February 18, 2009

Antivirus roundup

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If there are any words that nobody ever wants to hear, they‘re that “you have a virus on your computer”. Just thinking about the word virus sends chills down someone’s spine. While there are genuinely benign viruses that annoy you (the ambulance virus comes to mind), other viruses, such as Trojans that allow others to access your computer, are not so friendly.

So obviously, antivirus programs are a big market that is expected to reach over 9 billion dollars by 2009. However, not all them are the same, and not all of them pack quite the same punch against the nasty little buggers floating around the Internet.

The most well known antivirus programs among less computer savvy users are usually McAffee or Symantec Norton Antivirus, since these usually come as a part of the bundle with the PC. But they’re not necessarily the best ones.

For starters, Symantec Norton Antivirus is horrendous in its use of system resources. My old PC used to have Symantec antivirus on it, and boy did it take its sweet time scanning an 8GB hard drive. Removal of the programs is also a hassle. To this day, I still have remnants of it stuck somewhere on my hard drive because I had installed the program from the CD that came with my router and thus had no CD-key that would complete the uninstallation.

As for McAffee, it may not be quite as system intensive, but it still will take enough time for me to cook a full meal before it’s finished scanning a decent sized hard disk. There’s also the problem that McAffee isn’t really that powerful in detection anyways, something that can be verified by running a scan with a different Antivirus program.

And then there are free antivirus programs. Now I know what you’re going to say: “There’s no way a free antivirus program can be good, it’s not made by professionals.”


I have encountered a lot of programs on www.download.com, especially trial programs and such. Through my hours of browsing through the site in hopes of finding the perfect antivirus, I stumbled upon a candidate: Avast!,

A lot of people have recommended AVG, another free antivirus, but considering the range of capabilities, I really wouldn’t consider AVG at all.

The FREE version of Avast offers:
• anti-spyware
• anti-rootkit
• self-protection (keeps viruses from shutting down the antivirus program)
• resident protection (i.e. real time protection)
• P2P (peer to peer, i.e. programs like Limewire, BitTorrent, and Azureus) protection
• Network shield
• Web shield
• A Virus Chest that allowed you to move an infected file to an area that you can seal off and empty later in safe mode

The FREE version of AVG on the other hand, offers
• Antivirus and Anti-spyware
• Safe Search
So let me clarify, just to pick up the anti-rootkit capability, you’d have to pay 35 bucks for AVG to do what Avast will do for free.

Why bother? Avast offers a continuous renewal of the license for its free users, all you have to do is send them your email address, and they’ll send you a license key, which is good for 12 months.

For a full list of antivirus programs, see here.