Trend Micro Review: Flawless Protection, Heavy Load

Trend Micro has top-notch malware protection, along with a password manager, file encryption and shredding in the more expensive tiers, and it can guard social media privacy. It defends up to 10 computers, depending on the package you purchase.

However, the malware-detection engine used by all Trend Micro Windows antivirus products ate up too much of our system's resources, and the company doesn't offer any unlimited plans. We prefer Kaspersky or Bitdefender, which offer more extras, a lighter system load and equally good protection.

Costs and What's Covered

The Trend Micro product lineup starts with the company's free scanner, HouseCall, which can find insidious malware and remove it from a system.

For $39.99 a year for a single PC, Trend Micro Antivirus + Security includes the ransomware-blocking Folder Shield, email-attachment scanning and the ability to block potentially dangerous websites.

Trend Micro Internet Security goes further, with a system optimizer, parental controls and tighter social media privacy. It also alerts you to the presence of dangerous encrypting ransomware in web search results, email and instant messages. This software costs $79.99 for three Windows PCs.

Trend Micro's Maximum and Premium Security are identical, except that the first ($89.99) is limited to five users and the second ($99.99) is limited to 10. They add a password manager as well as licenses for Mac, Androids and iOS Trend Micro software. Trend Micro does not offer an unlimited antivirus plan.

If you shop around, you can find most of these products for less. The 10-pack of Premium Security can often be had for $49.99, nearly half off. You can try any of these products for 30 days.

Every paid Trend Micro product uses the same malware-scanning technology, but there's no compatibility with Windows XP or Vista systems. Trend Micro's 2018 antivirus lineup works with Windows 7 (with Service Pack 1), Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 10.

Antivirus Protection

Trend Micro scans for known malware signatures, performs "heuristic" checks of new software (i.e., by monitoring behavior and reading code) and uploads suspicious data to the company's cloud servers for further analysis. Finally, there's permission-based protection, which revolves around the ability of Trend Micro's Folder Shield to protect folders you specify from attack.

You can opt out of Trend Micro's data-collection program, but you'll have to dig deeply into the program's settings to do it.

All Trend Micro products include browser extensions for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Chrome and Safari. The extensions flag each visited website with small colored dots. Green means OK, while yellow indicates caution and red signals that the site might be hazardous to your computer. There is no extension for Microsoft's Edge browser.

When you go full screen with a movie or game, the system goes into Mute Mode, suppressing pop-ups in the name of entertainment. Applications can be white-listed to trigger this mode.

Antivirus Performance

All of the company's antivirus products use the Trend Micro anti-malware engine, which offers very good protection, particularly against previously unseen "zero-day" malware. It throws back very few false positives, benign software mistakenly flagged as malware.

In tests conducted on Windows 10 and Windows 7 in the first eight months of 2017 by German independent lab AV-TEST, Trend Micro did very well.

On Windows 10, Trend Micro Internet Security caught 100 percent of both zero-day and widespread, known malware in nearly every monthly test from March through June. In April, it stopped only 98.8 percent of zero-day malware.

Norton, Kaspersky and Bitdefender scored perfectly in all four rounds, although only Kaspersky could match Trend Micro's low rate of two false positives over that entire period.

In AV-Comparatives' monthly tests from February through June, Trend Micro got 100 percent every time, better than all other brands tested.

Trend Micro did very well in AV-TEST's Windows 7 rounds. It performed perfectly over four months of tests, except for a 99.9 blockage of widespread malware in February, and had only one false positive. Only Kaspersky and Norton stopped all malware on Windows 7 in all four months.

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Tests conducted by Austrian lab AV-Comparatives yielded equally good results. In August 2017, Trend Micro Internet Security stopped 99.7 percent of internet-borne malware, notching up a single false positive. In July, it stopped 100 percent of attacks, but registered three false flags.

In AV-Comparatives' monthly tests from February through June, Trend Micro got 100 percent every time, better than all other brands tested, including Bitdefender, Kaspersky and Norton. However, it got more false positives than any of those three.

Security and Privacy Features

Trend Micro Antivirus + Security includes protection against phishing, spyware and adware, and can stop the installation of potentially unwanted (but legal) applications. It also rates the risk of your profile being compromised on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks.

There's a Firewall Booster that strengthens Microsoft's built-in firewall by monitoring suspicious traffic and adding protection against botnet activity. You also get Folder Shield, which protects sensitive data in designated directories (including on USB drives) from encrypting ransomware.

Trend Micro Internet Security adds parental controls that block objectionable material and limit screen time for kids. A parent can also block selected applications (such as games) during homework hours.

