Five Best Antivirus Applications

Five Best Antivirus Applications

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.

Photo by Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M University Archives.

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.


  • Having used Avast for many, many years, I have had to move away from it. Its heuristics are simply not the best anymore. Testing Avira, it picked up maybe 10-20 viruses that Avast just missed.

  • Just keep patched up-to-date, run as an ordinary (nonadmin) user, and you don’t need antivirus apps. No machine of mine has had a virus, ever (and they’ve all be windows machines).

  • Check out Comodo Internet Security

    This comprises Anti-Virus, Firewall, and something that could be called behavioral analysis. You can set the behavioral properties from “off” in increasing watchfulness up to “paranoid”. There is also a (voluntary) feedback system which gathers your responses to possible threats.Be aware that before downloading virus signature updates you *must turn of Windows Firewall* and leave it turned off.

  • People should be aware that the race between the bad guys writing malware and AV companies detecting it is always on. The malware inventors will always be ahead of the AV suites. There have been and always will be quite large gaps between introduction of malware and its detection. As to companies claiming to detect rootkits – they can only detect a some of them. New rookit “kits” have been produce which are quite insidious and cam not be defeated, although you would be quite unlucky to have one of these attacks.

    • As for “0-day” virus detection, Avira has got to be close to #1… if a rootkit does target your comp, ComboFix may do the trick… That thing is a nuke to any malware that stands in your way! (with the probable side effect of taking much of your comp in the cyberblast :-/)

  • Interestingly always update your Windows and a few security tricks like turning off the AutoPlay for all drives and run nonadmin user..having AV is only to make you feel more secure but by default safety practice you wont need one.

  • With over 24k responses, AVG topped the poll among these security solutions. AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 9.0 was also preferred to MSE in an online review by PC Magazine in late October.

  • Microsoft? Really? I would have liked to see Sophos get a look here. I rarely see them in these round-ups and I think it’s a real shame. I use them at work all the time and I can say first hand that the quality is through the roof, and I have never had any negative experiences with them..

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