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Security Windows Technology

What Free Antivirus Do You Install On Windows? 896

Posted by timothy
from the is-clamav-no-longer-good? dept.
Techman83 writes "After years of changing between AVG Free + Avast, it's coming time to find a new free alternative for friends/relatives who run Windows. AVG and Avast have been quite good, but are starting to bloat out in size, and also becoming very misleading. Avast recently auto updated from 4.8 to 5 and now requires you to register (even for the free version) and both are making it harder to actually find the free version. Is this the end of reasonable free antivirus, or is there another product I can entrust to keep the 'my computer's doing weird things' calls to a minimum?"
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What Free Antivirus Do You Install On Windows?

Comments Filter:
  • Avira (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:47PM (#31526052)

  • Why free? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drdanny_orig (585847) * on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:48PM (#31526080)
    I should think "friends/relatives who run Windows" would be exactly the type to appreciate the convenience of a low-impact reliable AV package, which means they may have to pay a few bucks. It's fine to play FOS yourself or with trivial office or audio stuff, and I do it myself. But I still give ESET a few shekels/year for each windows PC in my house. It just makes sense to me.
  • Re:Uh...Avast? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by twidarkling (1537077) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:51PM (#31526134)

    I used Avast 4.8 for about a month. Then they upgraded to 5.0. Didn't care about the registration, but everything else just irked me to no end. On the other hand, MSE has every advantage you listed, plus no registration, and the updates are gathered through Windows Update, so you don't have yet another service updating itself.

    Oh, and the quick scan takes about 3 minutes.

  • Panda Cloud (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dotren (1449427) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:52PM (#31526176)

    I've been trying this out on my home computers so far and its definitely less resource intensive than previous AV solutions I've used. I haven't gotten infected with anything lately (that I know of) so I don't know how well it handles infections yet.

    Actual web page is here [] and you can read up on it a bit here [].

  • Re:Microsoft (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dsavi (1540343) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:54PM (#31526202) Homepage
    I have heard good things about MSE from several people, but I haven't tried it myself.
  • Re:Microsoft (Score:1, Interesting)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:57PM (#31526268) Journal

    I trust MSE about as much as I trust IE.

  • That's what we use (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:57PM (#31526270)

    At work (a university) the central IT has chosen to license Sophos. It is, well, crap to put it mildly and takes up amazing amounts of resources. So, instead we use Security Essentials on many systems. Works well, it has successfully stopped viruses that users have tried to get. Pretty light on resources over all, not the lightest weight program I've seen but up there.

    Best one for free I've seen. Personally ESET NOD32 is my favourite and what I license for home, but if the price requirement is $0, then MSE is what I use.

  • by splatter (39844) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:59PM (#31526290)

    Used it for years. God help me if they ditch the old URL I'll have to start googling it. []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:02PM (#31526360)

    I was recently introduced to this, and it pleasantly surprised me. It's lightweight, and it's rated well. Pretty much the only packages that have better detection rates is payware, and this beats the payware in false positives. Also, the interface is easy to understand, and it stays out of the way.

  • Obligatory answer... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:02PM (#31526364)

    Linux :)

    I don't mean that in the snarky, "everyone should only use Linux" sense. But my Linux computers are certainly the ones that require the least care and feeding. And Linux is free.

  • Re:Microsoft (Score:5, Interesting)

    by twidarkling (1537077) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:02PM (#31526370)

    Well, I can say it alerted me to one attempted drive-by trojan install, isolated the file, and deleted it, all before I did anything to react to the initial notice. First time I've gotten any sort of notice not related to tracking cookies in a few years.

  • by HelloKitty (71619) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:04PM (#31526402) Homepage

    avast kept popping up ads to buy their stuff.
    switched to avira, no popups. similar number of false positives as avast... i saw no difference between them. but really, who knows if they're working.

    is there a way to evaluate antivirus software? i mean, after it's 1.) no popups, 2.) not bloaty 3.) easy on the system 4.) convenient to use... how do you know if it actually works?

