Skip to main content

Trend Micro 2020 Review: Trigger Happy

Heavy scans yield many false positives

(Image: © Trend Micro)

Our Verdict

Despite ultrafast scans and lots of security-minded extras, Trend Micro slows down a computer, lacks a VPN and suffers from too many false positives.

For

  • Fast full scans
  • Very good malware protection
  • Secure browser to protect online shopping

Against

  • Too many false positives
  • Heavy performance hit during scans
  • Lacks extras that many other brands offer

Trend Micro's Windows security software programs provide a slew of defensive features and many customizable options, from the Mute Mode for gamers to the automatic scheduling of scans.

But none of the three programs have dedicated webcam protection, and Trend Micro's itchy trigger finger too often misidentifies safe software as dangerous. The programs' malware scans are very fast but require a lot of overhead that can significantly slow down your PC.

There's also no VPN service, nor an unlimited-device plan for any individual or family with many devices to protect. Those aren't necessary for protecting your machine, but many of the best antivirus software brands offer them as premium extras.

Looking for similar or better protection that doesn't weigh down your computer? Bitdefender delivers tons of features with a lighter touch, while Kaspersky and Norton have the best malware detection rates and the most full-featured programs.

Trend Micro 2020 costs and what's covered

Trend Micro offers three Windows antivirus programs. The most basic is Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security, which defends against rootkits, ransomware and online threats. Its browser extensions screen out known malicious websites and cryptocurrency-mining sites. 

It also has a gamer-friendly Mute Mode, the Fraud Buster webmail phishing scanner and the Pay Guard secure browser. Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security covers a single PC for $40 a year.

The next step up is Trend Micro Internet Security, which covers up to three PCs for $80. It adds a privacy scanner for your social media accounts, a data-theft shield to stop sensitive information from leaving your computer, a file shredder, a system optimizer, parental controls and the Smart Schedule Scan, which automatically sets up a scanning schedule.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Trend Micro Maximum Security ($90 for five systems or $100 for 10) adds a password manager and file encryption. It bundles in premium licenses for Trend Micro's Mac and Android antivirus software and its iOS security app.

All three programs run on Windows 7 (with Service Pack 1), 8.1 and 10. Maximum Security's software for other platforms runs on macOS 10.12 Sierra or later, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean or later and iOS 9.0 or later.

Trend Micro Antivirus+ SecurityTrend Micro Internet SecurityTrend Micro Maximum Security
Price$40, 1 PC$80, 3 PCs$90-$100, 5-10 devices
Windows support7 thru 107 thru 107 thru 10
Bundled platformsNoneNoneMac, Android, iOS
Anti-spamYesYesYes
Secure browserYesYesYes
Ransomware protectionYesYesYes
Network scannerYesYesYes
AntiphishingYesYesYes
Automatic scansYesYesYes
Data theft shieldNoYesYes
File shredderNoYesYes
Parental controlsNoYesYes
Privacy scannerNoYesYes
System optimizerNoYesYes
File encryptionNoNoYes
Password managerNoNoYes

Trend Micro 2020 antivirus protection

Trend Micro starts by scanning for malware "signatures" — mathematical snapshots of known malicious programs. Heuristic monitoring looks for the indications of an attack by unknown malware, such as unusual application behavior or suspicious code.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Suspect items are uploaded to Trend Micro's Smart Protection Network and analyzed. (You can opt out of this data-collection program.) If a file is determined to be a threat, Trend Micro creates a new signature and adds it to the updates it sends to the company's millions of clients several times a day.

The new Fraud Buster feature scans Gmail and Outlook messages for phishing scams. Browser extensions for Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer block malicious websites and search results and also work with Trend Micro's password manager.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Folder Shield protects key files, including those on cloud storage and syncing services, from ransomware. Mute Mode blocks noncritical updates, alerts and scans until you're done playing a game or watching a movie. It automatically recognizes 50 games, and you can add more.

