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    Ranking and reviews of free antivirus/antimalware software

    Updated from my previous list a year ago, this list of free antivirus/antimalware software is ranked by highest to lowest user scores from various websites that compile those scores, such as cnet, softpedia, etc. Such a ranking is based on usability, since most users don’t have a way to properly test antimalware technical capability, and thus the reason for the editorial comments. The sample size for the compiled scores ranges from hundreds of users to tens of thousands. Editorial comments are from lab testing by PC Magazine, PC Advisor, PCWorld, etc. User scores and editorial comments were, for the most part, from the past year. All have automatic updates and real-time protection, unless otherwise stated. Blocking refers to real-time protection; detection and removal refers to cleaning an infected computer.

    1. avast! Free Antivirus 7 (http://www.avast.com/free-antivirus-download): Average malware blocking. Above average detection and removal. Has automatic sandboxing.

    2. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free 1.70 (http://www.malwarebytes.org/products/malwarebytes_free): Below average malware detection, but above average removal. Detection and removal of rootkits below average. Some rootkits still running after alleged removal. Very fast scan. Manual definition file updates. No real-time protection.

    3. Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0 (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/w...tials-download): Average malware blocking. Below average detection and removal. Left some malware installed after alleged removal. Scan is very slow.

    4. Avira Free Antivirus 2013 (http://www.avira.com/en/avira-free-antivirus): Above average malware blocking and removal. Below average detection.

    5. Spybot – Search & Destroy 2.0 (http://www.safer-networking.org): Below average detection and removal of malware. Particularly poor removal of rootkits. User interface has many extremely awkward elements. Almost 100% ineffective. Manual definition file updates. No real-time protection.

    6. SpywareBlaster 4.6 (http://www.brightfort.com): Above average spyware blocking. No spyware detection or removal capability. May occasionally block access to legitimate websites. Manual definition file updates. Intended as a complement to existing antivirus software, not as a replacement.

    7. AVG Anti-Virus Free 2013 (http://free.avg.com/us-en/homepage): Above average malware blocking, detection, and removal. Some detected malware had to be removed manually.

    8. Comodo Antivirus 2012 (http://www.comodo.com): Above average malware blocking. Below average detection and removal. Removal of rootkits particularly poor. Has sandbox and secure DNS features. Many complex popups.

    9. Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool (http://www.microsoft.com/security/pc...e-removal.aspx): Included in the monthly Microsoft Update download. Checks for specific, prevalent malware and helps remove any found. Intended as a complement to existing antivirus software, not as a replacement.

    10. ClamWin Free Antivirus (http://www.clamwin.com): Below average malware detection and removal. Scan is slow. Open-source antivirus software. No real-time protection.

    11. SUPERAntiSpyware 5.6 (http://www.superantispyware.com): Below average malware detection and removal. Particularly poor detection of rootkits. Left some malware installed after alleged removal. Repairs security settings changed by malware. Fast scan. Manual definition file updates. No real-time protection.

    12. Agnitum Outpost Security Suite Free 7.1 (http://free.agnitum.com/): Below average malware blocking. Above average detection and removal.

    13. Norton Antivirus 2013 (http://us.norton.com/antivirus/): Available for free from some internet service providers. Average malware blocking. Above average detection and removal. Many extra features and tools.

    14. Panda Cloud Antivirus Free Edition 2.0 (http://www.cloudantivirus.com/en/forHome/): Below average malware blocking. Above average detection, but below average removal. Minimal system impact. Works poorly when disconnected from the internet.

    15. Immunet Free Antivirus 3.0 (http://www.immunet.com/free/index.html): Below average malware blocking, detection, and removal. Failed rootkit removal test. Cloud-based protection. Fast scan. Intended as a complement to existing antivirus software, not as a replacement.

    16. Ad-Aware Free Antivirus+ 10 (http://www.lavasoft.com/products/ad_aware_free.php): Above average malware blocking, detection, and removal. Low resource usage. Some performance glitches. Malware removal left one test computer unusable.

