Free Antivirus Program Roundup – 10 Months Later

Many moons ago, I surveyed and wrote reviews for most of the free antivirus programs available. I covered ten different programs in detail, and even gave a few recommendations.

Major Updates

Since I wrote those reviews, many changes have occurred. First of all, many of the programs have received major updates. Both AVG and Avast now include protection against spyware, a welcome addition. Avira AntiVir has received a facelift, and PC Tools Free Edition has ascended a couple of versions, though I’m not sure it has added any features.

In the unchanged category, Comodo Antivirus is still slogging along on version 2.0 Beta, though I’m crossing my fingers that version 3 will be released soon, hopefully before the release of Windows 7. BitDefender 10 appears to be collecting virtual dust (their requirements don’t even mention Vista), Blink Personal Edition still remains largely (and unfairly) overlooked, and EAV Antivirus still isn’t worth using.

In what I feel is a great loss, AOL will soon no longer offer a version of McAfee Antivirus. Here’s an excerpt from an e-mail I received recently:

We are writing to inform you that your subscription to McAfee® VirusScan® Plus — Special edition from AOL will no longer be a complimentary benefit of your Free AOL membership. Your McAfee® software will continue to receive updates and operate normally until your license expires, one year from the date of registration.

Instead of offering a free version, AOL claims that they will offer more advanced security software at a substantial 43% discount. Whoopee. No thanks.

Upcoming Reviews

I’m not finished with my free antivirus reviews. There are at least two more that I have planned. One is an upcoming program that I’ve been watching for months, and another one I just discovered a few weeks ago. Both have a lot of promise, and look forward to testing them.

What am I using?

So, have any of my recommendations changed since last time? Yes.

First of all, I no longer recommend AVG Free Addition. While I still think it is a good product, the Achilles Heel in the free edition is the lack of rootkit detection. See for yourself:

Uh oh.
Uh oh.

Since other free programs DO offer rootkit detection, this glaring omission from AVG is too much to ignore.

I wish that I could recommend the McAfee/AOL Special Edition. Despite its name, I thought it had terrific potential, and I actually used it on my main computer for a few months following my review summary.

The free version of Avira AntiVir remains popular, and I reaffirm my recommendation for it. Based on detection rates alone, AntiVir is a superb product that also includes anti-rootkit support (are you listening, AVG?), but I reserve my recommendation primarily for users who:

  1. Rely on web-based e-mail only. AntiVir (free) does not support POP3/SMTP e-mail.
  2. Rely on a separate anti-spyware program. AntiVir (free) has no anti-spyware support, unlike its paid versions.

If you’re so inclined, don’t forget to deal with the nagging AntiVir popup.

I still think that Blink Personal Edition holds a lot of promise, though you almost never see its name mentioned amongst the main contenders. Perhaps its inherent complexity and level of customization deter people who are mainly looking for an “install and forget” product.

So then, which program is installed on my main machine 10 months after those reviews? None other than Avast Home Edition! The current version – 4.8 – includes anti-spyware and anti-rootkit support, as well as POP3/SMTP e-mail support. It’s simple to use, functions well as an install-and-forget program, and I love how it gets out of your way quickly during a right-click targeted scan. Curiously enough, Avast was the first free antivirus program I ever tried (6 years ago), and to it I have returned.

I’m not saying that Avast Home Edition is the subjective BEST free antivirus program. It just happens to my favorite, and therefore most recommended, for the moment.

Agree? Disagree? Think I’m an idiot? Feel free to tell me in the comments. Oh, and don’t forget to vote in the poll located in the right-sidebar.

9 thoughts on “Free Antivirus Program Roundup – 10 Months Later

  1. I have heard that AVG had slipped up in this years product about the inclusion of a RootKit detector.
    Avast still seems to be doing well, lots of users are happy with it.
    Glad to see you did a catch up on your previous article, thanks.

  2. Once you fix the nagging AviraAntivir popup and finetune the update settings, there’s isn’t left to complain about. It consumes less system resources than most competitors (including Avast, which is unfortunate). So, I agree – it’s either Avira or Avast and I’m leaning towards the former. AVG used to be good (v.7) and reliable, but v.8 is just too bloated as far as I’m concerned.

  3. I have used AVG, Antivir and Avast all in my home PC and they used to perform well. In terms of detection rate, Antivir is superior to both Avast and AVG and Avast is superior than AVG. My home PC has just 1GB RAM and sometimes Avast seems to be a resource hog for me. More over, the interface of Avast is not so attractive (Though it is of less important for an antivirus product). So, I was using Avira Antivir Personal Edition Classic for about a year and off late, it was failing to update on its own. I used to get notifications saying that my antivirus is out of date and I had to update manually every time. So, I decided to remove it and now I installed Rising Antivirus Free edition from http://www.rising-global.com. I am still evaluating this product, but it has found couple of less risk viruses from my PC and cleaned (or deleted) them. It monitors registry, host files, rootkits, hidden processes etc. I see this product is from China and the users at wilders security forums have some comments on this one. Looks like people doesn’t want a china product as an antivirus.

    Can you please include this antivirus in your nex test and see how it performs?

    Thanks,
    Balaji.

  4. Thanks very much for your directions elsewhere on disabling the Avira nag screen. I’ve just installed it on my new little netbook which requires resource economy. Because it’s an “extra” PC I’ll stick with webmail on it. I’m thinking the spyware deficit is solved with MS’s free Windows Defender, but if you think otherwise it would be useful to know.

  5. I chose Avira AntiVir over Avast because it had the ability to create exceptions (ignore processes/programs/directories). I have keylogging/monitoring software on the PC’s so I can catch the kids doing things they shouldn’t be doing. Avira and Avast each found the software as a risk and removed it. But since I applied the exceptions in Avira, I couldn’t be happier.

  6. Avast also has exceptions.
    R-Click the @ icon in the taskbar, go to Program Settings, and Exclusions.
    I have had to set several exclusions for programs I use (a password revealer for one) that A thinks are viruses.

  7. I am fortunate that I am not a gamer, and my main use of the net is for visiting websites for research information and emailing. I also do a lot of writing for work.

    As a result, since 2004, I have been using linux at home in dual boot mode (windows-linux, default linux). I have to say that cpu electric power use is lower with linux, as is memory and disk consumption. Common to both linux and windows is SPAM. Linux has free freely available heuristic spam filters. Anti-virus is not an issue, as we have no registry in linux, and every file in the system has access control mechanisms.

    In Windows, I use AVG, paid version.

  8. I used to have PC tools in one PC, avast in the other two. Just a few hours ago, the two PCs with avast (all 3 are networked) kept on giving a warning that silentsoft.exe was being detected. while the third one – with PC tools, where most of the internet activity is being done (it is the only one being used to connect to the internet) was not signaling any threats.

    This got me really upset since among the 3, PC tools was the most updated, the other two had definitions already out of date (as reported by windows).

    Getting rid of silentsoft wasn’t much of problem but now I am contemplating replacing PC tools anti virus. maybe avast or avira, leaning towards avira since it consumes less resources and better detection rate although avast has more features

Comments are closed.