    I mean I could write a system tray app that's a "virus checker". and always tells you your system's ok... haha

    anyway, reading around, seemed like avast, avira, and avg were the best free ones. and after running avg and avast, I liked avira. but really, no idea who's the best.

  • Re:Microsoft (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:04PM (#31526408)
    MS Security Essentials pulled up suspected trojans in a couple of old keygens that I'd had sitting around on my machine for years (hadn't used them in a long long time). These are files that both Avast and AVG glossed over when I was using them.
  • by andi75 (84413) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:06PM (#31526466) Homepage

    - I let windows check for updates, but install them manually.
    - I mostly download my software from sourceforge / cygwin's mirrors (yes, I'm risking that those could be compromised).

    I haven't noticed anything fishy yet, and my WoW account hasn't been hacked in 5 years :-)

  • Avira/AntiVir (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kroby (1391819) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:07PM (#31526492)
    Avira get's my vote. Low resource use, high detection rate, and free for personal use. What more could you ask for? Since it is freeware the default installation has some nag screens, but those are easily disabled. []
  • MSSE (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spottedkangaroo (451692) * on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:08PM (#31526502) Homepage
    Microsoft Security Essentials. It's really the only choice imo. All the others are trying to sell you something. Now, if you're willing to pay, there are perhaps better choices. The most important thing to remember is to not take it too awful seriously. All AV sucks, badly. It's reactive and it only detects a small percentage of the naughty things. It's the only option, but it sucks. MSSE is good.
  • Re:Panda Cloud (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eulernet (1132389) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:11PM (#31526554)

    Interesting, but Panda Software is linked to Scientology.

    I'm not sure it's a good idea to let them send packets from your computer...

  • I don't (Score:3, Interesting)

    by riegel (980896) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:11PM (#31526562) Homepage

    Between my job, some side work and friends and family I manage close to 70 Windows machines. I have been doing IT since 1992.

    When I am asked this question my answer is always this. None. I think antivirus is more trouble than it is worth. First any new viruses will be undetected, second the pain of actually running anti virus outweighs any marginal benefit received from it.

    Of course this answer immediately creates a follow up question... Well then what do you do?

    The best way to protect yourself is to run as NON - ADMIN. That's it. A coworker recently got a virus and I simply logged in as admin and ran a free online virus scan. It found his problem and removed it.

  • Re:Microsoft (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mister_playboy (1474163) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:16PM (#31526636)

    If you are running Windows, you are already implicitly agreeing to trust MS, so why not trust their AV program? It's free and integrates unobtrusively into your system. It seems like the most sensible free choice.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:16PM (#31526644)

    I run a network of -- well, it peaked at 70 XP SP3 workstations on a domain.

    IE(7) is hidden and FF3.0 or 3.5 on all desktops, with AdBlock Pro.

    Spybot 1.6 Teatimer in startup.

    Users are all non-administrator under domain control.

    In almost a year -- with *no* AV realtime at all -- we got bit exactly once, by Antivirus2009. Spot manual scans come up clean, done with a current Windows
    Ultimate Boot CD. No untoward flows seen out through the firewall.

    It may not be *about* viruses, anymore, per se, guys...

  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:21PM (#31526746)

    Actually, thanks for the posting because you've put the seed of an idea into my head.

    I'm a Linux & security consultant at my place of work & therefore get a lot of freedom in running what I want to on my laptop. I've been using OpenOffice (on Linux and XP) at home for a while now, I finally managed to ditch Office 2003, specifically Outlook, when I recently got rid of the last phone dependant on ActiveSync and Outlook for synching contacts.