The company's PC Health Checkup system optimizer flags vulnerabilities, deletes unneeded files and stops potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).

If you've got a PC with a stubborn infection, put Trend Micro's free Rescue Disk software on a USB stick or optical disc, then boot the PC into a temporary operating system so that the hard drive can be properly cleaned up.

Trend Micro 2020 antivirus performance

Trend Micro's three programs use the same malware-detection technology and differ only in terms of extra features and defenses. Overall, its ability to stop attacks is on par with products from Kaspersky, Microsoft, Norton and Bitdefender, according to independent testing labs -- but there's a catch.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

More to the point, Trend Micro's malware scanner seems to be overly sensitive, often creating an excess of "false positive" detections of safe code as dangerous. "Overtuning" malware detection does catch more malware, but it's annoying to the user and risks quarantining or deleting important files.

Among the three independent labs whose test data we use, Trend Micro generally does best with German lab AV-TEST. Trend Micro Internet Security performed perfectly in the lab's July-August 2019 and May-June 2019 bimonthly tests, detecting 100% of both previously unseen "zero-day" malware and known, "widespread" malware without tossing up any false positives.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

That matches the perfect scores of Kaspersky Internet Security and Norton Security. Microsoft Windows Defender also detected 100% of malware, but at the cost of a single false positive, over all four months.

The other two labs whose results we use, AV-Comparatives in Austria and SE Labs in England, have tests that are more highly attuned to false positives.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In AV-Comparatives' February-March 2019 tests, Trend Micro Internet Security detected 99.7% of "real-world" malware found live online, a drop from the 2018 tests, in which Trend Micro almost always got 100%. Trend Micro notched back up to 100% in the July-August 2019 tests.

But Trend Micro got 10 false positives in the February-March tests and 16 in the July-August ones. Bitdefender Internet Security got 100% in both rounds with zero false positives; on the other end of the scale, Windows Defender also detected 100% of malware in both rounds but racked up a total of 75 false positives.

MORE: Best Windows Antivirus Software in 2019

Similar results were found in SE Labs' April-June 2019 and July-September 2019 rounds of tests. In both, Trend Micro detected and blocked 100% of malware, but was dinged for flagging several innocuous programs as suspicious. Kaspersky and Norton detected, blocked or neutralized all malware without any false positives.

Trend Micro 2020 security and privacy features

All three Trend Micro antivirus programs protect you and your machine from spam, phishing and malware, including fileless malware, rootkits and ransomware.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Trend Micro's Pay Guard secure browser forces an encrypted data connection whenever possible and forbids extensions but lacks an on-screen keyboard to foil keylogger programs trying to steal your passwords.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Parental Controls included with Trend Micro Internet Security and Maximum Security block objectionable material, such as websites that feature gambling, illegal drugs or nudity, and can schedule kids' screen time.

Still, all three programs fall short of the mark in premium features, lacking several extras provided by other security-software companies. There's no stand-alone, two-way firewall, although the Firewall Booster can enhance the built-in Windows Defender Firewall, even if there's no way to adjust it or add rules.

MORE: How to Buy Antivirus Software

There's no dedicated protection from webcam or microphone hijacking. And while there's no requirement that a premium antivirus suite should include VPN service, or cloud storage, or backup software, many other brands offer them while Trend Micro doesn't.

Trend Micro 2020 performance and system impact

With Trend Micro Maximum Security, the program we tested, protection came at a cost. It scanned quickly but ate up a lot of system resources and slowed down our computer. Its saving grace was a very small passive system load while it ran in the background.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

To test the software's system impact, we used our custom benchmark test, which measures how long a CPU takes to match 20,000 names and 20,000 addresses on an Excel spreadsheet. 

Our test bed was a Lenovo ThinkPad T470 with a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5-7200U processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid-state storage containing 43.3GB of files.

Before Trend Micro Maximum Security was installed, the ThinkPad took 7.8 seconds to complete our Excel benchmark. That rose to 8.4 seconds after Maximum Security was installed, but before any active scans were run. 

