With so many free AntiVirus applications available today, it has become a difficult task to determine which one is “the best”. Designating one over another as the best is further complicated because AV needs vary from user to user. For example, industry best practices state that you should never run more than one AV product at a time, but I have been using combinations of two or more for years. Sure, you need to mindful of a few things when doing this, but each application offers something better than a competing product. For example, Clamwin is about the lightest and fastest scanner out there, but it lacks real-time protection so you absolutely cannot rely on it alone. AVG is probably the best stand-alone product out there, but you have to pretty much rely on manual definition updating.
Currently, my personal AV protection uses the Comodo AV + Firewall suite along with AVG running as well.
Some notes on the more common freebies follow. You can click on any of the icons to download the product to try it for yourself.
avast! 4 Home/Free Edition
- It’s free – but requires registration.
- Integrates into IM, email, P2P, webmail, and browser – you can individually turn each one on/off.
- Large collection of skins available – (I’m not really sure if this is an pro – I want my AV scanner to be engineered to find and remedy viruses, and I really don’t care what it looks like aesthetically.)
- You must register in order to receive a license key.
- Resource hog when scanning – CPU and RAM skyrocket and will cripple slower PC’s during scans.
- No scheduled scan option.
- Media player type of interface – the odd interface makes it somewhat confusing and clumsy.
Bottom Line: Resource intensive scans (scheduled and real-time) and questionable interface make me want to stay away.
- Integrates into e-mail and browsers.
- Browser link scanner is fast and accurate.
- Clean and intuitive interface.
- Includes an AntiSpyware engine.
- Updates in the Free version are limited to running once a day and manual update checking.
- Automated updating often fails, thus requiring you to keep trying via the manual update method.
- They try very hard to get you to purchase paid versions of the product.
- Tech support – via the online forums – keeps spitting out standard replies and can be quite rude.
- This is the only scanner I have ever experienced compatibility issues with when running in tandem with another AV app.
Bottom Line: This is a great option to consider as a primary or secondary scanner.
- Works on Windows server platforms.
- Reliable definition updater.
- Outlook integration.
- No real-time protection.
Bottom Line: This is just about your only choice for free server AV protection. It is a great open-source product but because it lacks a real time scanner, you will have to use another product that provides RTP. Great secondary scanner to use.
- AV can be used as part of – or independent of – the complete Comodo Internet Security (CIS) suite
- Very customizable scan settings – scheduled and manual scan profiles
- Automated definition updating.
- AV engine is not very resource intensive.
- Customer service/support is terrible.
- The firewall component alerts an awful lot – but it IS very good at protecting you.
- The Comodo user interface is hard to keep minimized and can be annoying at times.
- The recent addition of a heuristics engine has caused some major headaches with false-positive scanning. (Tip: Disable the heuristics scanner until it is fixed).
Bottom Line: You should seriously consider installing the full Comodo suite. This is one of the most reliable free security tools I have come across.
McAfee Security Suite
- This is a paid product (slightly altered) that is provided at no cost to Comcast customers.
- Comes from a major vendor in the security space which equates to a more complete and better supported product.
- Proven high detection rates.
- This full suite provides AV, firewall, browser, mail, and IM protection.
- It includes a network mapping feature that allows you to identify and monitor all of the IP equipment on your network.
- Slow scanning speed.
- Can use a lot of system resources. >100mb RAM
- You must uninstall other security products before it will let you install.
Bottom Line: If you are a Comcast customer and can get this for free, you are essentially getting paid product protection for free. Once you install the product, you are able to install a secondary AV product to compliment McAfee.
I hope this has been a helpful roundup of the freebies available to you. You can find links to all of the products that I support and recommend at the Technology Page. If you use a product that is not listed here, please let me know and I’ll review it and add a summary of it.