An Overview of Free Antivirus Programs – Multi-Part Series

Do you currently pay to use an antivirus program? Have you thought about trying a free replacement, but had no idea where to start? Do you really get what you pay for?

Fear not. As a champion of free software, I assure you that you can easily survive using a free antivirus program. In fact, I have been using a free antivirus program for about five years now. Though I had my favorites before I began this series, I decided to try every free antivirus program that I could find. This series serves as documentation of that process and provides an overview of the free antivirus program currently available.

If you have been following my series, then you know that I recently completed the ninth installment. There are still a few more possible programs that I am considering for review, but I plan to take a brief hiatus from this series. Therefore, I will use this post as the overall summary of what I have discovered so far, and will add to it when I review an additional program.

Here are the links to the individual reviews:

  • Part I – AVG Free Edition
  • Part II – PC Tools Free Edition
  • Part III – Comodo Antivirus 2.0 Beta
  • Part IV – Avast 4 Home Edition
  • Part V – BitDefender v10 Free Edition
  • Part VI – EAV Antivirus Suite Free Edition
  • Part VII – Avira AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic
  • Part VIII – Clamwin
  • Part IX – McAfee/AOL Special Edition
  • Part X – Blink Personal Edition
  • Part XI – Rising Antivirus 2009 Free Edition

Keep in mind that this series focuses more on usability rather than on sheer detection rates. Naturally, the malware detection rates of antivirus programs are important, but they are not the sole indicator of a program’s merit. After all, if a program excels at detection rates but slows your machine to a crawl, is it worth using the program?

I do not have a system chock full of viruses to test, so instead I decided to focus more on aspects such as aesthetics, features, and resource consumption. If a program already has an excellent track record for detection rates, I try to point that out as well.

Summary of Features

Click the thumbnail below for a quick summary of each program, including information on registration, rebooting, ads, scanning, and upgrades.

antivirus_summary.png

(click to enlarge)

Recommendations

So, which programs do I recommend? It depends on your needs. If you use a POP3/IMAP e-mail client such as Outlook or Thunderbird, then I can easily recommend Avast or AVG.

If you do not use an e-mail client and rely on web-based e-mail, I highly recommend Avira AntiVir (provided you can deal with the popup after updates).

If you are an open-source junkie, ClamWin may suit your needs. Keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming release that includes an on-access scanner. ClamWin is also available as a Portable App.

For all-inclusive protection, I actually recommend McAfee/AOL Special Edition. Just try it before you knock it because of the name.

Other Thoughts

If I have only accomplished one thing by creating this series, I hope I have convinced a few people that there is no real need to purchase antivirus software when there are a number of solid free programs available. If you want to support a free program by purchasing an available upgrade, feel free, but I cringe when I see people purchasing yearly subscriptions to commercial programs without even considering an alternative.

How about you? What’s your favorite free antivirus program and why? Feel free to comment below.

Oh, if you find a free antivirus program that you think I should review, contact me.

This series took a long time to write, so if you enjoyed it, please give it a digg (or a Stumble, or Mixx, or whatever). 🙂

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12 thoughts on “An Overview of Free Antivirus Programs – Multi-Part Series

    1. “but I cringe when I see people purchasing yearly subscriptions to commercial programs without even considering an alternative ”
      ~Me Too
      My father is using s* f#!§”!
      real player (he had payed for it)
      But only because of the library… at least he doesn’t pays yearly subscritption
      !Thank you for reviewing

  1. The one thing missing from your overview is usability in a business – I know for example that the Free AVG is only free for use at home – it’s a license violation to use it in a business. I suspect the same is true for many of the other commercial AV scanners.

  2. Sam – I’ll take a look at Moon Secure. Thanks.

    Ted – Excellent point. I had not considered business usage. As you said, I also suspect most of these programs are free for personal use only.

    Two programs that I know are free for business usage are ClamWin and Comodo Antivirus. There may be others. I should look more into it.

  3. http://www.moonsecure.com

    Info About Moon Secure
    Moon Secure AV is an opensource antivirus currently using the clamav engine due to fast response time and huge AV database, however we are implementing another engine that is heuristic and will allow users to customize the engine on the fly. Unlike clam it has an enterprise level real-time scanner. It is built for windows and will run on XP and vista. It can scan portable drives and fixed drives. It is able to detect viruses, Trojans and spyware.

    Our vision is to release an enterprise level antivirus, which can be used in any windows environment.

    The aim is to provide a superior antivirus capable with competing with the market leaders and still at the same price, free!

    We aim to be part of an opensource “suite” which will allow all users to still use the environment they are comfortable with but benefit from the terrific opensource community.

  4. Annie – As its name implies, Ad-Aware is an anti-adware and anti-spyware utility. It is not an anti-virus program.

    It’s a pretty good program, or at least it used to be. It used to be a favorite of mine, but later versions have just become more bloated.

    Anyway, you should run a program like Ad-Aware in conjunction with an antivirus program.

  5. I found your reviews when looking for a review of Comodo AV. I think that they are no longer beta – and still free. Do you plan to re-evaluate it?

    Thanks for the series. It gives good, free alternatives.

  6. I think that PC Tools free can also be used in a business. I don’t recall seeing any restrictions to home use anyway.

    Have you considered reviewing free Firewalls? Without a good firewall blocking access to your pc, your antivirus will be quite busy.
    I used Zone Alarm for many years, have tried Online Armour, Comodo and PC Tools Free. I know many that use PC Tools, and I currently use Comodo at home.
    Matousec (matousec.com) does a firewall challenge and publishes the results. But it is always great to have a “user” review.
    Thanks, Dana.

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