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What Free Antivirus Do You Install On Windows? 896

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?

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  • Uh...Avast? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:44PM (#31525988) Homepage

    I still use Avast. Oh noes, it took me 2 minutes to fill out the little form. It takes up few resources, it has updates for it nearly every day, it's free as in beer, and I have gotten a virus in ages. What's not to like?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Pojut ( 1027544 )

      HAVEN'T gotten*

      Gah. no preview = epic fail

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kelbear ( 870538 )

      I've found Avast registration to be even easier now. I don't even have to go back to the website to register and get a key from my e-mail address. I can just register right in the program itself.

      It gets the job done for 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.

      • Re:Uh...Avast? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by GIL_Dude ( 850471 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:18PM (#31526700) Homepage
        I'll second the plug for MS Security Essentials. My current machine came with a three year subscription to McAfee. It was basically "free to me" - but it was utter crap. It wanted me to reboot about once a week to install something (at one point they even emailed everyone registered with a "we're sorry" note because it went through 2 weeks of a reboot every day). I removed it in favor of another "free to me" version - Symantec. That one was because our work license has provisions for home use. It was better than McAfee in that it didn't ever ask for a reboot, but as people know it slows your machine down more than it should. As soon as MS Security Essentials shipped, I dumped that "free to me" Symantec and have never looked back. My wife, both kids, and my machine are all running MSE. I even signed up for the perpetual beta so I am testing the newest version on the machine I am typing this on. I really wouldn't even bother with any other one at this point.
      • Re:Uh...Avast? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:33PM (#31527022) Homepage Journal

        I think it was a CNET comparison I read of 19 products. Microsoft Security Essentials was something like 2nd out of 19 products in detection, it was the only free product at the top, and it has the smallest footprint out of all 19 tested.

        You'd be hard pressed to argue there is a better free product right now.

    • by Jeng ( 926980 )

      I don't know what the authors problem is. With Avast the first time you install it you don't have to register, eventually you'll have to register, but that is not for a few months. After that you will have to re-register something like every 6 or 9 months. Hell, its not like you even have to give them valid information.

      I just installed version 5, absolutely no issues.

    • Re:Uh...Avast? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by magsol ( 1406749 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:03PM (#31526386) Journal
      and I have gotten a virus in ages.

      That you know of.
  • Microsoft (Score:3, Informative)

    by dan828 ( 753380 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:45PM (#31525996)
    Microsoft security essentials []

    I mean, if anyone knows about viruses, it'd be Microsoft.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by DIplomatic ( 1759914 )
      MSE is pretty great on my laptop. Only 1GB RAM under Windows 7 and I haven't noticed any performance hit.
    • Re:Microsoft (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:48PM (#31526062)
      I use it at home because it's free, and probably doesn't contain malware itself. Can't really say how effective it is because it has never found any malware on my machines.
      • 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.

    • I put this on my latest Win7 build. I use Avast! on a vista laptop and ClamAV on another.
    • 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: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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DigiShaman ( 671371 )

          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

    • 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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Seconded on both counts. If you simply want top notch, and are willing to pay for it, then NOD32 is it. If you want free & "just works", then MSE is probably the easiest choice to go with these days.

        One bonus point for MSE is that it fetches virus signature updates (as well as version updates for itself) through Windows/Microsoft Update. That's one less "Foo Updater" process running on your PC.

        Oh, and it scores pretty well in tests. Not top of the line, but generally above average, and certainly competi

    • by igomaniac ( 409731 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:00PM (#31526320)

      An in-depth look at Microsoft Security Essentials, it made me decide to try it out on my girlfriend's laptop (I run OS X myself) and it's worked great.

    • Re:Microsoft (Score:4, Insightful)

      by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:01PM (#31526348)

      I mean, if anyone knows about viruses, it'd be Microsoft.

      Caring is another matter. Given their long history of "lightning fast" responses to security problems, I'm not overwhelmed with confidence in their commitment.

  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:46PM (#31526014) Journal
    I install Microsoft Security Essentials if I have to install AV (and if it's available - only XP onwards).

    Doesn't do as well as Kaspersky and some other payware ones, but does better than most of the free ones.

    And is certainly less bloated than the McAfee and Symantec crap[1].

    [1] Why install AV software that makes your computer behave like it's infected by loads of viruses...
  • Avira (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

  • by jrronimo ( 978486 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:48PM (#31526076)
    Microsoft Security Essentials [] is free, lightweight, and pretty good. Even Ars Techinca [] thought so, if you trust them.
  • 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:Why free? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Brit_in_the_USA ( 936704 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:00PM (#31526314)
      I used to used to get my parents to buy Norton for their home PC and remote support them. But if the years subscription was up they wouldn't have the latest protection until I was around to do the upgrade.

