What is the best antivirus software?

This is a question that I get asked very often.

My response is never very clear, simply because it’s mainly a matter of personal preference.

These days, there are really only two market leaders in this industry that have stood the test of time. They are Symantec Norton and McAfee.

I find that almost all other solutions are used because, “It came with my PC”, “It’s free”, or “It’s what they use at the office/my place of education”. This is where companies such as Trend Micro, Grisoft AVG, and Sophos come in.

I even tried Kaspersky 7 the other day, and it wouldn’t even let me past the activation step on the setup wizard…

Most the other solutions come on the back of a “free trial” or “a friend/co-worker recommended it”

There are plenty out there, you could literally spend hours “trying” them…

  • http://www.microsoft.com/security/partners/antivirus.asp
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Antivirus_software
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_antivirus_software
  • http://www.google.com/search?q=antivirus

If you run a medium to large business my advice to you is to contact your IT guy or contact your supplier(s), they will give you the best advise for the money you want to spend.

Having said that, there are a number of reasons why you may not wish to use any of the above software, which usually include: they are bulky, resource intensive and generally take over your machine; and/or they cost too much.

In this day and age we expect something for nothing, so if in fact when you say ‘best’ you actually mean ‘free’, then we are suddenly limited to a few options, where realistically there can only be one winner…

Having said that, there are two types of anti-virus which are software (real time scanning), or online scanning, usually Java or Browser Plug-in based (on-demand scanning), ideal for when you’re fixing a computer which doesn’t have one installed.

These are the contenders…

Software and Real-time:

  • Grisoft AVG free - free for personal use
  • Avira AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic
  • avast! 4 Home Edition - Free for Home use (you MUST register for free)
  • ClamWin - Open Source and Free
  • BitDefender 8 Free Edition - FREE Antivirus for All
  • PC Tools AntiVirus Free Edition - Free, no technical support
  • Comodo Antivirus - No license fee EVER!

Online and On-demand:

  • Trend Micro HouseCall - Free online antivirus
  • PandaSoftware Active Scan - Free online antivirus
  • Kaspersky Free Anti Virus - Free online antivirus
  • eTrust Antivirus Web Scanner - Free online antivirus (IE only)
  • BitDefender 8 OnlineScan - Free online antivirus

When deciding on almost any software application I look at the following, this is more so important for anti-virus software as it must be constantly running on your system, so you must be satisfied with it.

  • Usability - If I can’t use it, I don’t want it
  • Visualisation - It must be clean and professional
  • Resources - If this software hogs all my system resources, it’s godda go
  • Future - It must still be in development, there’s no point having a life end point
  • Updates - We must be able to get the latest updates for the latest viruses
  • Support - There must be some method of support, if not official, perhaps in the form of a community
  • Compatible - Ideally we want windows to recognise this software to stop windows security moaning

Probably most importantly the it must have a real-time virus sheild, without this we may as well be using one of the on-demand online virus scanners. What we are looking for is an anti-virus solution to protect us from viruses, not a virus remover.

AVG is “okay” as far as free anti-virus software goes, but at the end of the day it looks and acts like a free application, ie: it’s ugly.

BitDefender 8 Free is a nice peice of software, the main problem is that it doesn’t offer real-time scanning in the free version, only in the professional version.

Avira Antivir Personal is very impressive. Finally a free solution that is supported by windows security and offers real-time scanning. It even looks nice. However, one thing I didn’t understand about this application was this…

Avir AntiVir Issue

Is it me, or does that not make any sense? Let’s try something else…

avast! seems pretty good, it’s a nice piece of software designed for home users, for people who use their computer for non-profit (although this doesn’t really stop you). One thing that is rather annoying is that you must register online, wait for your key (which can take up to 24 hours), then you can download and install the software. Not really ideal if you want to install it on a client’s home PC. That aside, if you’re installing it on your own PC it’s a nice solution.

I’ve been using avast! for a short time now and up-on install it located an ircbot in my windows directory that I wasn’t aware of and removed it. Fantastic. The futuristic design of the application is a pleasure to work with due to its simplicity. A very nice all round solution. Another feature I like about avast! is that it talks to you and tells you if you have a virus.

And the Winner is…

avast! Home Edition

So, in conclusion it’s time to uninstall Norton AntiVirus and install… avast!