    The standard at work is XP and Office 2003, having messed about with Thunderbird & Sunbird recently, I'm pretty sure I can manage on those for email & calendaring at work - really the last issue to resolve is how to deal with Microsoft domain resources & cope with forced password changes every 60 days. I was planning to look more deeply into Samba to see what that's capable of, but now you've put the VM idea in my head, specifically because I also got updraded to a dual-core Lenovo laptop a few weeks ago.

  • Re:I dont use... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HeronBlademaster (1079477) <> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:24PM (#31526824) Homepage

    Just because you can't be 100% safe with any given product is no reason to abandon it entirely.

    I recently reinstalled Windows, and while I've historically used Avast, I opted to go with nothing this time around. I'm tired of resource usage and slower load times for everything thanks to antivirus; I've moved my e-mail to Google Apps, so they scan my e-mails for viruses. My use of Bittorrent is extremely limited (I only have it installed because Star Trek Online's installer is available via torrent), and I never visit the seedier side of the internet. I'm behind a firewall.

    Basically I'm not going to get a virus, so I see no reason to run anti-virus software. Rather than "Can't be 100% safe, may as well not use it", my reasoning is "I'm already 99.99999% safe, so why bother".

    (Yes, I know it's still technically possible to get a virus. But the chances are extremely slim, given the way I use my computer.)

  • Re:clam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by evilviper (135110) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:24PM (#31526826) Journal
    Although it is missing an on access scan, I am not sure if that is a plus of a minus

    I could live without an on-access scan (tell your download manager to scan downloaded files), but Clamwin is completely unusable, IMHO, because it uses up much more system memory, and takes 4X as long to scan compared to the more common Free AVs.

    If you want real, free antivirus, go with MoonSecure (v2.x), which is GPL, does on-access scanning, and uses the ClamAV database. It does (momentarily) use up a lot of memory, and slow down the system, but only when first starting up, or updating definitions. Other than that, it's no more of a dog than any other free AV. Free for commercial purposes, likely to have definitions available forever, etc.

  • Re:Microsoft (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumRiff (120817) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:25PM (#31526832)

    Were moving 6000 machines to forefront antivirus, which shares the exact same AV engine as Security essentials.

    It has more stuff for enterprise updates and deployments and reporting, but it is soo much faster and lighter than others we have looked at.

  • Re:Avira/AntiVir (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Four_One_Nine (997288) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:25PM (#31526842) Journal
    +1 I've put AntiVir on every computer I own. Very tiny footprint. Doesn't give me a bunch of crap I don't want.
  • Re:Microsoft (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheLink (130905) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:25PM (#31526846) Journal

    Yeah but are they really trojans? Or was MSE wrong about those?

    FWIW, I don't install AV on my main windows machine. If I do see something suspicious I upload it to: []

    So far I don't think my machine has been infected before. If my machine ever gets zombied, I'd probably notice since 1) I have a crappy internet connection, 2) I'd eventually notice the network traffic on the gateway machine - which is not windows.

  • Re:Microsoft (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cillian (1003268) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:29PM (#31526934) Homepage
    Admittedly, keygens are probably among the most likely software to contain a trojan or something. However, that sort of hand-hacked code does quite often throw up false positives. I've quite often found AVG complaining about cygwin executables or scene demos (Which usually have convoluted compressed executables, probably similar to trojans)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:38PM (#31527122)

    Here's another vote for NOD32, it's not free, but it's good (and very reasonably priced). I've installed it on everything from old junkboxes to my win7 machine, it stays out of the way, uses few resources, and does a good job.

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:47PM (#31527308)

    The standard at work is XP and Office 2003, having messed about with Thunderbird & Sunbird recently, I'm pretty sure I can manage on those for email & calendaring at work

    Then either you don't use calendaring very heavy and have been using Outlook as a mere email client. I develop plugins for email clients. I freaking HATE Outlook in just about every conceivable way. If I was a sales person or a manager who gets stuck with lots of meetings and high email traffic, Outlook would be my preferred email client.