      I eventually went free as Norton started causing more problems than it was supposed to solve. Originally I rolled out AVG but that too had yearly requirements to upgrade. I switched all the family members I support a few months ago to the microsoft solution and "it just works", having the definitions and program updates rolled into the windows update has saved a lot of hassle. It being low resource usage is also a major plus. Everyone is happy.

      ...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).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jimicus ( 737525 )

        ...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.

  • clam (Score:3, Informative)

    by Capt.DrumkenBum ( 1173011 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:49PM (#31526084) []
    Although it is missing an on access scan, I am not sure if that is a plus of a minus.
    • 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.

  • Avira (Score:4, Informative)

    by HellProphet ( 1045990 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:49PM (#31526086)
    Avira Anti-vir. It is good, fully functioned with updates, custom scheduled scans and on access scanning. The only thing you have to deal with is a daily ad that you can dismiss by hitting OK and it won't pop up for another 24 hours. Also it uses up half the resources of AVG, McAfee, Norton.
    • by cp.tar ( 871488 )

      Avira's pop-up can easily be blocked, unless you run a Home version of Windows, which IIRC requires a Safe Mode boot and some mumbo-jumbo. On more functional versions of Windows you can easily disallow the execution of avnotify.exe and you're done.

      That being said, I've heard good things about Panda antivirus-in-a-cloud as well as Avast! - along with Avira, they would be my top three of free antivirus programs to install on my family members' computers.

  • by MisterBuggie ( 924728 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:49PM (#31526104)

    Obviously you've never actually used Avast. You've always had to register for the free version, and renew the regsitration once a year. They're giving it away for free, I honestly don't see registering as a big deal.

    And the new version is actually a lot better, it finally detects rootkits... If you're looking for something that actually does its job and yet doesn't take up any space or processing power, I doubt you'll find anything...

    If you're gonna pay for your operating system, and then complain about free antiviruses, you might want to consider changing to linux...

  • Comodo has always had a wonderful firewall, and lately I have been thinking of trying their AV for my less than tech savvy relatives on windows. Avast has bothered me lately with their voice updates, though generally I still like Avast. AVG is the only one I think is not so good.
  • by Telecommando ( 513768 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:51PM (#31526138)

    Techman83 writes "...AVG and Avast have been quite good, but are starting to bloat out in size..."

    Um, in case you haven't noticed, more viruses, exploits and malware are coming out all the time.
    I'd be very surprised if ANY antivirus software got smaller.

    In fact, I'd be highly suspicious.

    • by EkriirkE ( 1075937 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:16PM (#31526634) Homepage
      I don't think he was talking about the database size, but the fact that both AVG and Avast (I use both) have moved to highly customized skinned UIs and have completely removed any native UI components and include useless junk that slows your system (eg safesearch/linkscanner) in their installers that makes "Custom install" the only practical method
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:51PM (#31526152)

    Excellent [buy v1agra] product. I haven't have any malware [|\|iger1an 419] detected since I installed it [install Antivirus 2009 today!].

  • 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 [].

  • A few options (Score:3, Informative)

    by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:53PM (#31526194) Homepage Journal

    There are quite a few options actually. I'll list them in order of effectiveness.

    1. BSD or Linux. You won't get hit by viruses or any crap like that, unless you're enough of a moron to run everything as root and go out of your way to make the system open. Unfortunately neither option will run 100% of your Windows software.

    2. Unplug your Windows box. Guaranteed 100% effective. The drawback is that apps won't run. ;)

    3. Comodo antivirus; [] I have been trying it on various workstations and have found it to be reasonably good. Less effective than the above options! ;) Seriously though it's pretty good. It's not antispyware though, and it doesn't slow the system to a crawl like some other programs. That should be a non-issue. If not, then why are you running MSIE after you've been warned for years? ;)

    4. Microsoft Security Essentials: Microsoft actually did a very good job with this basic suite. It's not bloated at all, is straight and to the point, and catches some spyware even malwarebytes misses. It's good now, but then again, Microsoft has dropped the ball with every antivirus and antispyware software they have installed to date.

    5. You could try Norton Internet Security. I understand they've completely rearchitected it and brought over NO legacy code and are not bloated so you might want to try it, but I haven't looked at the Norton suite since the 2003 version that turned their antivirus into a failed abortion.

    I was using Moon Secure on various systems for a while: it's free, open source, etc. but it has not been updated in forever and is rapidly becoming less and less effective, plus it has quite a few defects including making the Windows logon process EXTREMELY slow on some configurations.

