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Best PC Antivirus Software 2014

Best PC Antivirus Software 2014

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. 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.
  • 0 Hide
    merlin45 , October 30, 2014 5:32 AM
    I wonder why Webroot Secure Anywhere is not mentioned
  • 0 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.
  • 0 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
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