Show. USB and removable drives are now scanned automatically (if you want them to be), it’s supposedly better at blocking botnet software from communicating with the mother ship, and a preinstall scan sniffs out malware before McAfee gets fully settled.


McAfee hasn't changed its appearance since 2010, but its real blemishes are beneath the surface.

Believe it or not, McAfee’s greatest strength is its low impact on performance. Our file transfer test took the same amount of time with or without McAfee installed. What’s more, McAfee added a mere five seconds to our boot time—impressive! We’re also blown away by McAfee’s speedy scan engine, which sifted through 35GB in less than 30 seconds on a second pass-through.

Cue the horror music because this is where things turn gruesome. While trotting around the web’s dark alleyways, McAfee tried its best to ward away hostile downloads, but was only semi-effective. File after cantankerous file filled up our desktop. As we clicked them, McAfee would often require a reboot to rinse off the scum. Repeated reboots quickly got old, and we still ended up with an infected test bed. After McAfee issued our system a clean bill of health, Malwarebytes detected more than 40 infections, including a MyDoom variant that sabotaged 25 percent of our CPU. That’s a problem.

McAfee made big strides in minimizing its impact on system resources, but it’s of little benefit if it can’t protect our system.

score:5
McAfee Internet Security 2012
$80 (1 year, 3 PCs)

www.mcafee.com

ESET Smart Security 5

Even the best boxers sometimes lose a round

ESET has flirted with a Kick Ass award each of the two previous times we reviewed it, and we had high hopes the third time would be the charm. But rather than receive a Kick Ass award, version 5 got its ass kicked by a fake AV virus and a few other pieces of malware. That’s unfortunate, because even though ESET has never offered the most features or fastest scan times, we could always count on it to overpower malware.


Don't overpay for security—ESET offers several subscription options, ranging from one to two years for up to five PCs.

Things weren’t quite as bad as they were with McAfee, and ESET did a much better job at blocking polluted downloads and keeping us away from murky websites. However, the few containments it did let through worked our system over like a schoolyard bully picking on the class nerd. We couldn’t access the Task Manager to kill the offending processes, nor were we able to load MSConfig to disable misbehaving apps from loading with Windows. The fake AV program even prevented us from installing third-party software, an underhanded tactic intended to stop users from calling in the cavalry. Our only option was to boot into Safe Mode, but you’d have to be pretty tech savvy to deal with the infections ESET couldn’t.

Performance was a mixed bag. ESET didn’t impress us with its PCMark 7 or PCMark Vantage scores, yet it added only five seconds to boot and three seconds to our file transfer test. Our test bed didn’t feel slow, but if you live and breathe benchmark scores, ESET will leave you winded.

The list of grievances concludes with ESET’s clunky interface. It’s not terribly difficult to find your way around, but it's just complicated enough to keep less experienced users from making changes. We had high hopes for ESET, but we are ultimately let down by this year’s release.

score:6
ESET Smart Security 5
$60 (1 year, 3 PCs)

www.eset.com
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Comments

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bogart's

Bogart's Software Junkie brings the latest deals and reviews straight to your computer (or device for you youngsters!).

Check out our site!
http://bogartsoftware.com/

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metolahenry

Let's update your AV program everyday and pray that you will be protected, sorry but it works wonder for me so far, anyone knows any useful AV that really can fight Trojan?

Menozac

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phternterry

All the anti-virus programs are fast outdated given the present increasing of skilled and professional hackers day by day, so be assured that you are not always protected, dears
Thyromine

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phternterry

I am using AVG anti virus on my computer. Just wondering if anybody could tell me if it is a good program to use or if I'd be better off using Norton? Provacyl

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og1502

You tested an outdated version of Avira's free product. Avira AntiVir Personal has been updated to Avira Free Antivirus.

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drcrazyrich

what about the other free ones such windows esentials ?? may be do an article on each type then compare the results between the 2 thanks for what you did provide tho :)

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Jc61990

security essentials is not a Suite.  this was a comparison of antivirus suites

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fallout330

Still with MSE along with using Sandboxie for those "risky" sites.  Falling back to Malwarebyte/Superantispyware if necessary. So far, so good.

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aldenf

Thanks for the article, Paul.  I enjoy reading your work.

Tech choices being so abundant, and tech users being so individualistic (particulary MPC readers!), it seems impossible to write anything that doesn't attract criticism, constructive or otherwise.  That being said, let me add my two cents, hopefully constructive.