  • Comodo [] gives you firewall and anti-virus in one package, and I have been using it for a couple of years.
  • None (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AceJohnny ( 253840 )

    Seriously, no antivirus. But then, I only use Windows occasionally to play games. I'm surprised I only had one (1) virus problem over the last 5 years in Windows, which I fixed thanks to a targeted tool. Apart from that, I practice Safe Computing, and that appears to have kept me out of trouble.

    However, for all that I know, my windows system may be part of a few botnets that don't cause me any problems :\

    On my family's computers... I forced Ubuntu upon those I could, and left the others to fend for themselv

  • 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. []

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 :-)

  • 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.
  • None... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AdamTrace ( 255409 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:09PM (#31526528)

    At some point, I got fed up with running anti-virus software on my Windows XP PC. The benefits never appeared to outweigh the hassle. And AV software IS a hassle.

    After a year, I can't see any downside to this.

    Note that I'm a smart computer user who keeps everything patched and up to do, as well as knows how to configure a hardware router/firewall.

    • Re:None... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:28PM (#31526908)

      That's right. If you:

      • run as a non-administrator;
      • keep your software updated;
      • don't run suspicious code;
      • and don't use known-buggy programs like Internet Explorer

      why would you be more insecure under Windows than you be doing the same thing under OS X or Linux? Sure, the greater market share of Windows leads to more effort being put into creating malware for it, and that presumably increases the overall risk slightly. But that's a minor point. In general terms, used properly, a Windows system running without an antivirus package is adequately secure.

      The problem is that Windows users tend to have terrible security hygiene. They turn security features off, never update, and click the dancing bunnies []. That's a separate, social issue. Never try to apply a technical solution to a social problem.

      These days, the Windows security model is pretty good; you can attach a security descriptor to practically any kernel object, and the NT kernel has supported ACLs since day one. Slashdot needs to stop living in 1999. We're not talking about Windows 98. You can't crash a machine by pinging it, and it doesn't blue screen every day. Hell, you can even keep it up long than 49.7 days!

      Bashing Windows today for the faults of the system a decade just makes you look ridiculous. It's like bashing Linux for not having hardware hot-plugging, or bashing Macs for not having preemptive multitasking. It's ludicrous. You want to bash Microsoft for pervasive DRM? Fine. You want to bash them for outrageous market segmentation? You want to bash them for their traditional embrace-extend-extinguish approach to standards? Fine. Want to bash them for still not having a real package manager in the OS? fine. Those are all still issues. But security and robustness aren't.

  • AVG + Common sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SheeEttin ( 899897 ) <sheeettin@gmail.cEULERom minus math_god> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:11PM (#31526556) Homepage
    I use AVG's free edition for on-access scanning, just for a little extra protection, because I am generally able to avoid getting infected with anything. (Even if something does slip by me, I can often track it down through a service it installs, entry in startup lists, or running processes.)
    If I'm downloading something that has a big potential for being a virus (e.g. a no-CD crack), I'll scan it manually with AVG, and also upload it to a scanning service like [] or [], which take a file and put it through a number of anti-virus products.

    Natually, AVG has also been making it harder to find the free edition. They, of course, want you to buy the full AVG Internet Security package. (To find AVG Free, you have to go to [], and look for the less-flashy, more hidden buttons.)
  • 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.

    • by Anonymous Coward

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

      Congrats, welcome to being a Junior Systems Administator.

      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.

      The crimeware industry is collectively thanking you for spreading your fantastic and totally bogus advice. Running a Windows box sans AV might be fine for you because you're so smart and have never found a rootkit on your machine, but I suspect your motivation for telling your less aware friends to use no AV whatsoever on a Windows machine is so you can generate some more side work. News Flash: Running a non-admin account will not even slow down so

  • 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.

  • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:06PM (#31527744)
    Avast has always required a registration key, and is now easier than ever to do-- you just click the button from within the program and it does it.

    As for good free AV, theres Avira, Avast, and MSSE, all of which are decent. More to the point, antivirus is the LEAST important thing you can do for friends and family-- FIRST, install firefox, update IE, uninstall Adobe Reader, and install foxit. This will prevent 100x more viruses than any AV will.
  • by Convector ( 897502 ) on Friday March 19, 2010 @11:15AM (#31538182)
    The best thing is to drop all this and let your system's natural immunity develop. Overprescription of AV software just encourages the growth of AV resistant viruses. Basic hygiene is still important, so wash your computer and all peripherals daily with warm soapy water. That will eliminate 99.9% of all viruses. Also data.

Garbage In -- Gospel Out.