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Best PC Antivirus Software 2014

Best PC Antivirus Software 2014
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The market is flooded with antivirus suites that can keep your computer safe and secure, making it tough to pick the right ally. To grab your attention, many security-software companies offer enhanced suites that do more than just scan your computer for malware.

We're talking about additional features such as built-in parental controls, privacy controls, smartphone antivirus software and even identity-theft protection. Such all-encompassing products cost more than basic antivirus software, but the investment is often worthwhile for customers who want more functionality.

Paid vs. free antivirus

There's a lot of free antivirus software available for Windows PCs, but it generally will not protect you as well as the paid software. Of the free products we reviewed, only Avira Free Antivirus did a comparable job. You'll also miss out on extra features such as cloud storage, password managers or file encryption.

To determine which security suite is worth your investment, we tested five of the most popular suites from the biggest names in the business, including Symantec, McAfee, Kaspersky Lab, Bitdefender and Avast! We evaluated each program based on setup, interface, ease of use and security and privacy features.

Top antivirus picks

What about protection? We used data from AV-TEST, an independent institute in Germany that rates most major security suites based on their ability to detect zero-day malware and other recent threats. But we didn't stop there.

In order to see how much of a performance impact the latest security suites have on an average PC, we ran the PCMark7 benchmark and our own OpenOffice productivity test on an Acer Aspire E1, which features a Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM. We ran the tests while running a quick virus scan as well as a full system scan. The scan that caused the benchmark scores to drop the most was deemed to have a greater impact on our test PC.

Which security suite offers the best combination of protection and functionality? Check out our in-depth reviews to find out.

Follow Daniel Howley @DanielHowley and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

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  • 1 Hide
    aqualicia , August 2, 2014 5:13 PM
    I am curious as to why you would recommend people buy bit defender from Herman street. I was just about to do so. but the old adage, if it seems too good to be true it probably is sprung to mind. and when I researched this company. they have multitudes of complaints for being fraudulent and ripping people off. sending nothing or sending software that has caused people systems to crash. or codes that have expired within days. why would you put your reputation on the line by endorsing this company.208 complaints alone with the BBB. not to mention other websites. such as ctwatchdog and ripoffreport. http://www.bbb.org/utah/business-reviews/computers-hardware-software-and-services/herman-street-in-ogden-ut-22008255/complaints. shame on you.
  • 1 Hide
    jpishgar , August 7, 2014 12:31 PM
    Hey there aqualicia,

    Herman Street is a reputable vendor and sells digital downloads of AV and other software programs. We know it's a legitimate and trustworthy company because it is part of the Purch family of brands.

    Unfortunately, one of the problems a site is going to have when selling Antivirus and software cleanup programs is the target demographic tends to be on the lower-tech proficiency end. Browsing through nearly all of the complaints on the BBB about Herman Street, one comes to the conclusion that either the customer simply didn't read that the software they were receiving was a digital download (which is indicated pretty clearly and repeatedly), or that the person using the software had a user issue with it. Rather than search out how to resolve the problem with the software, users posted complaints about it on the BBB for Herman Street. The parallel to this would be like buying a can of Green Giant peas at Walmart, having a problem with the look or taste of the peas, and then lodging a complaint against Walmart rather than Green Giant. Walmart, in this case, couldn't do anything about the taste of the peas.

    Herman Street doesn't have any power over the technical capabilities of the people buying software offered on the site, and the complaints arising from "sending nothing" (check your email), "sending software that causes systems to crash" (Herman Street doesn't write software - it sells software companies that typically have sizable tech support forums write) and "having codes that expired within days" (Again, see email), are very clearly user-side issues. My first recommendation to anyone experiencing a problem with a piece of software, and I do mean any software, would be to post the issue here in the Tom's Hardware tech support area. We have a whole section for software, and experts eager to help.

    In the future, we'll absolutely be referring to Herman Street again, but bearing your feedback in mind, we might encourage customers there to a) Contact the software maker for instructions, FAQs, and help and if that fails b) Ask for help on what they are doing wrong here on Tom's.

    Hope this helps address some of your concern.