If you were space constrained because the article appeared in print, I understand the choices you made.  I might have broken things down into two cesecutive-month articles, one for paid apps, one for free (or publish one in print, the other online to create more web traffic).  Both articles could have been scored with the same matrix as to directly compare all the applications (free and paid).  We often can't know, from article to article, if the same judging matrix is used.  By including past review results at least in the final chart, such as that of MSE, you ensure that it is directly comparable.

While there are numerous options in anti-virus apps, both free and paid, you hit most of the big ones.  I, however, would be very interested in seeing how paid apps from AVG and Avast might have compared, as well as Panda's free app.  The complete absense of Comodo and a few others, make me wonder if they should even be on my short list.

While Norton's would probably run swell on my quad-core destop with 8 GB of RAM, what's the best choice for a netbook or 2-3 year old laptop?  Most of your readers are probably running reasonably current hardware.  But many of us still have older machines still in use (my Inspiron 8600 is a good example).  At the very least, many of your readers often serve as tech support to family and friends certainly not running the latest hardware or software.  What do we reccomend?

Let me suggest that not writing a reasonably comprehensive review on certain products, such as anti-virus software, leaves more questions in the readers' minds than solutions.  It forces us to look elsewhere for reviews to fill in the gaps, ascertain how the differing matrices can be compared and guess where all the products fall against each other.  We could also download the trial versions of all the contenders and compare them using our own particluar model for each class of hardware we're still using/supporting.  Either choice is extremely time consuming and something that tech reviewers are supposed to do and get paid to do for us.  Why else would we bother turming to you in the first place?  If it's an editorial issue, then your bosses need to be brought into the loop.

I guess what I'm thinking is the above article, in the long run,  may be worse than no article at all.

Just sayin.

~Alden

 

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dav532000

You show Avast free what about Avast internet security paid version or Trend Micro internet security, how do they bear up. Used to use MSE but my Pc boot time slowed down after doing a cold bootup I managed to trace it to MSE so uninstalled it bootup time got better.

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gcstang

I've been using Vipre Antivirus (latest is version 12) for over 2 years now it has proven very dependable and their repair program has helped numerous others from other Antivirus programs that have not caught major viruses such as AVG and Avira.

I'd love to see this reviewed

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erniemink

 

There are proven more effective and better paid programs out there. The only free programs that actually accept donations that are good is CCleaner and Defraggler, both from Piriform. And better yet, if you have or can get a solid state hard drive that supports SATA III and is at least 120 GB for the Windows boot drive, and use an additional SATA III standard spindle 1 TB hard drive for data only, this will be speedier and more effective as well when running Windows 7 and soon to be version 8. You should always use Internet Explorer version 9, and soon to be 10 as well, being the most effective and secure browser. So to add to this, the best anti-virus, firewall, anti-malware, rootkit protection and anti-keylogging programs are as follows: Online Armour ++ and Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware. You do not ever need anything else. And with keeping them up-to-date, along with using Windows Update, you will have the most secure solutions for Windows 7 and your internet browsing. Forget Apple and Safari, Opera, Google Chrome and Firefox. None of them are that good at all, and do not even work properly with a lot of sites. Here are the names you can type in Google, Bing or Yahoo for example:

Online Armour ++, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, Your Browser Matters from Microsoft, CCleaner and Defraggler.

(Note: All solid state hard drives NEVER need to be defragged. ONLY your standard spindle hard drives, which are really best for data only with the dawn of solid state hard drives, which really should be your main boot drive obviously.)

 

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glamdring

Okay you are very very far off through almost this entire comment, but lets just start with you note of CCleaner. As praised as it is, there are several bad parts of the program. It has a TERRIBLE start process manager! After making it's changes several/many AV programs set on high security will detect and remove it's changes. Why? Simply because of the way it manages ones start up processes, look up managing start up process and read about the different ways one can edit/change them. The key is in whether the program creates or modifies the current list.

I don't know if Online Armor finally addressed the security issues, back in 2009/10 they had some major security leaks in the firewall. I loved the firewall like crazy back when I used it.

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win7fanboi

here's what you should type in google "I am too full of myself. What should I do?"

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phternterry

I discovered that not all Anti-Virus program is good, dun b surprise if it's unable to fight Trojan Horse, sign..
http://flotrol-reviews.com/

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beck_77

Kinda lackluster imo as well. No mention of Malwarebytes (http://www.malwarebytes.org) or A-Squared (http://www.emsisoft.com/en/software/antimalware). Both top-notch as far as I'm concerned.