    17. ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus+Firewall 110 (http://www.zonealarm.com/security/en...s-firewall.htm): Above average malware blocking. Below average detection and removal. Increases boot time.

    18. PC Tools Antivirus Free 2012 (http://www.pctools.com/free-antivirus/index/d/2): Below average malware blocking. Above average detection and removal. Easy to use. Relentless pushing of paid version.

    19. McAfee Internet Security 2013 (http://home.mcafee.com/store/internet-security): Available for free from some internet service providers. Average malware blocking, detection, and removal. Many extra features.

    20. McAfee Antivirus Plus 2013 (http://home.mcafee.com/store/antivirus-plus): Available for free from some internet service providers. Average malware blocking, detection, and removal. Several extra features.

    Some internet service providers offering free antivirus/antimalware software include AOL, AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, EarthLink, Optimum/Cablevision, and Time Warner Cable.



    I tested some of these antivirus software products for usability on my own computer, although that experience is not reflected in the ranking or comments above. Since these products are constantly changing, it’s not really worth mentioning some of the foibles unique to each product. But, I did find a few things that seemed to occur across more than a few products:

    1.) Antispyware – All major antivirus products have included antispyware for several years, so separate antispyware has become obsolete. In fact, it’s rare to see any professional testing of these products anymore since they are redundant with current antivirus software. A few publishers of antispyware still exist, but unless they convert to a complete antivirus product like some of their competitors did over the last several years, their future is dim.

    2.) Password Protection – There is malware out there that can turn off your antivirus software faster than it can react to the presence of the malware, leaving your computer defenseless. Some antivirus software does not have password protection to prevent this, which is a security flaw. If the software you are using lacks password protection, replace it with another product that does.

    3.) E-Mail Scanning - If you POP your e-mail, setting that up for scanning with some of these antivirus products can be difficult, and may even create problems that include a security breach. After doing some research on this and thinking about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that e-mail scanning may not be necessary for everyone, and adds an extra layer of complexity that may do more harm than good, especially if you POP to Outlook Express, which has a reputation for not working well with some e-mail scanning. Your internet service provider will strip out just about any malware coming through with an e-mail, and for that very small amount that might get through, the main engine of your antivirus software will grab it as soon as you open that e-mail. I discontinued e-mail scanning almost a year ago and it’s been without incident. Prior to that, during 12 years of owning computers with e-mail scanning active, I’ve only experienced one incident of malware coming in on an e-mail.

    4.) Cloud Features - More of these antivirus products are adding a cloud component each year. Unless it adds something you feel you need, it may not justify the additional complexity. Also, if you occasionally use your computer disconnected from the internet, some of the cloud features may cause your computer to slow down dramatically under that circumstance, as the cloud function consumes resources while it desperately seeks an internet connection that doesn’t exist. In my case, I permanently turned off the cloud component, since it wasn’t adding anything I felt was necessary. This, of course, wouldn’t apply for cloud based products.
    Last edited by cloudsandskye; 2013-03-11 at 00:07. Reason: Repaired links.

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    this list of free antivirus/antimalware software is ranked by highest to lowest user scores from various websites that compile those scores
    Thanks for the list. Can you elaborate on the methodology for the above rankings? Who established the above list and how? (I'm not talking about how the tests were done, but rather how the above list was put together.)

    It appears you're saying the list is a compilation, so I'm curious how the results from the various ranking websites have been aggregated. Are any sources weighted as more influential? How is the ranking handled when websites don't review the same products? What happens when one website ranks one product better than another and the next website ranks them vice versa? (If this was all covered last year, perhaps you could add a link to the earlier explanation.)

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    cloudsandskye, thanks for the interesting comparative. I too would be interested in a bit of background info on the rankings.

    Is there any information on tools that seem to be missing from the list? ..... from ESET, Kaspersky, Trend, Bull Guard or Emsisoft, to name but a few.

    What does Virus Bulletin have to say about these products?