    Outlook is not an email client. Its not a calendaring application. Its a PIM, it does email as well and integrates it rather well even though its email system feels crappy and has horrible imap support (O2K7 and O2010 aren't bad for imap, too bad they ripped out the IE rendering engine). Thunderbird is an email client and its great at that. Sunbird is a calendar package, and its kind of shitty. The combination of the two is utterly ass-tastic.

    If you want calendaring just ditch sunbird and use gmail or apps for your domain. Yes you can use Sunbird with it, but unless that has changed recently, that too is a shitty experience. Probably should have kept some phones with ActiveSync exchange support though since thats about the only way to sync calendars that doesn't suck total ass.

    Its fine that you run the software you want to run, and if it works for you, thats great ... but ... If you're replacing Outlook with Thunderbird + Sunbird than you weren't really using Outlook for much more than an email client, which is probably its worst feature. Please don't go around suggesting to normal users to do the same.

  • by PhunkySchtuff (208108) <(ua.moc.acitamotua) (ta) (iak)> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:59PM (#31527572) Homepage

    Microsoft Security Essentials [] is all you need for non-enterprise A/V.
    It's free, it's unobtrusive and it works very well. What's more, commercial AV vendors, like Symantec, realise what a threat it is to their business model and have published a lot of FUD about you get what you pay for - however all the benchmarks I've seen have it ranking up there with the best of them.

    The only reason to go for a commercial AV package is if you need a management and reporting console to manage a large number of computers.

  • Re:Why free? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jimicus (737525) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:11PM (#31527838)

    ...I wish 3rd party software would integrate into the windows update system, it would save a lot of bother (and pop-us, nag screens and update checking tasks loaded at startup).

    This, a million times over. Windows Update needs an API for software to register itself with and load signing certificates so uploads can be secure and all dealt with through one interface.

  • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:33PM (#31528288)

    It's also the whole monopoly thing. They got into big trouble for bundling a free browser into windows. Because, I mean, what OS actually comes with a browser? (Of course things were a little different in 1995.)

    In 1995, the two main alternatives to Windows - OS/2 and MacOS - both came with browsers.

  • Re:Uh...Avast? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by dskzero (960168) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:40PM (#31528456) Homepage
    Wow, you linux-nerds don't waste anytime to troll into any topic to scream out "windows sucks". You know, the best way to not get virus is not installing Linux. It's just knowing what you're doing. The possibilities of getting a virus or some sort of attack on your machine is directly proportional to the ammount of porno preview sites you visit.
  • Re:I dont use... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JoshRosenbaum (841551) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:49PM (#31528580) Homepage
    I used to think this way as well. Although, I had a virus scanner installed for scanning downloads, I did not have it actively scanning. Turns out my thinking was as flawed as yours. The problem is that with one vulnerability in your web browser or a browser plugin, malicious code can be executed and that code may run a bunch of detectable viruses. This exact problem happened to me when I was surfing the internet checking out some information on a game I was interested in. Randomly out of nowhere my computer started crawling and upon loading task manager I saw tons of processes spawning. (I shut down promptly and fixed using another computer.) After all was said and done it turned out whatever the exploit was had installed a bunch of different viruses. It was a very interesting attack that I had never expected, just as you have not.

    This of course assumes that you browse the internet, which I assume you do.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @05:05PM (#31528842)
    Yeah, "buy a mac" is a great suggestion for someone who is not even willing to pay for antivirus software.

    Kudos to the mods who acknowledged your amazing insight!
  • Re:I dont use... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Reapman (740286) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @05:23PM (#31529156)

    I've recently had to reinstall Windows at home as well. This time I'm trying out Windows 7's XP Mode. Since it hides the Desktop and integrates the app (in this case Firefox with NoScript) to Windows 7 other then a few seconds extra to start the app it seems to work decent enough. Reminds me a lot of Parallel's on my Mac.

    Inside the VM I have the AV, Anti Spyware, and Firewall running. But when I shut down the browser the system isn't bogged down with such crap. Takes up more resources while the browser is up, but less when it's not.