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nadako

Hey at work I have to sell this CA internet security suite its $70 for 3 computers. And im wondering how well it stands up against all the others. PS it will not instal correctly if your running IE9 you would have to use a fix for their GUI.

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BlazePC

What's with the comparison matrix showing ESET not providing email (scan) protection?  Furthermore, if you are going to note a particular product not having email protection in a subtle table format, why no mention of it in the details? Email scan is pretty important stuff.

Oh and btw, ESET does have email scanning.

You should qualify your piece in more effective detail Paul.

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BlazePC

Paul,

Further investigation shows that ESET does have the capability to scan IM file transfers, so it would appear that the comparison matrix is wrong on that count as well - unless of course that particular comparison item reflects on-the-fly packet scanning or some other such fucntionality you guys have failed to define clearly as a criterion.

Goes without saying Paul, you increasingly fail to impress.  If I was any number of product/service providers, I would be thoroughly pissed at the level of "fail" that is allowed to occur on MaximumPC.com by way of these reviews and comparison with these virtual reporters.

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BlazePC

What's up with the "free" vs. full-blown paid for suite comparison here anyway?  You do realize there are full suite offerings from the companies you chose to go "free" on, right?  Hardly a fair comparison.  If I was one of the companies misrepresented here, I would be seriously pissed off.  Least you could do is measure up AVG, Avast & Avira suites.

 

Talk about slanted techno-journalism.

 

Fix that sh!t

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L1veWar3

Don't know if it's been mentioned... : )

But seriously, no MSE? Is it because it's in beta? Used it for a while now and love it. I think it would win in the free category. 

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Paul_Lilly

For anyone wondering why we didn't include Microsoft Security Essentials, it's because we reveiwed version 2.0 in last year's roundup and there hasn't been a major revision since then. The next big release is currently in beta form and expected to go Gold by the end of the year, well after we completed testing for our current roundup.

-Paul Lilly

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Zanthexter

MSE should have been included in it's current version. By not including it, you basically said it wasn't even worth considering using it, because mose people wouldn't think to compare the reviews in a new article against those in an old article. More practically, the comparison wouldn't be apples to apples, because you'd be using different test samples.

Folks are less interested in seeing a review of whats new, than they are in seeing a review of what's best at a particular moment in time. I'd rather see the poorly performing ones listed in an "also ran" section with a link to more detail online, and info about the best performing ones, especially those that might have been skipped because they didn't happen to have changed the number after their name recently.

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Scatter

I'd still think that it would be helpful to your readers to include all the big players in a round up such as this. 

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big_montana

I do not get why no MSE either, as they reviewed and recommended it the last go around. So how they leave out this time is beyond my comprehension.

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win7fanboi

SCROLL DOWN AND YE SHALT COMPREHEND :)

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Morete

Go Safe.  Go Safer.  G Data. 

http://www.gdata-software.com/

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noobstix

I'm not surprised that McAfee got a score of 5.  I remember the only time I used McAfee, it pissed me off to no end because it never really removed anything and it kept annoying me about the stuff it was supposed to remove (it even blocked access to IE!).  Yeah it adds the least amount of time on boot but for even a few seconds more, something like MSE does a way better job.  I remember when I used to be trigger-happy and pissed off some family members who used the computer as well, I needed an AV program that could do a decent job.  I used to use Webroot Spysweeper and Lavasoft Ad-Aware which did a good job at the time but couldn't keep up with the newer stuff.  Then I moved on to Threatfire which was more of a high-class mistake.  It only did a little bit better and the uninstall was a pain in the ass.  Then I found Malwarebytes which worked like a dream until I picked up some infections that prevented it from running.  Now I'm happy with MSE and have only gotten them rarely (I still get them but they're usually serve as a deterrent of certain websites).

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mojones26

when you get hit with malware that prevents .exe execution, run Rkill from a locked USB stick.

It can be run with a .com or .scr extension.

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DoctorX

what is missing in mse beta?  As far as i can tell, it has everything the previous ones had.  Works good so far.

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win7fanboi

I would like to know as well. I just hope they don't fuck it up to make it compatible with Windows 8. I still think Win 8 might the beginning of end for Microsoft.

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GenMasterB

Paul, Have you done a review on Panda Cloud Free Anti-Virus? I've been using it for 2 years now. It's very small, and I've had zero viruses. Anyone else have experience with it? I've been very pleased.

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Julyjules

Please do a review of Microsoft Security Essentials. I've been using it for the past 2 years and recommending it to family & friends. I would really like to see how it compares to the other free AV. 

