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Reliable, Free Anti-Virus Software? 586

oahazmatt writes "Some time ago my wife was having severe issues on her laptop. (A Dell Inspiron, if that helps.) I eventually found the cause to be McAfee, which took about an hour to remove fully. I installed AVG on her system to replace McAfee, but we have since found that AVG is causing problems with her laptop's connection to our wireless network. She's not thrilled about a wired connection as the router is on the other end of the house. We're looking for some good, open-source or free personal editions of anti-virus software. So, who on Slashdot trusts what?" When school required a Windows laptop, I used Clam AV, and the machine seemed to do as well as most classmates'. What have you found that works?
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Reliable, Free Anti-Virus Software?

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  • Avast (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 25, 2008 @05:26PM (#25512025)


    Free for personal use.

    • I second that motion.

      I've found people's computers with viruses that commercial softwares have overlooked. I uninstall their paid product (usually with objections), and install the free version of Avast. It catches the viruses, throws warnings about bad things still crawling around, and in the end they're virus free and protected.

      More than that, it's what I use on my Windows machine, which is happily virus free, even though I do things that I advise people not

  • by Joe The Dragon ( 967727 ) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @05:26PM (#25512027)

    avast the best free one with no lock down like avg8

    http://www.avast.com/ [avast.com]

    • I second this. I've been using avast for years with no problems.

    • I agree on Avast! if you have to be free, but my personal favorite is Eset's NOD32 (www.eset.com). $40 MSRP (but you can find it cheaper if you look around). This is the most efficient (very very small memory footprint) and effective antivirus I have ever used. We use Symantec Corporate where I work (but are switching once our subscription runs out) and this has picked up several viruses on PCs that Symantec missed. Not to mention the fact that Symantec likes to do in-depth scanning every once in a whil

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kaboom13 ( 235759 )

        Most likely the console (the server that monitors and manages the clients) is scheduled to order a scan every once in a while. You should ask your admin to knock it off or reschedule it for a better time.

    • by ZosX ( 517789 )

      I will also throw in a nod for Avast. I've used just about every free virus scanner out there and Avast seems to work about the best. I used to love AVG, but it has become the epitome of bloatware as of late. Avira is a close second, but the daily nag screen got to be a bit annoying. Avast found viruses that no other scanner had found on files that were years old. It did seem to have some false positives, but to be honest, I've always erred on the side of caution.

    • by modir ( 66559 ) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @05:48PM (#25512187) Homepage Journal

      I would recommend Avira AntiVir [1]. It is free for personal use too. The was most impressed of the speed. I used Avira AntiVir all the time before I moved to Linux.

      [1] http://www.free-av.de/en/index.html [free-av.de]

    • however, make a backup before installing it. It may be different now, but it was a bitch to remove from my old box.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sabriel ( 134364 )

      Seconded, though I prefer defence in depth. My suggestion:

      Avast (Home Edition) + Spyware Doctor (Google Pack) + Threatfire.

      Free for personal home use (read the fine print for anything else), they complement each other, have automatic updates, and play nice on XP and Vista. Tweak the settings to your (and user's) preference, remember to register Avast, and then you can pretty much forget about them.

      Note: Threatfire 4 has only just been released; if you have problems I suggest trying 3.5.

      Use the Wind

  • by mikesd81 ( 518581 ) <mikesd1@noSpaM.verizon.net> on Saturday October 25, 2008 @05:27PM (#25512047) Homepage
    Well you already mentioned Clam AV. I use that myself. I'd go with that. Some of my friends use Avast, and I don't have a problem w/ that either, but Clam works for me.
  • Avast (Score:5, Informative)

    by fishyfool ( 854019 ) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @05:29PM (#25512067) Homepage Journal
    Add me to the chorus of Avast. It simply works and works well.
  • When school required a Windows laptop, I used Clam AV

    I second the mention of ClamWin. The biggest missing feature in ClamWin is scanning every file on fopen(), and that's what usually causes the resource hogging behavior that some people believe to be typical of antivirus. In my experience, a computer user really doesn't need real-time operation unless he's looking at pr0n (erotic web sites), downloading w4r3z (infringing copies of proprietary commercial software), or doing something comparably dangerous. A weekly full scan is enough.

