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Free Antivirus Software: The Best of 2013

Free Antivirus Software: The Best of 2013
By , Editorial Staff

What are the three most popular antivirus programs in the world? If we're to believe OPSWAT's December market share report, the top three are all free programs. Microsoft Security Essentials takes the lead, with Avast at second place, and Avira in third. Between them, they actively protect more than 50% of PCs in the world! While paid solutions (with the exception of Norton and Eset) lose market share, free antivirus solutions continue to gain ground.

Effective, Not Miraculous


Under the truism, "Better a free antivirus than no antivirus," more and more users are now turning to antivirus solutions that don't cost a cent.
Still, let's be clear: In our tests and those of international laboratories, no free antivirus suite could match the performance excellence of the best paid suites on the market today (BitDefender, Kaspersky, Norton, GData, Eset, Trend Micro, and so on). This isn't because they're less capable at detecting malware. In this respect, many free suites have an even playing field. What sets the free options from paid is that the former tend to lack some of the defenses and features that publishers reserve for paid versions of the same software. This can include real-time defenses, intelligent anti-phishing filters, anti-spyware browser, security systems authentication and more.

Do Paid Antivirus Suites Have a Future?

To survive, paid antivirus suites have needed to continually evolve and gain technical complexity. Not only are they providing new defenses and features, but others are now extending their scope to include stuff like a central interface for parental control and security across all networked devices (smartphones, tablets, game consoles, etc). BitDefender, Kaspersky, and Norton are leading the vanguard of this software transformation, but paid antivirus publishers will need to do more with their 2014 editions if they want to regain market share.

Meanwhile, free antivirus suites have proven their effectiveness, especially with the cautious and experienced users knowledgeable in safe browsing habits. Better yet, some suites such as Avast and Comodo provide very relevant tools to help users stay protected ...

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  • -1 Hide
    Yann Bane , July 18, 2013 7:19 AM
    1. This software isn't free.
    2. Giving complete control to closed-source proprietary software is definitely not a good idea.

    Switch to a free operating system that doesn't have these issues and doesn't spy on you: Fedora, Ubuntu or Linux Mint.
  • 0 Hide
    Kevin Judge , July 18, 2013 8:36 AM
    Comodo Internet Security was the only Free antivirus software to receive a perfect score by AV-TEST Labs for protection in April.
    http://antivirus.comodo.com/
  • 0 Hide
    kyzarvs , July 18, 2013 9:00 AM
    On Security Essentials, did you change the default "Limit CPU usage to 50%" option?

    If so, what effect on performance did that have?
  • 0 Hide
    jakjawagon , July 18, 2013 9:48 AM
    Page 2:
    #9 "Many types of malware and web exploits fail to run when using a"Standard" account rather than "Administrator" account"
    So do lots of older games.
    #11:
    Having your account stolen/taken over =/= getting infected.
  • 0 Hide
    antiglobal , July 18, 2013 9:51 AM
    @ Yann Bane

    I agree. Only open source software is free. Linux rules!
  • 3 Hide
    deksman , July 18, 2013 11:11 AM
    As a Windows user, I personally have been using Microsoft Security Essentials since it came out with no difficulties.
    Its the best when it comes to false positives, plus I am a big downloader and browse through quite a versatile assortment of web sites without getting infected (I use Google Chrome with Adblock and HTTPS everywhere add-ons - first line of defense is the user after all, plus I make sure not to click on ads and other stupidities that could cause potential problems, and I advise people whose computers I service to do the same).
    MSE to this date (at least in my case) stopped every attempt at a possible infection, and I also use Malwarebytes as an on-demand scanner (but only if I might suspect a possible infection - which is rare to say the least).

    Other than that, the idea of switching over completely to Linux is appealing, but my use of Windows encompasses programs that don't work on Linux or would (for the moment) require too much time to learn how to properly use their alternatives (which also seem rather lacking a bit right now) - adding to that that one cannot really play any Windows games on Linux without some serious modifications or other types of tricks that make the process that much more difficult (mind you, I don't really game that often, but on rare occasions I do, it would be a downer of not being able to do so on Linux alone right off the bat - and having a dual-boot OS is a bit too tedious for me since Windows does everything I want it to do anyway without problems, and its quite fast with regular maintenance as is).

  • 2 Hide
    someperson123 , July 18, 2013 11:38 AM
    Comodo also offers, upon installation of their CIS program, to set your computer up with their own Secure DNS (also for free) with little hassle. This effectively negates the claim that there is no phishing protection. Sadly the reviewer here apparently did not notice that. Furthermore, Comodo supplies you will the Secure DNS routing info on their website for advanced users to set it up on their home routers or machines without Comodo running.

