Trend Micro has a full family of antivirus programs for Windows that range from the free online HouseCall scanner to Antivirus+ Security, the mid-range Internet Security and all the way up to the top-shelf Maximum and Premium Security products.
Other than HouseCall, these share the same underlying scanning engine, cloud technology and compact interface, differing only in which features are included. While fast to scan, Trend Micro's 2017 Windows antivirus products tend to have a high impact on system performance.
Costs and What's Covered
Graphic: N.Bush/Tom's Guide
Rather than a permanent program, HouseCall is an online antivirus scanner that you need to reload every time you use it and that doesn't include real-time scanning. A step up from that is the $40 Antivirus+, which includes the Folder Shield features, designed to protect key files from ransomware attacks, and a Firewall Booster that complements the built-in Windows firewall.
Trend Micro's Internet Security is the company's midrange product and protects up to three PCs for $80 per year. It adds parental controls and the ability to designate key alphanumeric sequences — in other words, text strings such as passwords or credit card numbers — that will be prevented from leaving the system.
At the top of Trend Micro's product pyramid are Maximum Security ($90 per year for up to five computers) and Premium Security ($100 per year for up to 10 computers). These bundles include licenses for Trend Micro's Mac, Android, iOS and Kindle software.
Both Windows packages include file shredding, file encryption and a password manager that covers all compatible devices. Although there's no unlimited plan for large digital families, shop around because online retailers, including Trend Micro itself, often offer discounts.
Trend Micro's 2017 product family works with Windows Vista through Windows 10. The products for other platforms, which we'll review elsewhere, support OS X 10.9 through 10.12, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and newer, iOS version 9.0 and newer, and Kindle versions 9.0 and newer.
All of the Trend Micro Windows programs use the same home-grown scanning engine to find and eradicate malware. Traditional viral-signature matching is augmented with heuristic monitoring for telltale signs of attacks. When anything dangerous is identified, the results are fed to the company's cloud-based Smart Protection Network for a fix and quick program update. Participation in the Smart Protection Network, which uploads diagnostic information about your machine, is voluntary, but you'll need to manually opt out.
Initiating a manual scan is one click away from the main page of the Trend Micro interface, and scheduling periodic scans is easy. A Quick Scan looks at malware's typical hiding spots, while the Full Scan examines the entire drive. Over time, the program limits its scanning to the most susceptible files on your machine, although you can at any time choose to perform a more intensive check.
The program offers Custom Scans for a specific folder; alternatively, you can right-click on any item in the Windows File Explorer to initiate a scan. If you plug in an external drive, such as a thumb drive, Trend Micro prevents programs from automatically running.
There's also a Cloud Scanner that keeps an eye on your Microsoft OneDrive account; Trend Micro is beta-testing Dropbox compatibility for that. But unlike some other antivirus vendors, Trend Micro offers no online storage or backup software with any of its products.
Trend Micro's scanning engine is effective and thorough, although it sometimes delivers annoying false positives. In Windows 10 evaluations conducted in March and April 2016 by German independent lab AV-TEST, Trend Micro's scanning engine achieved a perfect score. It caught every attack, whether from brand-new zero-day malware or more well-known widespread malware, and registered no false positives.
On Windows 8.1, Trend Micro slipped a little, with 97.8 percent and 100 percent ratings for zero-day malware in AV-TEST's May and June, 2016, tests. It caught every piece of widespread malware, however. There were no false positives in May, but two in June.
In Windows 7 tests conducted by AV-TEST in January and February 2016, Trend Micro found every piece of zero-day and widespread malware thrown at it. On the downside, the scanning engine registered a pair of false positives in January and one in February.
This near-perfect defense was reinforced by tests conducted by Austrian lab AV-Comparatives in August 2016 with Windows 7 systems. Trend Micro blocked 99.7 percent of threats but had a mammoth 15 false positives.
Security and Privacy Features
All four paid Trend Micro programs use the company's anti-phishing and anti-spam technologies. The protection includes web threat detection, dedicated social-networking security, and a Wi-Fi scanner that warns of logging onto insecure or suspect networks.
Trend Micro's anti-ransomware Folder Shield is available across the board. Like Bitdefender's Ransomware Protection, it lets the user designate certain files and folders, such as family photos, bank statements and other irreplaceable items, to be "immunized" from ransomware attack. This is done by locking down the Windows permissions so that no other user can alter the files. There's no limit to how many files can be protected.
The Trend Micro products rely on Microsoft's built-in windows firewall, but they have a Firewall Booster designed to stop botnets and worms. Now, we'll look at features denied to Antivirus+ users. The Privacy Protection feature comes with Internet, Maximum and Premium Security. It ferrets out errant privacy settings that might leak your personal information online, and works with Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox as well as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.
The three mid- to top-range programs also include Data Theft Protection, which lets you designate any series of characters, such as passwords or Social Security numbers as sensitive. Data Theft Protection will block these numbers from leaving the PC via a browser, Outlook or instant messenger.
The Parental Controls let you restrict when children go online and where they go. The latest version blocks inappropriate blogs and information about illegal drugs.