    • When I open Outlook, clam pops up it's splash screen for outlook. Other than that, I just use clam to scan files I download before I open them (zip files). I forget it's even running until it tells me it updated.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gad_zuki! ( 70830 )

      Or setup the user to run as limited user. You wouldnt let your wife run as root 24/7 would you? Windows is the same way. Limited user + clamav (or no AV) is more than enough.

  • Moonsecure (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Ran across Moonsecure recently. GPL'd AV software supposedly. Never used it myself though.

  • My experiences with windows AV is pretty lame. At one job, I had to deal with huge numbers of reads and writes to the disk. The anti-virus software (Symantec I think) would bog things down, trying to check all these writes until the drive plain died.
    We did not reinstall it when the new drive arrived and there were no problems.

    That sort of cemented my idea that AV software was mostly worthless. Even with updates, it was still out of date where it mattered, and is such a resource hog as to make using windows

    • If you are a windows user, just browse smart, don't open up any unneeded services and get your ass behind a firewall. Oh, and backup your stuff periodically.

      I agree. I've never run an AV on windows. I've had some spyware problems in the past, but with some responsible browsing habits, there shouldn't be any reason to "contract" that stuff.

      I've never understood how people accumulate all the shit that they do when they finally ask someone to "fix" their computer once it is unusable.

  • Just sits there doing it's job, warning me when there's a virus. Never upsets other software, never prompts me to tell me that I don't have some other product of theirs like a firewall.
  • by Matt Perry ( 793115 ) <perry,matt54&yahoo,com> on Saturday October 25, 2008 @05:45PM (#25512155)

    I'm serious. Stop doing the things that put you at risk for viruses and you won't have to run anti-virus. I don't run anti-virus or anti-spyware software on my computer and I've never had a problem. Occasionally, just to verify that I'm doing the right thing, I boot from a BartPE [wikipedia.org] Windows CD and run anti-virus and anti-spyware tools against my hard drive. They never find anything bad. The last time I had a virus was in 1989 on my Amiga 500.

    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Saturday October 25, 2008 @05:59PM (#25512289) Homepage

      I'd say that you're right, except that you're ignoring one source of problems: stupid people. Stupid people can't "stop doing things that put [them] at risk for viruses" because they aren't smart enough to understand the difference between risky behavior and safe behavior. Even if you explain it to them, they won't understand it, and they'll forget your instructions.

      Ok, to be fair, it's not just stupid people. There are smart people who simply don't have the computer or security expertise necessary to be able to understand the difference between a safe download and a risky one. They don't understand, and they have other things to do besides spending all their time learning, investigating, and figuring it out.

      For those people, it helps to secure the system through various methods, one of which might be an AV program.

    • What a pretty colour the sky must be in your world. "Stop doing things that put you at risk for viruses".

      So that'd be unplugging your computer and never using it then. Seriously, what kind of crazy logic are you using here? There is ALWAYS a risk, however minimal.

      Even if you're security conscious, you can wind up infected. I did recently. I downloaded something from a legitimate website. The site had been hacked and the exe trojaned, but there was no evidence to indicate this. And both Clam and A-Squared fl

  • You can check some of the ones listed at http://www.virusbtn.com/news/2008/09_02 [virusbtn.com], which also qualifies them a bit!

    I personally use Avira AntiVir and like it! I started with the free edition but quickly upgraded, it's pretty cheap and might as well support them...

  • While not OSS, Threatfire and FireWall Plus from PCTools are both free for personal use.

    AVG generates too many false positives, and has a really lame (sorry but it is) alert graphic and noise.

    ClamAV works well provided you don't want the real-time monitoring, which is why I only use it as a portable app for disinfecting.

    Avast is also a good choice if not anything special.

  • by Timex ( 11710 ) * <smithadmin@nOSPam.gmail.com> on Saturday October 25, 2008 @05:52PM (#25512231) Journal

    I use Avira AV [free-av.com] on the WinDOZE systems at my house.

    It's free for personal use, and companies have to get a site license...

  • "I installed AVG on her system to replace McAfee, but we have since found that AVG is causing problems with her laptop's connection to our wireless network"

    Just wondering if you contacted the AVG people. I know that, as a free (as in beer.. sort of) software user you're not likely to get priority support, but I'm sure they would like to know -why- their product appears to be messing with her wireless internet connection. I understand that you feel like it might not be worth messing with, but on the other

  • What are these virus things that everyone is talking about?
  • I recommend Avira Antivir Personal [free-av.com]. Very Lean, fast, customizable and through.

