Which anti-virus software?

Examining a hard drive with a magnifying glass

There’s an interesting article/review this month (April 2007 edition) in Computer Shopper magazine comparing the 12 most popular AntiVirus applications.

What they did was set up their own controlled lab, with a default install of Windows XP and then threw 434 of the most recent viruses at each application. They observed how the software handled e-mail-bourne viruses as well as viruses and malware downloaded over the network connection.

Selected summary

Here’s a quick summary of a few (the number refers to where they were in the top 12), with percentages indicating viruses detected:

AV-Comparatives

I read the article and then checked out AV-Comparatives for … well, for a comparison.

# Title Email Web Both Rating Price
1 Kaspersky Anti-Virus 6 90.8% 47.5% 72.6% 5/5 £28
2 Steganos AntiVirus 2007 90.4% 44.8% 71.2% 5/5 £20
5 AVG Anti-Virus Free 7.5 66.9% 48.6% 59.2% 4/5 Free
8 Symantec Norton AntiVirus 2007 74.5% 27.9% 54.8% 3/5 £27
10 McAfee VirusScan Plus 2007 75.3% 16.4% 50.5% 3/5 £20

Computer Shopper’s verdict

This is what they concluded:

What anti-virus software are you running? If it’s one of the programs we’ve tested here, we hope it’s Kaspersky Anti-Virus 6, Steganos 2007, F-Secure Anti-Virus 2007 or Eset’s NOD32 2.7. There are the very best money can buy, detecting most samples we fired at them. Steganos 2007 is the best value of them, although if you have three PCs to protect the slightly less accurate F-Secure Anti-Virus will work out cheaper.

Grisoft’s AVG Anti-Virus Free 7.5 deserves a special mention because, although it’s not as accurate as the above options, it does a better job than most rivals and it is free for home users.

It is a sad situation when the home anti-virus products from the three world leaders, Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro, fail to impress. Norton AntiVirus and McAfee VirusScan are distinctly average and PC-cillin’s virus detection abilities are poor. If you are using any of these, we recommend that you replace them as soon as possible with an alternative from the above list.

I have Norton AntiVirus 2004 installed on my main, day-to-day PC but will uninstall this soon and replace it with AVG or I may try Kaspersky or Steganos.

AV-Comparatives

I read that article and then checked out AV-Comparatives for … well, a comparison. Their results from February 2007 were similar, in terms of overall positions, although Norton fared better in the AV-Comparatives test.

AV Computer Shopper AV-Comparatives
Kaspersky 72.6% 97.89%
AVG Free 7.5 59.2% 96.37%
Norton AV 54.8% 96.83%
McAfee 50.5% 91.63%

Still, it shows that Kaspersky is clearly a very good anti-virus application, and that the free AVG Free 7.5 is up there with the best commercial offerings. I’m going to make the switch today.

3 thoughts on “Which anti-virus software?”

  1. I’ve happily had a Windows XP machine running for years with no anti-virus.

    The key thing is just not running applications from untrusted sources.
    For instance, how many times has your virus checker actually found something in the last few years? If the answer is never, you don’t need to waste money on a virus checker.

    Alternatively, even better you should use an operating system like Linux which has no known viruses and doesn’t rely on PAYING MONEY for an external product to fix Microsoft’s laziness.

  2. I quite agree, my PC has not been infected with a virus for about seven years. I scan everything that I download and don’t even open email attachments from sources I’m unsure about. However, I feel more secure having an AV application installed.

    I always make sure that the auto-protect settings are switched off, however, so that it uses fewer system resources — because I know that I will manually scan files. And I always make sure that the e-mail scanning is on.

    As for the old Windows vs Linux question, it’s that old chestnut, huh. If you can move your whole life to Linux then great, but for those who can’t (or won’t) then I think folks are probably safer moving to Linux or MacOS.

    But then for some that’s a bit like saying: I don’t need an umbrella because I live in a predominantly sunny climate, so why don’t you move to where I live? For some that’s an option, for others it’s not. So I’m glad that there are companies that make umbrellas for those of us who live in the UK!

  3. I would be a bit worried about running a Windows PC without anti-virus software if I used it to connect to the internet regularly. I agree that it is possible to stay safe without it, but not easy if you want to use the web casually.
    In fact, I have just written a semi-serious piece called Five Free Ways To Protect Against Viruses And Spyware. I didn’t include your Use Linux option, but that’s a good one.
    By the way, you can read the Computer Shopper anti-virus article in full on my site too.

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