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Windows Security IT

Ask Slashdot: Light-Footprint Antivirus For Windows XP? 294

Posted by timothy
from the tread-lightly-stomp-hard dept.
New submitter Bauermlb writes "I service computers for retired folks in my community, often older machines with modest speed (2 GHz Centron) and modest memory (512 MB). Adding AVAST to one of these machines slows it to a crawl. Any recommendations for a light-duty antivirus program with a low overhead? (These people do not tend to surf 'dirty' sites.)"
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Ask Slashdot: Light-Footprint Antivirus For Windows XP?

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  • by Rosyna (80334) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:14AM (#44295619) Homepage

    Ad networks/common popular websites have been compromised repeatedly in the past and will be compromised repeatedly in the future. All sites could be considered "dirty sites".

  • by Curupira (1899458) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:15AM (#44295637)
    Do they *really* need Windows? Or would a lightweight distro with a windows-like interface do the job? Just asking :)
  • by Toshito (452851) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:19AM (#44295701)

    I've been using it for the last 3 years on XP and now 7, very lightweight. No virus or adware problem (for now). From time to time I also scan my computer with adaware and spybot.

  • MSE (Score:4, Insightful)

    by puddingebola (2036796) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:20AM (#44295709) Journal
    Not that I'm promoting it as effective virus protection, but MSE has a light effect on my Windows partition. Seldom using Windows, but I surf on it ocassionally. Don't know if MS will continue to support it after XP dies, but looking at my parents computer and the 4 websites they visit, I really wonder how robust an anti-virus program someone who is elderly actually needs. Good experiment for somebody: use XP with NO virus protection for a month, visit the same websites these people visit, use a modern web browser (not IE 8), and see at the end of that period if you are actually infected.
  • by PoconoPCDoctor (912001) <jpclyons@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:20AM (#44295715) Homepage Journal
    It's not so much a memory issue as it is the nature of the beast. Active scanning hogs hard disk performance. I would ask these people if they might want to get a Chromebook or similar. The aging hardware might soon go to PC heaven so they will need to replace the system anyway.
  • by MrKevvy (85565) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:20AM (#44295721)

    Yes, I know... it failed certification. But often what is used in certification is proof-of-concept or old and very rare samples that may not be "in the wild". It deliberately doesn't detect them to have a lighter footprint and be easier on resources. I use it on 1 GHz machines with 512MB of RAM with no noticeable slowdown. It doesn't miss the stuff that you're actually going to be at risk of getting infected with, in my experience.

    You didn't state the OS you were asking about, but IIRC Avast is Windows-only. MSE may fit your requirements.

  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:26AM (#44295805)
    A "2 GHz Centron" huh? They glued a sempron to a celeron? Someone dumb enough to write that certainly is dumb enough to overestimate the impact Avast has on a system. And 512 MB of memory? That's not enough to run anything.
    How about naming your celeron correctly, adding 512MB of DDR1 for about $4, and dropping in a socket 478 Pentium 2.8Ghz for about $9. That costs less than an antivirus license. Then keep Avast, since it's the best speed vs detection.
  • by tlambert (566799) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:30AM (#44295849)

    "I want an elephant the size of a mouse, please"

    Antivirus software sniffs the butt of ever filesystem write operation, as well as sniffing the but of every executable image load, as well as every browser plugin load; it also scans the contents of inbound network data, since it could have a known payload using an unknown zero day in the program requesting the data from the Internet.

    Most of the code could be made significantly less overhead, but we are talking reducing it from elephant sized to water buffalo sized, rather than reducing it to mouse size. For example, if instead of checking the whole file when every write occurs, it could prevent the file being opened again until a scan-on-close occurred. Both Outlook and IE would hate that, and any browser that didn't operate "stage then interpret" would still have to be byte-stream interposed. As another example, it could decide to not react to every FS event; MacOS has this capability, since it integrates a mandator access controls (MAC) capability, but many OSs do not. And even on MacOS, most AV vendors don't take advantage of this, since it messes with their ability to use the same event streaming model as on their other platforms.

    So: no such animal exists, if you want it to also be effective.

  • Re:Clamwin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bacon Bits (926911) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:30AM (#44295865)

    ClamWin is "light footprint" because it's no footprint. It has no on-access scanning, which for most people is indistinguishable from not having antivirus installed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:34AM (#44295923)

    This.

    A simple sylogism:

    Any antivirus solution worth its salt will put a hook in the file open system call to scan each file as it is accessed.

    Regardless of the footprint and efficiency of the program, anything that runs each accessed file through an additional filter will incur a significant performance hit.

    Therefore, any antivirus solution worth its salt will incur a significant performance hit.

    The solution is not to install an antivirus program. Ways to deal with potential virus infestations: (1) run with adblockers, noscript, and perfectly strict browsing discipline, or (2) don't use a virus-prone system, or (3) something else?

    I do (1) and (2). What will do you?

  • by lesincompetent (2836253) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:42AM (#44296025)
    Why are they teaching "computers" with windows? Given those elders are not accustomed to computers at all they might as well start with something better, and better suited for those old machines.
  • by david.given (6740) <dg AT cowlark DOT com> on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:56AM (#44296983) Homepage Journal

    Yes, seriously. It's lightweight, it's free, it's integrated into Windows Update so it's really easy to get updates, and best of all it doesn't continually hassle you and go LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! the way most of the other antivirus apps do. It just sits in your icon bar and does its job.

    It's not brilliant, security-wise --- it's merely adequate --- but if you want something that hides itself away and gets on with things with a minimum of user panic, it's definitely the way to go.

(1) Never draw what you can copy. (2) Never copy what you can trace. (3) Never trace what you can cut out and paste down.

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