    Only problems is it pops up an Ad to upgrade to the pay version every time you download an update and it can be false positive happy when turned up to it's fullest settings and definitions, but otherwise it's one of the best scanners I've seen.

  • by modzer0 ( 1366073 ) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @06:04PM (#25512329)
    I'm a malware researcher by trade and as such I see hundreds of samples per day that all get ran through an gantlet of anti-virus system. As much as I support open source and use Linux workstations with Windows in virtual machines to do analysis in I have to honestly say ClamWin is pretty much useless except for very old samples. In fact most anti-virus software is useless against new threats until someone submits samples to them and then it doesn't matter anyway because the people who write that malware see the detection after a daily run through virustotal.com and then they use a custom packer or PE armorer to change that signature so it won't be detected anymore.

    The most effective methods I've seen is the behavioral and heuristic based systems in Kaspersky and Norton AV 2009's SONAR. SONAR may not catch it on execution but it catches registry entries and it's caught 99% of the bot samples I have when they try to call home. The new versions are also fairly light on system resources.

    It may not be the popular opinion but if you really don't want to worry about malware then look at OS X or Linux. Yes there is some malware out there but in comparison it's a minute fraction of a percent of the number for Windows based systems.

    • I'm a network engineer by trade with responsibility for my company's firewalls, IPS sensors, Network Behavior Detection / Netflow tools, etc. Your post piqued my interest for one of my backburner science projects: a malware research "lab". My company has multiple licenses for VMWare ESX server, VMWare Lab Manager, and the like, and I'd really like to create an environment where I can let specific malware run "freely" and see how well (or more likely, how poorly) my aforementioned firewalls and IPS sensors

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by modzer0 ( 1366073 )
        The setup I use involves VMware Workstation and the virtual teams. I have a collection of VMs to run samples in and those it in a virtual network. I have the gateway setup using FakeDNS to resolve everything to that one IP address no matter what it is. On that I run a webserver, snort, and Wireshark to grab the network traffic. On the network side you can develop a signature to catch it coming across the network both bots calling back and the actual executable itself. I would suggest studying network p
  • by davidpfarrell ( 562876 ) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @06:14PM (#25512423) Homepage

    I'm trying to move from 32-bit XP to 64-bit vista, and one of the things keeping me from making the switch is trying to find a good 64-bit virus program.

    I'm using ZoneAlarm on XP and one of the things I like most about it is the applications watching and firewall.

    Having it authorize net access and system access is a feature I find very nice to have.

    Unfortunately, it looks like ZoneAlarm is not in the 64-bit game.

    Correction: They were beta testing a 64-bit windows version sometime ago but have dropped it completely with no apparent mention of trying again.

    Currently for firewall on Vista, I use the built-in firewall with full deny by default and then configure applications to go through on a one-by-one basis.

    But I really liked being notified when apps tried to do any potentially dangerous activities like run each time the system is loaded or modify the hosts file, etc.

    So anybody got a good replacement on 64-bit Vista for paranoid users like myself?

    Thanks in advance for any replies.

  • f-prot is still in business and seems to do fairly well. I think they do still have a free version, but their core home version is something like $19.95 for a two year subscription covering install on up to 5 family PCs. It always does reasonably well on the comparison tests (given that no AV will catch every piece of malware out there) and doesn't slow the system down much if at all.


  • PC Tools has a free Antivirus [pctools.com] at the bottom of that page.

    Google Pack [google.com] has a free Norton Security Scan which is Norton Antivirus Lite with no autoprotect but it does scheduled scans and allows an upgrade to the full version. Also Spyware Doctor which scans for spyware, adware, and rootkits, and allows an upgrade to the full version.

  • by SplatMan_DK ( 1035528 ) * on Saturday October 25, 2008 @06:23PM (#25512489) Homepage Journal
    I have tried both AVG and Avast, after choosing not to continue my TrendMicro PC Cillin subscription. I have also installed/tested both on computers belonging to friends and family. Here are a few of my experiences.