Trend Micro's PC Health Checkup can optimize a system and reduce its start-up time by looking for outdated software, old files and privacy issues. A 20-second scan of our Asus system warned that the Password Manager wasn't being used.
To get the Password Manager, you'll need to move up a tier to Trend Micro's Maximum Security and Premium Security, which differ only in the number of licenses bundled in. The Password Manager stores an unlimited number of encrypted passwords in an online repository so you can log in with a single master password. It's well-integrated, but its password generator can't create anything longer than eight characters.
Password Manager has a Secure Browser for banking or buying online. Based on Internet Explorer, it doesn't allow extensions to be added and can thwart a "man in the middle" attack.
Maximum and Premium Security also include the Secure Erase file shredder and the Vault, which encrypts files to keep your secrets, well, secret. If you report your notebook as stolen, Trend Micro can remotely seal the Vault's files.
On the downside, none of Trend Micro's programs have virtual private network (VPN) clients, encrypted on-screen keyboards to thwart keylogger attacks or dedicated webcam protection. There's no explicit gamer mode to block interruptions while battling aliens, but when the program is running full screen, it blocks popups and scheduled scans.
For cases in which a system gets bogged down with accumulated malware, Trend Micro has a separately installed rescue disc available for download. It can be run from a DVD or thumb drive and can clean up just about any system.
Performance and System Impact
While Trend Micro's programs scan for threats quickly, they slowed down our ASUS X555LA notebook quite a bit. The ASUS has a 2-GHz Intel Core i3 processor, 6GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive (36GB of which was filled) and the latest Windows 10 updates.
To assess the performance impact of each antivirus program, we used our OpenOffice-based performance test, which matches 20,000 names and addresses in a spreadsheet. We ran the test on the ASUS during four different scenarios: first, with no antivirus software installed; then after the Trend Micro software was installed, but was not actively scanning; while a full scan ran; and while a quick scan ran.
With no antivirus software installed (except Microsoft's obligatory Windows Defender), the OpenOffice test finished in 6 minutes and 55 seconds. After Trend Micro Maximum Security was installed, OpenOffice took 8 minutes and 6 seconds to complete the same task. That's a slowdown of 17 percent, indicating that the Trend Micro was using a lot of system resources even while it merely ran in the background.
During a full scan, the OpenOffice test took 10 minutes and 31 seconds, a 52 percent slowdown compared to the baseline reading. By the same token, a Quick Scan resulted in an Open-Office result of 8:58, a 30 percent drop in performance. Those are rather heavy system impacts, and you'll probably notice it if you're working on the computer while a full scan runs.
Of the other antivirus brands we recently reviewed, Bitdefender and ESET had much lighter system loads than Trend Micro did, Kaspersky, McAfee and Panda had somewhat lighter loads and F-Secure was about the same as Trend Micro. Norton was heaviest of all: It registered a post-installation slowdown of 31 percent, and full-scan and quick-scan system performance hits of 61 percent and 36 percent, respectively.
The first full scan of the system took 30:32 and examined 220,021 files, which settled down to 4 minutes and 36 seconds to look over 3,396 files. Quick Scans took an average of 1:27 and looked at 821 files. Both are relatively snappy scan times; we've seen some full scans take three hours. Your results will vary depending on your processor speed, hard drive size and amount of stored data.
An evolutionary update to Trend Micro's long-standing design, the 2017 version is built around a compact half-screen main window. It displays a prominent green check mark in the center when everything is safe. Above that are links to set up screens for the Device, Privacy, Data and Family categories. The date when your subscription expires is at the bottom of the main screen, and you can send a note to support technicians and go to the company's support site right from links up top.
The main elements jump when you roll a mouse over them. If you dig deeply, you can turn this feature off, as well as customize the main screen with background images.
Trend Micro's support technicians are available from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific time on weekdays. The company's free Ransomware Hotline (1-877- 558-7363) can help those with locked computers, but it's staffed only during tech-support hours.
You can pay an extra $20 a year to get 24/7 response as well as help cleaning up a malware-laden computer. Another $10 adds help installing printers and a home network as well as a remote PC Tune-Up scan.
Setup and Installation
The same setup process holds for all four of Trend Micro's products. After you download the 206MB installation file, the program unpacks its files and checks the system for compatibility and malware. At this point, you need to pay for the program or start a one-month free trial.
There's a circular installation-progress meter, and at the end of the process, you'll need to create or log in to a Trend Micro online account. The company sets you up for auto-renewal (and automatic credit-card charging) on the expiration date, but it's easy to turn that off in the online account settings.
Trend Micro's security programs provide most of the protective services you'll need, are fast to scan and provide a near-perfect shield against malware. On the downside, they deliver too many false positives and tend to slow a system down.
Your choice of program depends on what you need. While Trend Micro Antivirus+ provides basic protection for individual PCs, Trend Micro Internet Security covers up to three PCs and Macs while adding browser and social media privacy protection, parental controls and a system optimizer.
At the pinnacle are the Trend Micro Maximum Security and Premium Security bundles, which are for five and 10 systems, respectively, and also can protect mobile devices. All are good choices at good prices, unless you're looking for backup, online-storage or VPN services. In that case, you might want to try Kaspersky Total Security.