    Warm Regards,
    Joe Pishgar
    Senior Community Manager, Tom's Hardware
  • 0 Hide
    warmbeer , August 29, 2014 1:46 PM
    I would appreciate it if the next review like this looks a little deeper at how these programs interfere with normal use. I had a problem with 2 different computers using Norton where right clicking a folder in Windows Explorer resulted in anywhere from a 10 to 30 second delay before the drop down menu appeared. Turning off the protection had no effect but deleting the software solved the problem. This was the only impact but it was significant. Your methodology would not reveal something like this, which for me is a crucial reason why I would never consider Norton again.
  • 2 Hide
    merlin45 , October 30, 2014 5:32 AM
    I wonder why Webroot Secure Anywhere is not mentioned
  • 1 Hide
    Sharath Chandramouli , November 6, 2014 4:32 AM
    Damn ! This review is partial without including Webroot SecureAnywhere Anti-Virus. It is regarded as one of the most respected anti-virus software.
  • 2 Hide
    merlin45 , November 6, 2014 6:06 AM
    I agree! Webroot is one of the best! Smaller footprint, and has stopped everything that is harmful.
  • 1 Hide
    Tanyac , November 18, 2014 6:41 PM
    I always get a laugh when I see Symantec products recommended. For years I had to support customer PCs, and by far, the most resource hungry, least reliable, and most intrusive packages that I ever had the displeasure to work with were the Symantec programs. Massive system hogs, and a nightmare to get rid of, with a multitude of conflicts with so many programs.

    Symantec to an extent, kept putting food on my table; keeping me in a job continually uninstalling it.
  • 0 Hide
    Paul NZ , November 18, 2014 6:42 PM
    Dont believe reviews. Ill just stick with the ones that dont crash. The windows ones
  • 0 Hide
    Story , December 2, 2014 7:48 AM
    When it comes to handing over your cash for antivirus, my advice is to run as far and as fast from Avast as you can. It has nothing to do with the product itself. I've used it for three years now and it seems adequate. However, I'm one of the many consumers who has discovered that their billing practices are shady at best, and illegal at worst. I didn't lose much, but whatever you do, don't renew early. In spite of the assurances in their emails, you will lose whatever time is remaining on your current subscription. The only way to ask for assistance or a refund is through an online support ticket - otherwise known as the Wall of Silence. Complaints against Avast are common. A Google search shows up issues with double billing, unauthorized billing, and laughable odds of ever getting a refund in spite of their 30-day money back guarantee. So just a word to the wise. Their website looks legit, but if you haven't given them your credit card or debit info, do a Google search first and keep your cards in your wallet. It's a shame, too, since they used to have a decent reputation.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous77 , December 5, 2014 4:19 PM
    Having worked for years as a technician doing customer support, I can truly say that a lot of the reputations of AV software floating around the web are utter bunk. Take Kaspersky for instance. This software, according to reviews, is very high quality and obtains high ratings. However it has a 'feature' where it will make your system crawl to a halt as soon as your licence has expired. I have found McAffee to be useless and a system hog and the free AV suits give you just about as much protection as you are paying for. Norton was the product in store that I recommended the most simply because it had a far lower infection rate than any other system I came across. This includes crowd favourites such as Webroot and Avast.
  • 1 Hide
    donlebla , December 9, 2014 6:34 AM
    What about, Webroot SecureAnywhere Anti-Virus?
  • 1 Hide
    AnonymousTech , December 15, 2014 11:12 AM
    I've used Webroot as a IT professional for 3 years now on all my clients computers and not a single reinfection! I have scanned over all the mentioned software above and Webroot found infections on each and every one of them. In fact, before Webroot my clients would constantly call me and say that the software recommended in the above list doesn't work well and it slowed their computers down. Tom's guide are you stuck in the 90's?
  • 0 Hide
    donlebla , December 15, 2014 8:22 PM
    Thank you Anonymous Tech, you made my day!
  • 0 Hide
    Skylyne , December 16, 2014 4:03 PM
    I'd call this "The Best Paid Advertisements for AV Software of 2014."

    Now, I'm not ripping on Bitdefender... just saying that the rest of the article makes me shake my head in disbelief. Seriously, they are going to recommend Symantec software? McAfee? Kaspersky should probably be rated as the most feature rich, while remaining remotely reliable (albeit highly paranoid). But seriously? Give me a break... recommending McAfee, Norton, and Avast are complete crap, if you do a truly comprehensive review on them.

    I seriously am starting to wonder how much the author was paid to promote some of these AV wares... This can't be a real article. Sure, they all do a decent job; however, being decent still sucks in the real world, with end-users who are uneducated.

    Quote:
    I would appreciate it if the next review like this looks a little deeper at how these programs interfere with normal use. I had a problem with 2 different computers using Norton where right clicking a folder in Windows Explorer resulted in anywhere from a 10 to 30 second delay before the drop down menu appeared. Turning off the protection had no effect but deleting the software solved the problem. This was the only impact but it was significant. Your methodology would not reveal something like this, which for me is a crucial reason why I would never consider Norton again.