    The anti-virus/anti-malware functionality of Comodo is so thorough that in includes behavioral scanning, heuristics, and automatic sandboxing of untrusted/unrecogized programs. It is consistently rated as one of the best AV/AM programs on the market. And it's free, unlike other acclaimed products such as Kapersky.

    I do agree with the user-friendly finding. They were not the most user friendly is previous versions for non-tech savvy people. They have made drastic improvements, and for that I commend them.

    I am, and have been for many years, a big advocate of Comodo's business scheme. Let users have the full program free, but charge for customer support. There is also a large amout of other free security-themed services Comodo supplies, such as encryption certificates and secure web browsers based on both Chrome (Dragon) and FireFox (IceDragon) browser platforms. They also have a mobile security app on Android, which aside from anti-virus (which is so far not largely needed), it also has push ad detection, anti-theft locate/wipe/lock features, and a firewall (which is available with root access only) that are all free without subscriptions or "freemium" features.

    Once I have the capital, I fully intend on investing into Comodo stock, as I see they are a intelligently run company, and I hope they continue to succeed.
  • 0 Hide
    skit75 , July 18, 2013 12:55 PM
    I've been impressed with MSE. I administer a small business network and twice in the last year.... other AV/AM solutions have detected trojans on users PC's but, only MSE was able to remove them without paid support. I am also a fan of installing MalwareByte's Chameleon program as a precautionary measure because it provides another avenue of access to an infected PC when the going gets tough.
  • -2 Hide
    The_Trutherizer , July 19, 2013 4:47 AM
    Best antivirus. A free one and a yearly format and reinstall.
  • 1 Hide
    daglesj , July 19, 2013 7:17 AM
    The best advice I can give the Paid AV makers is this -

    Less is more.

    and

    STFU!

    Basically your products are far too complicated, far too expansive and intrusive. They just confuse the domestic folks that use whatever is installed on the machine when they buy it. Oh and how often do I find the pre-installed AV is lapsed 12 months after the machine was bought? Gahhhh!

    As for STFU. Your products are far too noisy. Quit with all the prompts and the pop ups every 5 minutes. Just sit in the background and do your job.

    MS Security Essentials isn't just popular because its free, it keeps its mouth shut.
  • 0 Hide
    daglesj , July 19, 2013 7:20 AM
    Oh and if you want to add a little more free and easy protection to your PC then add in EMET3.0.

    It's a free download from MS that activates all the DEP/ASLR/SEHOP stuff to help fight Zero day stuff. I run it on all my machines at max settings.

    Search for EMET3.0
  • 0 Hide
    onebrokendownhorse , July 20, 2013 9:08 PM
    The question that I have is what about Firefox extensions to defeat most of the bad items listed in this article. For example wot can tell you if the site is questionable so why have an anti-virus that duplicates what wot is doing?
  • 0 Hide
    onebrokendownhorse , July 20, 2013 9:11 PM
    Second what about the security risk this programs possible can, for example tool bars?
  • 1 Hide
    DjEaZy , July 22, 2013 6:51 AM
    ... Free Antivirus Software? = More Work For ME!!!
  • 1 Hide
    SvRommelvS , July 22, 2013 10:20 AM
    I was upgrading my girlfriend's machine recently and noted to her that "This looks like a girlfriend's machine." She hit me. I knew it was coming and said it anyway--it had to be said! After two hours of MS updates and a bevy of unintalls I still noted that you could go shopping during boot timing and found the typical usage speed to be well below expectations. After turning off some auto-starts I finally got to the key offender:

    Avast.

    I replaced it with MSE and suddenly the machine was booting in a reasonable time and managed to open programs before she died of hunger because we were supposed to go to dinner like four hours ago.
  • 0 Hide
    popatim , July 22, 2013 2:09 PM
    Everyone I know that uses MSE has gotten an infection, including a particularly difficult one just last week and my daughters husbands aunt last month. I keep clear of MSE at all costs.
  • 0 Hide
    rwinches , July 22, 2013 4:45 PM
    I use SpyBot to update my hosts file and run teatimer.exe for proactive protection
    For AV I run AVG free.
    bad sites get blocked this combination.
    I turned that crap UAC Windows warning off. Yiiiiikes!
    I run Chrome now because FF image download is slow and won't let you even scroll till their done on HufPo the site refreshes constantly so you freeze till it's done.
  • 0 Hide
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  • 0 Hide
    Rommel Pacia , July 26, 2013 12:04 AM
    this article would have been more helpful if they provided solutions or links to solutions for some of the problems. like in number 2, how do remove old versions of applications or even how to find out which applications don't automatically remove old versions when they update.
  • -1 Hide
    deenababu1971 , July 26, 2013 8:33 AM
    Best antivirus. A free one and a yearly format and reinstall.
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