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Avira, Bitdefender, Kaspersky Top Antivirus Test Results

The time has come again for AV-TEST, a German firm that periodically evaluates antivirus programs, to share its results for Windows 8.1. 

For longtime followers, the outcome is not shocking: Avira, Bitdefender and Kaspersky Lab achieved perfect scores, while Microsoft's built-in Windows Defender scraped the bottom of the barrel once again. The former three can be considered among the best antivirus software programs.

Evaluations conducted by the Madgeburg, Germany-based independent lab measure the effectiveness of Windows, Android and Mac antivirus software for home and corporate users. 

The current crop of AV-TEST results comes from measurements taken in May and June 2015, and rates each program based on standards of protection, performance and usability. A program could earn up to six points in each category.

MORE: Best Antivirus Software and Apps

Perfect scores of 18 went to Avira Antivirus Pro 2015, Bitdefender Internet Security 2015 and Kaspersky Lab Internet Security 2015. (AV-TEST evaluates those products submitted to it by vendors; most vendors have more than one product, but each malware engine should be the same across a single vendor's Windows product line.) 

Running the programs has a negligible effect on a computer's performance, and each one is very simple to navigate.

Competing products from Ahn Lab, F-Secure, G Data, McAfee, Microworld, Norton Symantec and Trend Micro also scored perfect sixes in the malware-protection category, though were less than perfect in at least one of the other two categories. 

All provided complete or virtually complete protection from "widespread and prevalent" malware well known to antivirus vendors, as well as "zero-day" malware discovered within the four weeks before testing.

Many of these brands also make software for Macs and Android devices; for more on those platforms, check out our lists of the best Mac antivirus software and the best Android antivirus apps.

Fourteen out of the 21 programs tested scored either 99 or 100 percent in both categories. (At Tom's Guide, we use AV-TEST's malware-protection scores for our own reviews of antivirus software; however, we run our own performance tests and usability assessments.)

On the other end of the spectrum, Microsoft Windows Defender was in a category all its own, scoring only 9.5 out of a possible 18 points. The program earned an ignominious half-point in the protection category, blocking only 89 percent of existing threats and 95 percent of new ones. It also scored a mere 3 in performance, having consumed a lot of system resources, although it was extremely user-friendly, earning a perfect six points in usability.

Other poorly performing programs included ThreatTrack VIPRE Internet Security 2015, Quick Heal Total Security 16.0, and ESET Smart Security 8.0, which scored 12, 13.5 and 14 points, respectively, making them comparatively weak choices.

While AV-TEST does not advocate purchasing or avoiding any programs in particular, the results suggest that some programs are, indeed, safer than others. The salient point is that the built-in Microsoft software does not provide adequate protection for most users. Whatever antivirus program you choose, you probably shouldn't use Windows Defender as your first line of defense.

Marshall Honorof is a senior writer for Tom's Guide. Contact him at mhonorof@tomsguide.com. Follow him @marshallhonorof. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • Skylyne
    Avira doesn't perform so well with the testing that AV Comparatives does. If you look at each individual test, you'll see Avira is genuinely lacking. In fact, with my personal method of selecting an AV, Avira didn't make it into the top five, I believe (based solely on protection).

    I was looking at AVC's mobile AV test results, though, and I ended up getting AVL. AVL and Avira differ by only 0.1% for protection testing, but I like the AVL app better. I have Avira's optimiser, though ;)

    People need to remember one important thing about mobile and computer security: the protection will always vary from week to week, month to month, and it will rarely be the same software for both computer and mobile. Can't stress that one enough. I'd have to look deeper into things, but I would definitely consider just using the best for each device, instead of bundling protection.
    Reply
  • Paul NZ
    Doesnt matter if they come 1st, 2nd 3rd, last most of them crash
    Reply
  • Skylyne
    Paul, I'm starting to wonder if the real common denominator here is you, and not the AVs lol. I've had to deal with crashing AVs a number of times, but not on my personal computers. Not ever, no matter how bad the computer might have been infected. Before I really got involved in security, I used to go to places that were heavy with malware, and I've never had a problem with an AV crashing. I see it a lot on other computers, but I have no idea how they get it to happen.

    Since it rarely happens in lab testing, I always have to chalk it up to user error. As I explained in another thread (that you're taking part in), it isn't really the fault of the software lol. Yes, it seems to be quite common, but you can't really blame the software...
    Reply
  • Paul NZ
    I didnt say I use them, I dont, never will.

    Too bad for the suckers who pay for them, and find out later theyre the cause of the crashes.

