Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in


Free Anti-Virus Software Showdown: The Best of 2012
By , Rico Mossesgeld

Avast wins this year's showdown, thanks to its strong protection against known and unknown threats. It also proved among the easiest antivirus programs to operate, and is actually as effective as many paid antivirus software suites.

The top four (Avast, Microsoft Security Essentials, Avira, and AVG, in that order) by our final ratings detailed below are also the top four in terms of usage share. That's good news, because it shows that users are becoming more knowledgeable about the threats they can encounter online, and the best way of dealing with them.

Looking forward, it's quite possible that Windows 8 may render non-Microsoft free antivirus programs obsolete. The promised improved version of MSE and Internet Explorer's SmartScreen built into the future version of Windows will provide a comprehensive and adaptive shield against online threats, according to Microsoft.

We doubt that however, because no matter how well-designed a protection system is, there will always be vulnerabilities that can be exploited. A key factor that keeps this reality in check is the fact that the antivirus software market is as competitive as ever.

Ask a Category Expert

Create a new thread in the Streaming Video & TVs forum about this subject

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

Display all 18 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • 0 Hide
    jeffgaron , June 7, 2012 6:05 PM
    Please note that the OPSWAT antivirus market share report referenced in this article is available at:
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 7, 2012 6:29 PM
    It's nice to see Tom's finally publish a review like this, but it would have been nicer to see more detailed coverage, like what we are used to in product reviews, benches, browser grand prix, etc. When I clicked on this I was hoping to see real quantitative comparisons, not ambiguous 0-5 star ratings. I'm interested in seeing the cold, hard facts, not personal opinions and conjecture.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 7, 2012 7:03 PM
    I need to know if i'm really safe without my Norton.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 7, 2012 9:51 PM
    Personally I run the free versions of SuperAntiSpyware and Malwarebytes along with a customized HOSTS file and (here is the best defense) some common sense.
  • 2 Hide
    gerchokas , June 7, 2012 10:23 PM
    MSE + Built-in Firewall + Modern Browser + Competent User > Any other tool or combination of tools out there. So darn simple
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , June 8, 2012 1:01 AM
    sorry tom's guide but you are good only for hardware's purposes. signed: Avira
  • 1 Hide
    mjmckevitt , June 8, 2012 5:05 AM
    Eh...according to AVAST!'s website the free version doesn't come with the sandbox features listed. If the testers' copy used them it was obviously the 30-day trial version of AVAST! Internet Security which as you might have guessed, is only free for 30 days, and maybe shouldn't have been included. Anywhom, the guys up there^^^ are right; anti-virus software is nothing without some basic common sense. Ergo, knowing there is no such thing as a free iPhone.
  • -1 Hide
    daglesj , June 8, 2012 8:46 AM
    Must admit I was surprised to find MSE built into the latest Windows 8 release.

    Nice surprise I may add. However, I can see lengthy court cases ahead for MS on that.
  • 0 Hide
    Sgt Moo , June 8, 2012 11:44 AM

    It may not have a fully featured sandbox mode but it has some form of it as it pops up every now and then when I use 3DP net to install network drivers asking if I want to run it in sandbox mode...slightly annoying as the program is fine but at least it shows it's working.

    Interesting that Avast's boot time scan was left un-mentioned, an insanely handy feature that can clear out those more stubborn viruses that cant be removed from inside windows. Even though I don't use any AV software (common sense all the way) I recommend Avast to anyone asking about free protection (that and shoplifting condoms...)
  • 2 Hide
    spp85 , June 8, 2012 1:13 PM
    Good unbiased review. I always knows that Avast 7 and MSE 4.0 is the best free anti virus software's. If you maintain your windows 7 OS up to date with latest security updates then the built in windows firewall combined with an Avast 7 offers solid security and that too without compromising any system performance.

    There is an online Firewall efficiency testing site at
    after updating my windows 7 I tested the windows firewall and I got "True Stealth" rating as the result. Whereas my previous firewall Comodo firewall, failed on that "All service ports" scan test.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 11, 2012 8:22 AM
    I would like to know if Panda Cloud had internet access during the whole test?

  • 0 Hide
    jethrot , June 18, 2012 2:35 AM
    I used Avast last year and it was great while I had it installed. Seemed a little bloated and resource hungry.
    As soon as my license ran out and i uninstalled 30 seconds later a fake AV suddenly appeared in my system tray then a virus overtook my computer with rootkits and destroyed my Win7X64 partition. Completely unable to boot into the system. I had to format the drive and use a different OS boot to recover files.
    Might be great while you have it but it seems to just hold things back until the program is uninstalled.
  • 0 Hide
    dreadlokz , June 23, 2012 7:18 AM
    Avira and not changing anytime soon!
  • 0 Hide
    bigcyco1 , June 29, 2012 2:43 PM
    Great review thank you!
  • 0 Hide
    Flying-Q , July 21, 2012 8:09 AM
    I use online banking services. My bank is security paranoid. This is a trait I like. They give me a FREE internet security suite, a full professional license for 3 computers and the same for 3 mobile devices, including firewall and cloud supported antivirus. It also gets a free application and license update every year. It's called Kaspersky and it won TomsHardware's latest roundup beating all of the above in the AV category. The only real price was opening an internet capable savings account with £1.
  • 0 Hide
    sykozis , September 19, 2012 4:25 AM
    daglesjMust admit I was surprised to find MSE built into the latest Windows 8 release. Nice surprise I may add. However, I can see lengthy court cases ahead for MS on that.

    Why would MS get sued for it? It only enables itself if there is no competing antivrus installed and will immediately disable itself if a competing antivirus is installed. It even gives the user an option to enable or disable it.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 31, 2012 6:38 PM
    my anti-virus expires in 17 days.Can I renew now?
  • 0 Hide
    Jo schmoe , December 18, 2013 9:47 AM
    The best antivirus software thats out there is STOPzilla! I actually have a phone number you can call to get a year of STOPzilla antivirus and antimalware software for free! They also have a year of the STOPzilla optimizer for free too! My friend told me about this. I called this number and they gave me a year of STOPzilla antivirus and antimalware along with the registry cleaner for free just for calling. The number is 786-766-0998. Thats the direct number. They also have a website. Its If your having trouble with your computer they run free computer diagnostics too. My computer was running slow and wasnt infected so they ran a diagnostic on it and told me how to fix it. Theres videos on youtube about this company. Thats how my friend found out about it and he gave me the number. This is the link to the youtube channel that shows you how to get the keycode for free and how to register it . Heres the link to the video so check it out if you want a year of free antivirus and antimalware software along with a registry cleaner.
Tom’s guide in the world
  • Germany
  • France
  • Italy
  • Ireland
  • UK
Follow Tom’s guide
Subscribe to our newsletter
  • add to twitter
  • add to facebook
  • ajouter un flux RSS