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Havok

Symantec sure is doing a good job of re-inventing themselves, but my copy of NIS 2012 boned up my PCs bad. 3 different OSes, XP, Vista and 7. Each one lost its access to the optical drive drivers after the installation. Dammit Norton.

I managed to fix them by running a Microsoft Fixit app, and found out that Norton buggered up a registry entry, but gorram it Symantec! Fix your bloody installer!

I'm recommending Kaspersky this year.

In Soviet Russia, you hack virus.

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TechLarry

Sounds like the good old upperfilters/lowerfilters problem.  This is usually caused by the installation and removal of CD/DVD burning software of some sort.  I've never heard of any other type of app causing it.

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bittertruth

I don't know how and why ESET ended up getting such a low rating. I don't even care about norton and it is still curse to some computers. It's a memory hog and creates unnecessary problems for newbies rendering many software useless. At times, norton acted itself as a destructive virus because of it's hideous firewall restriction which normal user wouldn't be able to figure out.

And, it's surprising that you missed out Malwarebytes. Just saying because you have reviewed webroot antispywares. So, this review has lot of space to doubt if it's a real review or paid review.

 

 

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big_montana

Because MaxPC is reviewing Anti Virus programs, not spyware removal applications, which Malwarebytes is. Malwarebytes does not run on startup, does not catch and stop virus from infecting your computer, you use it to remove any spyware, malware or Tupperware you may have gotten, but the ones reviewed here, including Webroot prevent said infections from happening.

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Scatter

Malwarebytes does also offer an antivirus application that runs in the background.  Its highlighted on the front page of their website so I can understand it being hard to notice. 

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ABouman

big_montana is correct re: anti-virus vs spyware removal. However, we do like to recommend Malwarebytes when it's related to the story and in fact, have done so in at least four stories this year:

 

http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/cheapskates_guide_power_computing_31_ways_save_money_without_sacrificing_performance

http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/pc_prescriptions_21_free_apps_keep_your_pc_healthy?page=0,1

http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/malware_removal_guide_2011_how_get_rid_all_latest_malware?page=0,1

http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/scrub_your_pc_clean_remove_malware_four_easy_steps?page=0,1

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livebriand

Where's Microsoft Security Essentials? That's the best AV program I've found yet, and what I use on all my machines. My second choice is Avast Free.

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eastbayrae

I'll stick with MSE.  It hasn't given me any trouble ever.

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kixofmyg0t

I used AVG for a few years back in the day. But after reading a review of the rebuilt Norton I decided to give it a try....boy was I surprised. 

Now here I am a couple years later, about to renew my subcription of Norton for the 3rd year straight. It very well deserves that "Kick Ass!" award. 

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markoramius1086

Hearing that the upcoming MSE has less features/options than 2.0 pretty much dissapoints me. I wonder if they will have an option to stay with 2.0 instead of the automatic update they had back with MSE1.0? Otherwise my experience with MSE has been pretty good, its light as a butterfly on my machine, and not as annoying (even though ThreatFire usually picks up any suspicious activity before MSE can get its hands on it)!

 

Another question! How does the MSE Quick Scan work? Is it like other AV Programs where it reads only files that are new or have been edited, or is there some funny voodoo working under the hood?

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TsunamiZ

ZoneAlarm Extreme Security uses the Kaspersky antivirus engine.  Can Maximum PC do a review of it to show us how it measures up to Kaspersky and other security suites?

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don2041

I want to see more comparison with the free av s out there. I,m using mse on all my machines and am 100% happy with it

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somethingelse

So what does ESET think about the honest score you gave them?  I notice there is lots of their ads plastered all over the site, are you guys about your sponsorship pulled? Or are they thankful you gave them a 6 and not a 2 as it deserves? :)

Not that I've ever used ESET, but still :P

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ABouman

Dunno... we don't consult vendors about their review scores. Since reviews and marketing info are kept separate to ensure editorial integrity, it's not really something we think about. We don't know who will be advertising until the ads go up, and this story was written weeks before they did go up, so they certainly don't factor into the reviews process at all.

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AMD64Blondie

What about Vipre? (from GFI-formerly known as Sunbelt Software)?

 

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Markitzero

You guys missed another free one that may be worth checking out 

http://www.comodo.com

 

They have Free and Paid software, I use there free software and there custom Google Chrome Comodo Dragon.

 

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Trekker1091

Awww, what?  No AVG in that list.  Ah well, there were a couple of other good chopices in there anyway, though I wouldnt touch McAfee or Norton with a five foot pole.

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