Computer viruses are increasingly sophisticated and pervasive. If you can't afford to run your computer without some sort of antivirus software installed, check out these five popular options to protect your PC.
Note: For each entry, we reviewed the lowest-cost option available from the company in question. Most companies offer premium packages of varying cost and with varying additional bells and whistles, save for the always-free Microsoft Security Essentials. For the purpose of this comparison, we stuck to the free/entry level options.
Avast! (Windows/Linux, Free)
Having just celebrated its 21st birthday, Avast! is an old player in the antivirus market. Avast! has built up a solid following based on their philosophy of offering dependable and effective antivirus protection for free to home users. In addition to standard antivirus scanning, Avast! offers a variety of resident protection modules that cover different aspects of your computer like instant messaging, email, P2P applications and more.
Microsoft Security Essentials (Windows, Free)
Microsoft Security Essentials is the newest addition to Microsoft's computer protection software. It replaces the Windows Live OneCare subscription service and Windows Defender by providing more comprehensive coverage than either of the two originally provided. Microsoft Security Essentials is free for all Windows users and provides protection against a variety of threats including viruses, malware, adware and spyware.
Avira (Windows, Free)
Avira is another antivirus app available for free, although the free version of Avira doesn't offer as many bells and whistles as some of the other free offerings in today's Hive. Nonetheless, you still get dependable antivirus scanning and protection from malware and rootkits. In addition to the free antivirus software, Avira also offers a Linux Live CD recovery disc loaded with Avira and other free system recovery tools to help you get back on your feet if fighting the virus infection from within Windows just isn't cutting it.
ESET NOD32 Antivirus (Windows, $US39.99 per year)
NOD32 has built a large base of users over the years by having a low number of false positives and a high rate of early detection thanks to their community-sourced ThreatSense detection system. As a fun bit of trivia, American users may know the application as "NOD" and pronounce the acronym as an actual word, but the name is actually an acronym that hails from the Eastern European origins of the application. From the Wikipedia entry on NOD32:
The acronym NOD stands for Nemocnica na Okraji Disk ("Hospital at the end of the disk"), a pun related to the Czechoslovakian medical drama series Nemocnica na okraji mesta (Hospital at the End of the City).
AVG (Windows, Free)
The free offering from AVG is one of the lightest, feature-wise, among the nominations in this Hive Five. That said, if you're looking for a basic antivirus application that will scan your computer, keep an eye out for spyware, and keep you from visiting malware and virus-laden websites (via their LinkScanner protection), AVG is a solid free offering.
Can't believe your favourite didn't make it? Have a strong opinion about antivirus software? Let's hear it in the comments.