    The mention of email scanning and Outlook Express leads to other questions about the data. Outlook Express was available on XP and was for many years considered by many to be quite a weak program in terms of security....though do I tend to agree with you that email providers and ISP's filter almost all malware from email.
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    These would also depend a little on what OS we are talking about. I don't believe Avast 7, for example, plays well with Win 8.
    Last edited by Medico; 2013-02-02 at 11:23.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dg1261 View Post
    Thanks for the list. Can you elaborate on the methodology for the above rankings? Who established the above list and how? (I'm not talking about how the tests were done, but rather how the above list was put together.)

    It appears you're saying the list is a compilation, so I'm curious how the results from the various ranking websites have been aggregated. Are any sources weighted as more influential? How is the ranking handled when websites don't review the same products? What happens when one website ranks one product better than another and the next website ranks them vice versa? (If this was all covered last year, perhaps you could add a link to the earlier explanation.)
    Who established the above list and how? I established the list myself using my own research. My intention was to include every free antivirus/antimalware product with an adequate sample size of user scores.

    Are any sources weighted as more influential? All users are treated as having an equal opinion; no source is weighted as more influential than another. But, the sample size of user scores has influence on the ranking, so the average score from a sample size of 500 on one website will have more influence than the average score from a sample size of 50 on another website.

    How is the ranking handled when websites don't review the same products? The product has to be identical across the included websites. If a website doesn't include that product, then that website is excluded from the final score for that product.

    What happens when one website ranks one product better than another and the next website ranks them vice versa? Since I'm using the average user score from each website, rather than how a product ranks on each website, ranking among the websites is not part of the analysis. I'm creating my own unique ranking based on the user scores.
    Last edited by cloudsandskye; 2013-02-02 at 16:21.

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    Thanks for the clarification. Sounds like a reasonable approach. In effect it's a way of saying, "Here's what the collective industry has found," rather than the opinion of any one person or a particular website.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tinto Tech View Post
    cloudsandskye, thanks for the interesting comparative. I too would be interested in a bit of background info on the rankings.

    Is there any information on tools that seem to be missing from the list? ..... from ESET, Kaspersky, Trend, Bull Guard or Emsisoft, to name but a few.

    What does Virus Bulletin have to say about these products?

    The mention of email scanning and Outlook Express leads to other questions about the data. Outlook Express was available on XP and was for many years considered by many to be quite a weak program in terms of security....though do I tend to agree with you that email providers and ISP's filter almost all malware from email.
    Is there any information on tools that seem to be missing from the list? ..... from ESET, Kaspersky, Trend, Bull Guard or Emsisoft, to name but a few. Only free antivirus/antimalware software products are included in my ranking. It might be possible to do a ranking of pay products, but that's something someone else would have to investigate since pay products don't really interest me.

    What does Virus Bulletin have to say about these products? At this point I don't use information from the professional security labs because the consumer sources, such as PC Magazine, tend to review a greater selection of free products, where the labs review perhaps the top 4-6 major free products. I think the consumer publications do a better job of presenting the results in a way that can be easily interpreted by the lay person, with results in the form of technical scores and editorial that are easy to understand.

    The mention of email scanning and Outlook Express leads to other questions about the data. Outlook Express was available on XP and was for many years considered by many to be quite a weak program in terms of security... The issue with Outlook Express and e-mail scanning was not the weak security, which is a separate issue, but rather a technical characteristic of the program that just didn't get along well with the e-mail scanning function in some antivirus products.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Medico View Post
    These would also depend a little on what OS we are talking about. I don't believe Avast 7, for example, plays well with Win 8.
    I don't use Windows 8, so I can't speak directly to that issue, but of the products listed in the ranking, Avast, AVG, Avira, Comodo, McAfee, Norton, and Panda are certified as compatible with Windows 8. But, regardless, there are posts in the Avast forum complaining about incompatibility with Windows 8. Avast expects to have a software upgrade available in the next 30-60 days which will resolve any remaining compatibility issues.