    Will see how it goes but I think it might be a nice way of getting the best of both worlds. Just a thought.

  • Re:I dont use... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HeronBlademaster (1079477) <> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:19PM (#31529942) Homepage

    No, it's not like that at all. It's like sleeping with the same woman every night while taking the chance that someone has come by and stuck her with a needle she wasn't aware of.

    The chances of that happening are extremely slim.

    So... the sites I use often. When was the last time Ars Technica or Slashdot was compromised with something spreading a virus? How about Penny-Arcade or xkcd?

    I haven't said it isn't possible, I've only said I'm willing to risk the extremely small chance that I'll get a virus.

  • by chekk4 (1367067) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:26PM (#31530040)
    NOD32 version 2.7 was good, but all versions since are notably slower and more bloated. Version 4 is automatically antivirus AND antispyware with no option to turn off the antispyware. I tried Avira Personal (free) and then ponied up for Premium. On sale, it cost $22CAD. Cheap, effective and light on resources.
  • by maillemaker (924053) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:28PM (#31530054)

    I just bought a new computer, and installed Windows 7 on it.

    I have decided to forego antivirus software.

    It seems to me that these things, like DRM, are circumvented nearly instantaneously. In fact, I have come to view computer security just like DRM - a futile endeavor.

    I know not to run .exe files from emails, and I know not to download and install files I don't trust. I'm behind a hardware firewall.

    I've run AVG for years, and never had a detection.

    That's going to be the extent of my efforts.

  • by captbob2002 (411323) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:29PM (#31530066)

    That is a shame to hear. I used Sophos for our Windows/Mac/Solaris/Linux machines for almost ten years. (the two later b/c the hosted windows files via Samba) And found it to be quick and light weight. NEVER had a virus issue on a machine running Sophos. The the edict came down from on high that we MUST use McAfee like the rest of the university. What utter crap. It rendered older machines unusable, would claim that it was updating when it wasn't, and had the feature that it kept missing viruses.

    I must admit that toward the end I was getting annoyed with Sophos - needing an MS Windows machine to act as the "Manager" for the enterprise install of Sophos. At the time we didn't *have* any windows servers, nor did we want them.

  • Re:Microsoft (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:48PM (#31530868) Homepage

    One of our clients got a new SBS 2008 box along with an antivirus suite. While MSE is damn good (and free), Forefront is OTOH we feel is crap from deployment, management and reporting. It does share the same deffs that MSE uses, so protection should be good in theory.

    We've tried most of the major brands first-hand across many different networks. Of all of them, both my co-workers and I think Trend Micro Worry-Free Business Security is the best. It blocks spam at the Exchange server level, and stops drive-by web viruses dead in their tracks. It also has very good reporting and deployment methods. Oh, and it's really easy to use and requires very little (if any) customizations. It just works right out of the box per se.

    One thing to be aware of with that product however. It has a feature called Smart Scan. If your server is under powered and/or you have WAN connections to other networks, disable this feature. It doesn't seem to be much use anyways. We have seen strange issues with it on though when left on.

  • Re:Microsoft (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anpheus (908711) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:52PM (#31530898)

    It's the compression algorithms that often get used in demos that cause the problem. Compression is great obfuscation on the actual payload, but the problem is that the compression algorithm is an easy to target signature.

  • by TheNumberless (650099) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @10:07PM (#31531962)

    You know what? That's entirely fair. I guess I've been away from the Windows world for too long.

    Actually, the idea of a centralized software repository in general is a fantastic idea, and I've been using apt and ports for years. I'm just set to default deny when it comes to the idea of installing anything from an unfamiliar on Windows. But if it's built such a strong base of trust among people more in the know than myself, it must be worth a second look.

    That is, if I ever find myself in the position of setting up a Windows system again.

Thrashing is just virtual crashing.