At the end of each scan, Internet Security optimizes the system. The company's PC Health Check looks for potential vulnerabilities. The Secure Erase file shredder provides a choice between Quick Erase (single overwrite) and Permanent Erase (21 passes). A privacy scanner checks the settings of your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts for potential weak points.

Step up to Maximum Security or Premium Security, and you'll get the Vault file encryptor and Trend Micro's own password manager (available for $15 as a stand-alone program). The password manager works on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices. The two top-tier programs can also scan Dropbox or OneDrive online storage drives for malware.

A parent can also block selected applications (such as games) during homework hours.

None of the Trend Micro programs has a hardened browser for secure online banking or commerce, but the password manager has an on-screen encrypted keyboard. Trend Micro doesn't offer webcam protection or a virtual private network (VPN) service.

However, there is a free Trend Micro rescue disk that can be downloaded for emergency reboots.

Performance and System Impact

Trend Micro may have excellent malware protection, but the software's malware-detection engine has a huge system impact, more than that of most security products we've tested.

We installed Trend Micro Maximum Security on an Asus X555LA notebook running the Windows 10 Creators Update. The notebook had an Intel Core i3-5005U processor, 6GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive containing 36GB of assorted files.

We used our custom OpenOffice-based benchmark test, which matches 20,000 names and addresses on a spreadsheet, to measure system performance. The data-matching task takes longer to complete when a processor is under heavier load.

With no third-party antivirus software installed, the OpenOffice benchmark finished in an average of 6 minutes and 51 seconds. After Trend Micro was installed, but without running an active scan, that OpenOffice test result rose to 8:24 — an increase of 23 percent. This is the largest decline in "passive" system performance among antivirus programs that we've recently tested.

With a Trend Micro full scan running, the OpenOffice test finished in 11:10, indicating a whopping 63 percent system-performance hit. (McAfee Total Security and Microsoft's built-in Windows Defender were almost as bad.) You would almost certainly notice such a system slowdown if you were working on the computer during an active scan.

Trend Micro may have excellent malware protection, but its software has a huge system impact.

Trend Micro's quick scan was better, letting the OpenOffice test finish in 9:10, but that 34 percent system slowdown is still more than that of any other brand's quick scan.

We also wanted to see how long scans took to finish, regardless of system impact. On our laptop, a full scan completed in an average of 35 minutes and 26 seconds, about the same as several other brands. A quick scan finished in 2 minutes and 41 seconds, which was fairly normal.

Interface

Trend Micro's half-screen interface windows are not resizable, but they can be moved around. The bright screens are dominated by a gray-and-white color scheme and have a central circle that changes color according to security status. Green means that the computer is safe. When it's yellow, you need to take action; when it's red, the system has been compromised.

You can start a quick scan one click in from the main window, but starting a full or a custom scan adds another two clicks. You can dig into the programs settings at the bottom of the main screen and get to a security report with a click on the right.

Along the top of the main screen are icons for Devices (which leads to Security Settings, PC Health Check and Mute Mode), Privacy (Privacy Scanner, Social Networking Protection and Data Theft Protection), Data (Folder Shield, Secure Erase, Password Manager, Cloud Storage Scanner and Vault) as well as Family (filtering and time limits). At the bottom of each window is a link to add more computers and an indicator of when your subscription expires.

Installation and Support

After you download Trend Micro's 295MB installer, the software does a quick system scan and looks for incompatibilities. Next, you'll need to enter your license number (or set up a trial), approve the license information and set up an account with the company. Start to finish, it took us 13 minutes and 4 seconds to install Trend Micro Maximum Security.

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Trend Micro staffs its call desk Monday to Friday from 2 a.m. to 5 p.m., Eastern Time. But there's a good assortment of tips, FAQs and videos online, and you can get to a support technician via the antivirus program interface. For an extra $80 a year, you can get Trend Micro's premium support services, which include 24-hour coverage, troubleshooting and network help.

Bottom Line

Trend Micro's antivirus products provide nearly flawless protection against the worst malware the world can throw at you. The top tiers come with a capable password manager, file shredding and file encryption. But they lack extra goodies such as webcam protection, backup software or a VPN service.

If you have a lot of devices at home, Trend Micro might not be the right choice, because it lacks an unlimited plan, although the Maximum and Premium Security programs can protect five or 10 systems at a reasonable price.

Still, we don't like the bone-crunching system slowdowns during full scans or Trend Micro's remarkably high passive impact. Kaspersky and Bitdefender software gives you equally good protection with a much lighter system load.

Credit: Tom's Guide

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  • SR-71 Blackbird
    I loved Trend and Bitdefender , GREAT DETECTION AND REMOVAL , but lately switched to F-Secure , systems are running better no more slowdowns. Trend and Bitdefender seemed to be a little heavier resource wise.
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