For Windows users, an antivirus program is a must-have in order to keep online privacy and security intact. Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015 ($39.95 for one year of protection on one PC, $59.95 for one year on three PCs, with discounts available online) is a very good choice. The latest entry-level product from Kaspersky Lab, Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015, combines top-notch antivirus protection with extra features such as a bootable rescue disk and tools for improving your PC's performance.
Kaspersky is a solid option for protecting your PC from malware. However, a relative lack of extra security features, an inefficient interface and a measurable performance impact keep it from being our top pick.
Setup and Interface
I downloaded Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015 from the company website and clicked through the Installation wizard. The program requires 480 MB of free disk space. Downloading took 10 minutes over our office Wi-Fi connection, which is on the longer side compared to some other programs we tested.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015 works on Windows 8, 8.1, 7 and Vista. It also works on XP, which is good news for people who won't, or can't, switch over from that no-longer-supported operating system. Kaspersky's website notes that some product features many work only on 32-bit versions of Windows.
Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015 has an updated interface, retaining the cool white and aqua colors but getting rid of its side menus in favor of a cleaner-looking interface with square icons.
At the top of the main interface, a rectangular header displays the computer's protection status. Below are four rectangular icons reading Scan, Update, Reports and Virtual Keyboard. Below those is Show Additional Tools; clicking on this reveals a menu for other features.
Kaspersky's layout looks good aesthetically, but it prioritizes the various features of its antivirus engine, and relegates its other security tools, such as the Privacy Cleaner and Rescue Disk, to the small Show Additional Tools menu. This is an inefficient layout; I see people using these tools far more often than the Update or Reports features.
To initiate a malware scan, click the Scan button on the main interface, then click the button marked Run Scan. The type of scan that then runs depends on the option highlighted in the right-hand menu: Full Scan, Quick Scan, Custom Scan, Removable Drives Scan and Task Manager.
Beneath that, you can click Settings and Schedule to set up regular malware scans. These are not scheduled by default, and the menu to schedule them is so buried in the options that some users may not find it.
The Update feature regulates how often Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015 updates its malware definitions. Updates happen automatically, and most users won't have to adjust this.
Reports archives each scan Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015 has performed, including results. Again, it's not something most users will need to look at regularly.
The last icon on the main interface, Virtual Keyboard, launches a keyboard on your PC's screen. Users click keys with a mouse to enter text (or use a touch screen, if they have one), thwarting any keylogging malware that may be present.
The tools of Show Additional Tools are meatier: Quarantine, Vulnerability Scan, Browser Configuration, Privacy Cleaner, Kaspersky Rescue Disk, Microsoft Windows Troubleshooting and Cloud protection.
Quarantine is another essential antivirus component: It's a secure place on your hard drive to which Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015 will move malicious or questionable files. You decide if you want to keep a file or delete it permanently.
Vulnerability Scan looks at the operating system's settings and suggests security improvements. When I ran this scan on an Acer Aspire E1, it warned that the laptop was set to autorun programs from flash drives, CDs and DVDs, which could hurt both performance and security. You can change flagged settings from within Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015's interface.
In addition, Vulnerability Scan flags known security bugs that it finds in your operating system, applications and browser plugins, reducing the risk of an attacker exploiting frequently used programs to gain access.
Browser Configuration scans Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome to check their security settings. A wizard recommends browser changes, such as setting them so that programs and popups don't run without explicit user permission.
Privacy Cleaner deletes extra data such as cookies, caches and browser history, improving computer performance and protecting data from other users of the same machine. Microsoft Windows Troubleshooting, naturally, detects Windows problems.
Kaspersky Rescue Disk is one of our favorite features. Tapping Kaspersky Rescue Disk opens a browser window from which you can download Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10, a bootable disk image containing an emergency cleaner. If your PC ever becomes critically infected with malware, burn Kaspersky Rescue Disk to a CD, reboot from the CD and use the software to clean and, hopefully, reclaim your computer. (You may need another PC to burn the CD.)
Most antivirus companies offer free rescue disks, but among the entry-level antivirus programs we evaluated, only Bitdefender also explicitly notifies the user that one is available.
Finally, Cloud Protection shows statistics about Kaspersky's cloud-based malware-recognition capabilities. Like most modern antivirus programs, Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015 identifies malware by comparing the code of suspicious programs with an enormous and ever-growing online database of known malware.
Kaspersky's features will fill the needs of many entry-level security program users, but they're not as expansive as the offerings from the comparable Bitdefender product, which has a profile feature for auto-optimizing your computer's resources, and a secure browser for safe online shopping.
To assess the security performance of Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015, we turned to AV-TEST, an independent German lab that routinely tests most top-tier antivirus programs.
In an October 2014 examination, AV-TEST looked at Kaspersky Internet Security 2015, Kaspersky's higher-tier product. This program costs $80 and has several additional security features, but contains the same antivirus engine as Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015.
Kaspersky Internet Security 2015 detected 100 percent of the widespread malware thrown at it, above the 99-percent industry average. The program also detected 100 percent of zero-day malware, above the 96-percent industry average.
AVG Internet Security 2014 & 2015
Kaspersky Internet Security 2015
Bitdefender Internet Security 2015
TrendMicro Maximum Security 2015
WebRoot SecureAnywhere Complete 8.0
Malware detection shouldn't come at a cost to a computer’s performance. That's why we tested Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015 using two performance tests: the benchmarking software PCMark7 and a custom test we created in OpenOffice.
We tested the latest starting-tier products from AVG, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Trend Micro and Webroot. Each product was installed, one at a time, on the same Acer Aspire E1 laptop running Windows 8 with an i3 core processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 64-bit operating system. We chose a computer with a relatively weak processor so performance issues would be apparent.
Our test laptop scored 2,191 in PCMark7 before any antivirus programs were installed. While running a full scan in Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015, that score dropped to 1,576, the second-lowest score among the five products we tested. During the quick scan, the score jumped back up to 2,084, but that's still the worst PCMark7 score for quick scans that we tested.
Our OpenOffice test, which involves matching 20,000 names and addresses, yielded comparable results. Without an antivirus program installed, the Acer Aspire E1 completed this test in eight minutes and 39 seconds. While Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015's full scan was running, that time slowed to 10:34. This is the second-worst score we recorded: TrendMicro Antivirus+ Security 2015 took 10:47.
During a quick scan, the OpenOffice test completed in 9:34, which was the slowest quick-scan score during OpenOffice for any antivirus program we tested.
Kaspersky Lab is a titan of the security industry, and its Anti-Virus 2015 packs the punch you'd expect: top-notch malware detection, a slick interface and a strong selection of security features.
However, its interface, while aesthetically clean, doesn't prioritize the tools users most often need. Most importantly, Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015 also performed poorly in our system-impact tests, suggesting that the program might slow down your computer quite a bit when it's scanning.
No doubt about it, Kaspersky is a solid antimalware program. But before you buy, you might want to consider other options, such as Bitdefender or Norton.
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Jill Scharr is a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she regularly covers security, 3D printing and video games. You can email Jill at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter @JillScharr and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.