“Avast!” just ticks all the boxes, it’s free for home use, detects viruses well (you can even set it to do it at boot-time like chkdsk), and it even talks to you when the viruses database is updated.

There are other applications that I didn’t bother even testing, avast just wins hands down. I would recommend this to anyone.


  1. wislam said,

    December 10, 2007 @ 1:30 pm

    Thanks for the review - I found your website while searching for ‘best antivirus’.

    I have to say however that I’m quite disappointed as the primary criteria anyone should use when choosing an anti-virus product is the number of viruses it detects… surely?

    I used to do a manual comparison (number of viruses in db) a few years ago between the various products, but there’s too many available now with fairly good heuristic features.
    There was recently a review by an enthusiast who collects viruses who has a pretty comprehensive library, he found Kaspersky, F-Secure 2007, and BitDefender outperformed all others in the number it detected.

    Intro: http://www.virus.gr/portal/en/node/18
    Most Recent Test : http://www.virus.gr/portal/en/node/28

    Waheed Islam
    wislam at wislam.co.uk

  2. Gus Johnson said,

    January 6, 2008 @ 8:52 am

    > the primary criteria anyone should use when choosing an anti-virus product is the number of viruses it detects… surely?

    You can achieve 100% virus protection by disconnecting your computer from the network. Everything else is a compromise between utility and safety. I liked this article because it addresses my biggest concern - which is that Norton (and presumably McAfee … though I haven’t tried it myself) take over the computer. Norton just infuriates me as it requires constant attention, turns off things that I use without warning me, and is almost impossible to disable (seems like each version makes it harder and harder).

    I look forward to trying Avast!

  3. hm2k said,

    January 6, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

    The prime objective should be how quickly they can detect new viruses, and since this is an impossibility to really know we may as well look at the evidence.

    Things like how many users, and how people can report new viruses are important.

    Generally all the above software being free offers a great userbase to work from.

    Yes, both Norton and mcAfee for home use take over your machine, the corp versions however do not do this.

    Avast! is great, has a large userbase, and doesn’t take over your machine, enjoy!

  4. Andrew Green said,

    January 7, 2008 @ 11:59 am

    Well, I’ve used Avast for many years and my conclusions are as follows -
    - very good at detecting viruses in emails
    - completely hopeless otherwise - my son’s machine which was ‘protected’ by Avast and contracted several viruses. Avast didn’t detect them being installed and didn’t detect them on scans.

    As a result, I’ve now gone for Kaspersky on all our 4 home computers - it simply has the best test results I’ve seen and costs £76 (about $150) for 2 years for all 4 computers.

    Free is not necessarily best (although I also like free programs as well!)

  5. pete said,

    February 26, 2008 @ 6:54 am

    Hi, well I’ve tried McAfee, Norton and have been using Avg for about 3 years. Avg found plenty on trojans and various virus but I was disapointed when It found verimunde and then could not erradicate it completly, but then again it seems after some checks that all of the virus software are unable to deal with this one at the moment.

    what now, McAfee is like a bigfat slob on your machine, by the time it has to move itself the virus is in, Norton, oh dear, in conclusion, are these products worth the money they ask for or are we all just here to provide this people with five bedroomed houses and german made cars, crazy.

    I have decide these best , cheapest and safest option is only i pc connected to the net, the others live in isolation, oooo, they do run so well. just transfer the files you need across and post them, do you think I could sell this idea, thanks for the great site and info

  6. John Harmisson said,

    April 4, 2008 @ 10:58 am

    Hey Guys!
    In my opinion, the best antivirus in the world are the followings:-

    1. McaFee Antivirus
    2. ZoneAlarm Antivirus

    But i am not really sure that which type of antivirus will be best for my PC. So Please tell me the one antivirus software which is the best in the above antiviruses.
    E-mail me on:-

  7. hm2k said,

    June 6, 2008 @ 1:01 pm


  8. shahadin said,

    August 17, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

    I am using at home the AVG Free Edition - last time I checked it was among the few antiviruses which were both free and officialy compatible with Vista..
    About “tweaking” it’s nothing special: I think most if not all antiviruses have some option to disable the file scanning engine and to leave only other components enabled (email scanner, etc.)

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