    Windows 8 has some embedded antimalware features (Windows Defender and Windows SmartScreen http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/w...efender#1TC=t1) and it's those programs that are at least partly contributing to the conflict with Avast. Also, although Windows Defender can be turned off, it's possible some people were not even aware of its existence, didn't know it could be turned off, didn't know how to turn it off, didn't follow the correct sequence, etc. There are reviews of the original version of Windows Defender, but those are too old to be useful, so hopefully there will be reviews of this new version forthcoming.
    Last edited by cloudsandskye; 2013-02-02 at 18:31.

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    Ah, but Windows Defender is automatically disabled when a 3rd party AV is installed. For example I am using AVG AV Pro 2013 and it has disabled Windows Defender. I suppose Smart Screen could be causing conflicts with Avast.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cloudsandskye View Post
    Is there any information on tools that seem to be missing from the list? ..... from ESET, Kaspersky, Trend, Bull Guard or Emsisoft, to name but a few. Only free antivirus/antimalware software products are included in my ranking.
    Thanks, and sorry, I didn't read the thread correctly: I assumed it included subscription based products too.

    Your methods of ranking appear sound, but as a note of caution to to a casual reader, they are only based on users views on usability rather than performance. I would suggest that readers who are wanting the best product also need to be aware of performance. Your summary comments help illuminate this and casual readers would be well advised to read and assess those details too.
    Last edited by Tinto Tech; 2013-02-03 at 12:58. Reason: typo
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    Avast has been a favourite of mine for some time. I now use the latest version with Win8 Pro x64 and have not had any problems.

    I have used AVG, MSE and several others in the past, even back to Norton Utilities (God forbid), but none seemed as reliable and easy to use as Avast.

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    The other consideration here is that some of these apps mentioned are not AV products, but AM products, Malwarebytes for example.

    Another thought is that no 2 AV apps should be run in real time simultaneously to avoid conflicts and false positives. Many of the fine AV apps will "play" well with AV apps in real time. For example, I run AVG AV 2013 Pro (worked with free version as well) and Spybot Search and Destroy and Malwarebytes Anti-malware pro all in real times and all "play" well with each other. In my experience no single AV or AM app catches and eliminates everything. That is the main reason why I advocate a multi-layered approach which includes these apps along with a H/W and S/W firewall (H/W - Router, S/W Windows firewall in my case) This multi-layered approach along with throttling the worst offender of all (The individual in front of the keyboard) allows a user to be confident of a very secure installation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarrellGood View Post
    Thanks for the list!
    Why didn't you mention Unthreat Antivirus? It's really easy to use and it's free as well. Have you heard of it?
    To make the list, a product has to meet two criteria: 1) an adequate sample size of users, and 2) participation in controlled testing with a defined database of malware. Unthreat Free met the first criteria, but not the second. There are several free products that fall into this group. I did make an exception for the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool and included it on the list because I think many people forget about this useful product or don't even know about it. The user scores for Unthreat Free would rank it between Ad-Aware and ZoneAlarm. Unthreat is a relatively new software company which is licensing the Vipre antivirus engine and repackaging it into their own proprietary product. Testing of the Vipre product shows it to have above average malware blocking, average malware detection, and below average malware removal. I don't know what changes Unthreat made to their product which would differentiate it from the Vipre product, so I can't just use the Vipre test results as a substitute for Unthreat test results.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Medico View Post
    These would also depend a little on what OS we are talking about. I don't believe Avast 7, for example, plays well with Win 8.
    It looks like Avira is having trouble with Windows 8, too:
    http://www.informationweek.com/secur...viru/240142231

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    Recently Matousec conducted a Proactive Security Survey for security products,
    Matousec conducted two surveys, asking their website visitors ‘Which is your favorite antivirus family?’ and ‘Which is your favorite Proactive security family?’. Comodo won both polls, beating out 86 and 106 competitors respectively and below are the survey links,
    http://www.matousec.com/info/poll-archive.php?poll=1
    http://www.matousec.com/info/poll-archive.php?poll=2

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