    AVG good stuff:
    • Good interface with all the bells and whistles a modern app needs
    • Easier for end users to use than Avast (according to my mom and girlfriend)
    • Finds more spyware and tracking cookies (I experienced Avast miss a real life spyware once, for about 22 hours until it was updated)
    • Easy to install, even for end users

    AVG bad stuff

    • Users (including myself) experienced multiple browser crashes and computer stability issues. Problem first arrived with installation of AVG and disappeared when AVG was uninstalled. Coincidence? Not likely :-/ Acceptable? Not in a million years!
    • The URL malware detection browser plugin is crap. It reads ahead every single URL on a homepage, and displays a little GIF icon with a checkmark when the URL is good and clean. Nice in theory BUT it makes your bandwidth usage explode, and makes browsing a drag - to say nothing of what the result must be for the owners of homepages you visit. Magically "all pages are now visited" by all users?
    • Virus engine can not be stopped easily if desired. I sometimes play games, and being behind a NAT gateway I don't want my antivirus running alongside Day of Defeat, Natural Selection and Team Fortress 2. AVG is hard to disable, and clicking on the tray icon will only let you disable the management interface (and thereby the tray icon) while the scanning engine continues to run.
    • Too many tricks and attempts to lure the user into buying the paid-for version. Almost resembles "legal phising" on occasion, which is kinda sad. Key information screens are supplied with "warnings" that you are using the free product.


    Avast good stuff:

    • Uses less resources
    • Gets the job done without tons of bloatware and fancy extra browser plugins (easier to install without tons of fancy plugins and extra features which have nothing to do with basic virus protection)
    • Can be disabled easily if desired, with right-click on tray icon. Good for gamers in their mid 30's who know what they are doing!
    • No crashes and instability like AVG

    Avast bad stuff:

    • Interface less intuitive, says mother + girlfriend.
    • Installation requires slightly more finesse as the installer is a little more confusing.
    • Perhaps (?) slightly slower on updates. My mom had a malware file sent to her by mail, and it remained undetected by Avast 22 hours longer than an identical file on my girlfriends PC which had AVG.

    At the end of the day, I went with Avast. Stability and low performance impact is more important to me than a fancy GUI. Clueless end-users disagree though, and actually want AVG back inspite of the stability issues. So the GUI really made a difference for them. They simply felt more "at home" with AVG.

    Direct links for both products:
    AVG Antivirus Free Version Download [avg.com] and Wikipedia Description [wikipedia.org].
    Avast Antivirus Free version download [avast.com] and Wikipedia description [wikipedia.org].


    - Jesper

    (Experience is from: 3x Vista computers with reasonable hardware specs, and 2 older Windows XP computers)

  • The various people I've managed to switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox generally haven't experienced a virus since, despite not running anti-virus software. In particular if they also stop using Outlook Express.

    In contrast, I know several instances of people getting viruses even though they _are_ running Norton or McAfee.

    So yes, I recommend not using anti-virus software at all. Just use safer software when you access the internet.

  • Decompile (Score:4, Funny)

    by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @06:39PM (#25512625)
    I just decompile every application and examine the assembler code line by line. Only problem is that I still haven't finished looking over Windows ME before I dare install it.
  • Wireless printer? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JeffSh ( 71237 ) <jeffslashdotNO@SPAMm0m0.org> on Saturday October 25, 2008 @07:43PM (#25513055)

    This might be coming from left field, but your question struck me because I was having exactly the same issue (with exactly the same person, my wife).

    Turns out the problem was our HP wireless printer. The drivers were causing network traffic that was causing my wifes computer to slow down. she also has a dell inspiron, but hers is a little old (1gb memory and 1.2ghz cpu).

    The hp drivers were causing network traffic over her linksys wireless card, which in turn was using cpu cycles to support the wireless network traffic.

    The problem was corrected by turning off the HP printer.

    So, if you have a wireless printer, try turning it off.

  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Sunday October 26, 2008 @12:55AM (#25514879) Homepage Journal

    AVIRA has the advantage of NEVER needing a free license key renewed but they make you pay for it with an intrusive popup add for AVIRA Pro.

    Bit Defender has the smallest RAM footprint of the three but updates are EXCRUCIATING and bog down your machine.

    AVAST is the most complete of all of them, has the largest footprint, requires a 14 month free license key and some peculiar incompatibilities with one machine I tried it on, but it's the best of the three in terms of the actual work it does.

    AVG is pure bloat at this point, and none of the other "FREE" applications are free - they're DEMOWARE.

Some people manage by the book, even though they don't know who wrote the book or even what book.