    Yeah, this "article" is a real slapdash job.

    It looks like the author only cared to look at AV Test, and nowhere else, for the actual testing data. While AVT is a great place to get overall protection information, it's a big no-no to only look at one source before doing a full recommendation. It's also a bit tacky to write a review based on other people's testing. Sure, not everyone is able to test software properly; however, it is definitely a good idea to perform some basic tests on your own. I'll get to that in a bit, though.

    Quote:
    I always get a laugh when I see Symantec products recommended. For years I had to support customer PCs, and by far, the most resource hungry, least reliable, and most intrusive packages that I ever had the displeasure to work with were the Symantec programs. Massive system hogs, and a nightmare to get rid of, with a multitude of conflicts with so many programs.

    Symantec to an extent, kept putting food on my table; keeping me in a job continually uninstalling it.

    I've not met one truly satisfied Symantec customer. I've also not yet met anyone who used Norton, and didn't have any notable problems.

    Quote:
    Dont believe reviews. Ill just stick with the ones that dont crash. The windows ones

    Sorry mate, but I can't take that one very seriously. MSE is a joke. It doesn't even meet the industry standard.

    Quote:
    I've used Webroot as a IT professional for 3 years now on all my clients computers and not a single reinfection! I have scanned over all the mentioned software above and Webroot found infections on each and every one of them. In fact, before Webroot my clients would constantly call me and say that the software recommended in the above list doesn't work well and it slowed their computers down. Tom's guide are you stuck in the 90's?

    Quote:
    Damn ! This review is partial without including Webroot SecureAnywhere Anti-Virus. It is regarded as one of the most respected anti-virus software.

    I've had some interesting issues with Webroot, but it has also caught some infections that I never would have found on my own (and that other wares missed). It's pretty amazing how well it works. The problems I've had are either new user errors, or very one-off issues. I can't say I highly recommend it just yet, but it's definitely a very effective one.

    To Dan Howley (author of the article)- make sure you perform more thorough research before you start recommending software. Symantec does NOT have a good reputation with the hacker community, and has had a lot of history with not fixing certain security flaws (just look at Wikipedia for a little example, for both Norton AntiVirus, and Symantec). While this might have changed, I've yet to hear their name used in a truly positive way, outside of "reviews" and the testing performed by the main AV testing groups. The real problem is that AV testing groups do not do a full testing of the software. They might test for picking up on known viruses, and so on, but the real comprehensive testing seems to be missing. This is relatively disappointing to those of us who actually know a few things about computer security, and don't think only about viruses, malware, and other relatively minimal nuisances. Here's an example of why you should do a more thorough investigation before writing a "review" on AV software...

    Qihoo 360 IS was tested by AVT, and came out pretty well in protection. Now, before you take that as a "recommendation" in any way, it should be noted that when I performed some very basic AV testing (using EICAR test files), Qihoo failed to automatically pick up that the .txt EICAR virus files were in fact virus files. The only way they were detected was through manual scanning. Is this a real hazard? Not entirely... but it definitely raised an eyebrow. I couldn't get Qihoo to automatically detect the .txt EICAR file as a virus; it had to be manually scanned. Opening the file was iffy, as it didn't really flag the file as malicious every time I opened it (based on memory alone, I'd say it didn't ever consider the file malicious when you opened it). I don't think it even flagged the .txt file as malicious if I made it myself, then saved it. Again, it only picked up that it was malicious, consistently, when you manually scanned it.

    Does that really sound like a software someone would want to have on their computer? People make recommendations based on information they read, but don't question it enough. Before you start having people trust you, do your f***ing research. Hate to be such a dick about this, but seeing decent paid software recommended for a job that certain free software will do just fine is pretty ridiculous. Need a quality firewall? Comodo. Quality free AV? Bitdefender's free AV. Quality malware detection? MBAM and Hitman Pro is a combination that will do just fine. Quality browser? Aviator. Do I really need to go any further?

    And yes, my personal recommendations are actually based on a fair amount of research, as well as a substantial amount of first-hand operation. If people want to pay for things to be easier, then only recommend the ones that are either highly respected by the people who actively try to compromise security, or find some comprehensive reviews that can be properly double-checked (AV-Comparatives offers comprehensive testing reports as a pdf file, for example).

    This article just doesn't cut the mustard.
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