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5 Free PC Security Programs Worth Downloading

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 14 comments
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If you want to protect that expensive PC of yours, you'll need to keep it outfitted with anti-virus software, Internet protection suites, firewalls, and all manner of anti-spyware and anti-malware programs. The good news is that these programs are easy to run, and you can get some of the best ones without paying a penny. These programs, combined with a little common sense, can protect you from the worst of what the Internet has to offer while letting you browse, shop and play to your heart's content.

AVG AntiVirus

AVG AntiVirus debuted in 1992 and is still going strong today.  Although AVG AntiVirus has paid options that offer email guards, IM scanners and banking protection, its free program is one of the most comprehensive and user-friendly anti-virus suites on the market. Recent tests have put the program on about the same tier as paid programs like BitDefender and F-Secure: It captures and eradicates 97 percent of novel malware and 99 percent of known malware. Although the program can be a bit of a system resource hog, its useful real-time protection and easy scanning features make it a solid investment at a cool $0.

Comodo Firewall

A firewall is a program that keeps track of how your PC communicates with the Internet and prevents bad files from coming in. For what it's worth, Windows comes with a fairly decent firewall, but if your travels routinely take you to the sites where malware lurks (torrents or pornography, for example) you'll want something a program that tracks outgoing files as well as inbound ones. Comodo Firewall does what you'd expect, but does it well, and takes up many fewer system resources than the default Windows firewall. The program will prevent strange programs from executing, alert users to suspicious online activity and set up exceptions so that users can game online in peace.

MORE: 5 Free PC Maintenance Programs Worth Downloading

FileHippo.com Update Checker

One of the easiest ways to fall victim to malware is to be lax in updating your programs. FileHippo.com offers an extremely simple and lightweight solution in the form of Update Checker. This program does exactly what it says on the tin: It analyzes your programs, detects when one of them is out-of-date, then prompts you to update it. In the case of programs like Adobe Flash or Mozilla Firefox, which malefactors target frequently, staying on top of security updates and patches could be the difference between a regular day on the Internet and getting drafted into a botnet that steals your banking information.

KeePass

If you're serious about keeping your information safe online, you should use a different password for every service. Granted, if you're anything like the average Internet user, you might use dozens of different services in any given week, to say nothing of the ones you need only every once in a while. Rather than writing down every password on a Post-It note that you're sure to lose, try KeePass instead. This free, open-source program allows you to store thousands of different passwords for every service, and all you need to remember is one master password to unlock them all. Each password is encrypted, so your data is inaccessible to everyone but you.

Eraser

Eraser is a useful piece of software if you want to keep your hard drive free and uncluttered, but it has some security applications as well. Deleting a file on a Windows PC sends it to the Recycle Bin, and emptying the Recycle Bin makes files disappear — but not forever. Until your computer rewrites that data, the file still exists in limbo somewhere, just waiting for an enterprising user to recover it with a program like Recuva. If you have sensitive data, don't take that chance. Eraser will terminate files with extreme prejudice, preventing them from ever resurfacing. This is handy for anything you wouldn't want other people to find — accidentally or otherwise.

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  • 0 Hide
    digiex , August 27, 2013 11:07 AM
    Avast free, it has also a built in update checker, not resource hug.
  • 0 Hide
    LordConrad , August 27, 2013 12:07 PM
    Eraser is great for hard drives, but not so much for SSDs. With wear leveling active, there is no guarantee that the bits you are overwriting are actually from the file you are trying to erase. Also, it uses more Program/Erase cycles, but it shouldn't noticeably degrade the life of your SSD unless it is used heavily.
  • 0 Hide
    Patrick Tobin , August 27, 2013 12:45 PM
    In my experience Comodo has never done a stellar job of anything but hogging system resources. Same with AVG. Avast has built in Browser cleaner, updater, you name it. It also meets or beats the same level of protection AVG offers without taking over everything in your system.
  • Display all 14 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    bloodroses , August 27, 2013 1:29 PM
    On my older machine running Windows 7, I had been using Avira due to the fact it had almost no impact on performance and I could easily disable it for gaming w/o it affecting anything else (looking at you NOD32). I had also tried Avast and AVG on that machine, but they both seemed to make the machine run very sluggish in comparison. And with Microsoft Security Essentials, imagine booting up a laptop and not being able to use it for about a half hour due to MSE eating up all resources w/o regard of what the user is trying to do.

    On my new machine, I am running Windows 8. I was told this already has antivirus built into it through defender. I am wondering if this is sufficient or should I disable it and run a 3rd party antivirus?

    As for firewalls, I just use the built-in windows one as I've never really ran into a need to have a stronger one.

    Update Checker and KeePass I definitely give 2 thumbs up to as they are always part of my initial software install on a new machine.
  • -1 Hide
    bloodroses , August 27, 2013 1:45 PM
    On my older machine running Windows 7, I had been using Avira due to the fact it had almost no impact on performance and I could easily disable it for gaming w/o it affecting anything else (looking at you NOD32). I had also tried Avast and AVG on that machine, but they both seemed to make the machine run very sluggish in comparison. And with Microsoft Security Essentials, imagine booting up a laptop and not being able to use it for about a half hour due to MSE eating up all resources w/o regard of what the user is trying to do.

    On my new machine, I am running Windows 8. I was told this already has antivirus built into it through defender. I am wondering if this is sufficient or should I disable it and run a 3rd party antivirus?

    As for firewalls, I just use the built-in windows one as I've never really ran into a need to have a stronger one.

    Update Checker and KeePass I definitely give 2 thumbs up to as they are always part of my initial software install on a new machine.
  • 0 Hide
    dimar , August 27, 2013 2:13 PM
    Is Avast free better than Adaware free?
  • 0 Hide
    sykozis , August 27, 2013 2:18 PM
    AVG? Has Tom's looked at the most recent antivirus reviews? Avast is the best free antivirus you can download. There are better software firewalls than Comodo. If you know what you're doing, TinyWall is a better option.
  • 0 Hide
    Cy-Kill , August 27, 2013 5:05 PM
    PrivaZer (http://privazer.com/) is *a lot* better than Eraser!
  • -1 Hide
    pogsnet , August 28, 2013 7:08 AM
    Bit Defender 10 free is better than AVG. Yahoo reports lately that top three anti virus include bit defender, kaspersky and symantec.
  • 0 Hide
    Patrick Tobin , August 28, 2013 9:51 AM
    BitDefender free is not an active scanner. It requires your intervention and scanning. It also uses more resources than Avast.
  • 1 Hide
    TracerR , August 29, 2013 5:52 PM
    Malwarebytes anti-malware is also a good free tool. You can run it once a month to find anything your anti-virus may have missed.

    Stay away from Norton Internet Security - it is now bloatware again, and did not help the NYTimes from getting hacked internally. Useless, but pretty.
  • 0 Hide
    spectrewind , October 3, 2013 12:11 AM
    "FileHippo.com Update Checker"

    Does anyone on here remember Cybermedia Oil Change for Windows 95?
  • 0 Hide
    FarvingStartist , October 3, 2013 4:56 PM
    I really can't believe Tom's posted this article without even mentioning Malwarebytes or Spybot Search & Destroy. Piriform makes some great free software also such as CCleaner and Recuva. CCleaner's tools will also so a 35 pass drive wipe...
  • 0 Hide
    FarvingStartist , October 3, 2013 4:57 PM
    I really can't believe Tom's posted this article without even mentioning Malwarebytes or Spybot Search & Destroy. Piriform makes some great free software also such as CCleaner and Recuva. CCleaner's tools will also so a 35 pass drive wipe...
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