    To me most of them are a con. Doesnt matter whether you use one or not.

    You can still get infected
    Reply
  • Skylyne
    16339735 said:
    I didnt say I use them, I dont, never will.

    Too bad for the suckers who pay for them, and find out later theyre the cause of the crashes.

    To me most of them are a con. Doesnt matter whether you use one or not.

    You can still get infected
    You do realise that every computer is always infected, but not necessarily with malicious software, right? Most of what people pay to protect themselves from is the stuff they don't actively try to avoid. In that sense, it's worth paying for it... to them. Is it a rip off? Well, if you don't care to educate yourself on how to protect from practically all mainstream viruses (primarily what AV software protects you from), and take about an hour a week (grand total) to protect your computer, then I guess paying $40/year isn't too bad.

    Again, the majority of AV crashes are due to user error. Like I've said, I've never had one truly crash on me, without there being a deeper problem. PEBKAC is the main cause. Google is your friend and enemy lol.

    And no, not most of them are cons. That's a bit of a stretch of the term. Do you need it? For the majority of all malware (not just what AM software covers), software solutions are pretty unnecessary; that much is true. Cons? Well, a con would imply there is no such thing as a virus or malware in general. If that were the case, then Stuxnet would never have existed to begin with.
    Reply
  • Marshall Honorof
    For what it's worth, AV-Test has evaluated free antivirus software as well (even in this test), and it generally works almost as well as its paid counterparts. You don't have to shell out a lot of money to keep your computer safe. No matter how careful you are with your computer, I say you've got nothing to lose by downloading a free program, keeping it updated, and running a scan every month or so. The law of averages suggests you're going to pick up something nasty sooner or later, and pretending that your computer is immune to malware will not make it go away.
    Reply
  • Skylyne
    16343169 said:
    For what it's worth, AV-Test has evaluated free antivirus software as well (even in this test), and it generally works almost as well as its paid counterparts. You don't have to shell out a lot of money to keep your computer safe. No matter how careful you are with your computer, I say you've got nothing to lose by downloading a free program, keeping it updated, and running a scan every month or so. The law of averages suggests you're going to pick up something nasty sooner or later, and pretending that your computer is immune to malware will not make it go away.
    While you are right, that mainly applies to the more advanced user, or the user that's more paranoid with the internet. There's a wide selection of websites that many people visit daily that I would never touch, and that's purely due to security reasons (Yahoo, for example). Also, your typical computer user doesn't really exercise a that much security measures when browsing the internet.

    Just because the averages are against you, it doesn't mean you should compromise security by picking an AV that protects you less, for the same price (free); especially when you don't really know that much about your computer. People are better off picking the best protecting AV that will run properly on their computer, instead of just getting the most common (which consistently comes out relatively poor in testing).
    Reply
  • jnpeterson
    Just a couple of caveats to this. I was going to try Bitdefender after reading this, but since they want you to create an account with them even for the "free" version, I passed. The real thumbs down goes to Avira's free offering though. I installed it and have been using it for a few days, but I'm binning it now because of the constant spamming. It's constantly shooting you a pop up in the tray trying to get you to upgrade. There's no way to turn this off. Imagine my surprise as well when I was out on IMDB and the Avira browser add-on toolbar popped up targeted offers to buy movies as well. Wow.. isn't this the sort of thing A/V and malware programs are supposed to prevent and remove? To their credit they DO give you the option to turn that off, but the constant spamvertising popups in the tray are enough to thumbs down this one in my opinion. More on a thread on their own site. https://answers.avira.com/en/question/disable-avira-pop-up-ads-23018
    Reply
  • Skylyne
    Bitdefender may "require" that free account, but you don't need to do anything with it. Just register the install, and forget about the registration. I've never received a single email I didn't sign up for, and it seems to be the most useless feature, unless you happen to want one of the services offered when you complete your registration. I almost ignored it, but when I first installed it, I figured I'd see if that was a problem. Turns out there was no harm done, and no real gain... outside of being able to use the AV normally lol. I think it's pointless, but that's probably there for some half-assed reason.

    And yeah, Avira is pretty lavish with ads, I hear. Makes me laugh at the people who switch from Avast to Avira, and vice versa, because I've seen so many users switch between the two, and claim one is way better than the other, and how there's "less ads" on one of them. I swear they're probably made by two companies founded by guys who were room mates. They both seem to have the same cult-like followings, both offer reasonable protection (nothing outstanding), and they both try to badger you into buying something. Yeah, they're totally different lol. Humans make me giggle.
    Reply