That's a background performance drain of only 7.7%, which is among the smallest of any of the premium antivirus suites we've recently reviewed.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Trend Micro's results were not so good during active scans. The completion time lengthened to 10.8 seconds during a quick scan, indicating a performance decline of 38% from the baseline. During a full scan, the benchmark task finished in 12.0 seconds, showing a performance hit of 54%.

Granted, the scans don't last long. You may seldom need to run them, since modern antivirus software catches malware while operating in the background. But you will definitely notice slowdowns if you're doing anything that's processor-intensive, such as playing games or rendering video files, while scans run.

MORE: Which Antivirus Software Has the Least System Impact?

Kaspersky Total Security and McAfee Total Protection posted similarly large performance hits during scans. In a faster, lighter league was Bitdefender Total Security, which had a full-scan slowdown of 17% and a quick-scan one of 15%.

Similar results were seen in AV-Comparatives' performance tests, in which lower numbers are a better score. While Trend Micro got a 13.7, Bitdefender got 8.3, Kaspersky 7.9 and McAfee 0.8.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Trend Micro does have one of the fastest scanners available. The first scan of our test system took 14 minutes and 46 seconds, scanning 301,928 files. The completion time got shorter as the program figured out what to ignore. By the third pass, the full scan lasted 1 minute and 13 seconds and examined 1,050 items.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

That completion time is nearly indistinguishable from the 1:05 it took to perform a Quick Scan. This makes Trend Micro's full scan the fastest — but arguably the least thorough — among all the Windows antivirus suites we recently tested.

Trend Micro 2020 interface

Trend Micro Maximum Security has a bright red, white and gray interface with a prominent green Scan button at the middle of the main page and a check mark indicating that things are safe. If there's a security threat, those items turn red.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Tap the arrow next to the Scan button to fire up a Quick, Full or Custom Scan. Next to that are links to the Settings page and the security report.

Along the top of the main page are links to the program's major category page:

  • Device — has Security Settings, PC Health Checkup, Mute Mode and a way to add other devices
  • Privacy — includes Privacy Scanner, Social Networking Protection, Pay Guard and Data Theft Protection
  • Data — contains Folder Shield, Secure Erase, the encrypted Vault and Password Manager
  • Family — has the program's Parental Controls

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You can schedule scans at a set time every day, week or month, or instead rely on the Smart Schedule feature to automatically scan when it's optimal to do so.

Other settings lead to Network Settings, Password, Background and Animation, and Smart Protection Network. The last is where you can stop Trend Micro from collecting data from your system.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The program's Task Tray icon allows access to the main interface, starts scans, checks for updates, starts up Mute Mode and runs the program's troubleshooting routine.

MORE: Best free antivirus software of 2019

The online Trend Micro account interface is one of the best in the business. It displays your subscription status and lets you add other computers. You can also turn off your subscription's autorenewal feature and access free security software.

Trend Micro 2020 installation and support

Most antivirus installations begin with a small "beachhead" program that downloads other components, but Trend Micro made me download the entire 396MB installation file at once.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

After installation, the program did a quick system scan.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There are options to use the 30-day trial version, activate the password manager, let Trend Micro gather data from your machine, receive monthly reports, create an online account and install Trend Micro's mobile software with a QR code.All told, the entire process took a little more than 10 minutes.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Trend Micro has support technicians on call 24/7. They respond to online chat, emails and phone calls, but they answer calls only Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Pacific time.

Bottom line

For many users, Trend Micro's security software may strike the right balance between fast scans and good protection. However, it suffers from fairly heavy system impacts during scans, and it lacks security-minded features that are becoming commonplace, such as VPN service and webcam protection.

In the final analysis, Trend Micro's security software is reliable but unexceptional. Bitdefender products offer equally good protection with a much lower system hit and far more extra features; Kaspersky and Norton software offer the best protection and a full complement of features.