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Nowadays, antivirus software is a misnomer. Unless you’re a retro PC user still contending with actual computer viruses from flea market diskettes. Yes, antivirus software should be called anti-malware instead, but antivirus has become a ubiquitous term for taking out malicious programs, much like the term fridge is taken from the brand Frigidaire for refrigerators.
While there are still actual computer viruses in the wild, what antivirus software contend with nowadays are malware such as ransomware, rootkits, worms, Trojans, adware, and MS Office macros. We take a look at the top 4 best antivirus software out there and even though Microsoft has one built into Windows called Windows Defender, there is still a strong market for third party security software which have their own relative strengths and weaknesses. Without further ado, here are the top 4 best antivirus software for 2019.
McAfee actually takes the top spot on our list, despite the controversy its founder has been involved in a few years ago. For one thing, it has a wide market presence thanks to deals it has made with top computer manufacturers. Many systems have McAfee installed right out of the box, ready to serve you annually after the trial period has ended. McAfee has a long history in the antivirus industry after releasing VirusScan in 1987. McAfee has several anti-malware packages available such as McAfee Antivirus Plus, McAfee LiveSafe and McAfee Total Protection. In this case, we’ll be discussing Antivirus Plus.
McAfee comes pre-installed in most off-the shelf computers. After the one-month trial period, users can simply go online and pay for a registration key for annual protection. For those who take up automatic renewal, McAfee includes a Virus Protection Pledge which is equal to an online support call which will get rid of any problem that gets past the antivirus. If McAfee isn’t pre-installed. Users can simply download and install the installer from the website. Once installed, the software performs a long initial cleaning which gradually improves with every subsequent scan. The new desktop interface looks simple and easy to use, a welcome thing for users as security software can seem intimidating.
McAfee has been in quite a rollercoaster of reviews during its history but has since improved. McAfee Antivirus has improved malware and phishing protection. While it may not totally block malware-laden URLs, it can totally block the malware downloads that come from them.
For $59.99, McAfee offers an unlimited license which allows you to install the software in every Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android device in the household which is quite a great deal. Something other antivirus companies don’t offer or offer at a premium. For the cheapskates, $39.99 nets just one Windows-only license. So if it does come on your newly-purchased device, just go for it.
Just like McAfee, Norton or what is now known as Symantec Norton Antivirus Plus has been in the virus-hunting business since the days of early personal computing. And just like McAfee, Norton has become a household name when it comes to antivirus products though Symantec seems to have lately been eclipsed by additional competition, not to mention poor performance of previous versions.
Symantec Norton Antivirus Plus however continues to be relevant and remains popular among other antivirus products. Like most antivirus products, Symantec Norton Antivirus Plus, is no longer a simple antivirus, as the package includes an option for cloud backup as well as a password manager. The cloud backup however is only 2GB which you could use for important files. The password manager is a cool added bonus but because its free, it’s not as full-featured as standalone password managers.
The My Norton app which accesses much of the functionality looks simple and inviting but has plenty of options to choose from. Norton’s initial scan after installation is very thorough but you need to prepare a couple of DVDs and some popcorn as it lasts for up to four hours, and that is after running LiveUpdate for any updates on virus definitions and patches since the installer was released.
As for the performance, a full scan for the first time, depending on the contents of your hard disk can take up to four hours. Enough time for Return of the King but after the initial full scan, it will no longer be necessary. The subsequent scans ran in seconds and efficiently scanned the intended targets. Norton is also impressive in detecting and blocking malware. We’ve tested using infected URLs. Norton blocked some and let through others but killed the payloads after downloading.
Unlike McAfee however, Norton is pretty expensive for 59.99 or just one license. Paying an additional forty will allow only up to five devices to be registered, which is a shame. The performance is good but like Apple could be banking on its name, though it’s still a name that many trust and put their money in.
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ESET NOD32 Antivirus is another popular antivirus package for Windows and other platforms including macOS, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris and Android. For those who are curious, NOD is an acronym for the Slavic terms Nemocnica na Okraji Disku or hospital at the end of the disk. This brand has been around since the DOS days but has become popular in the last decade. But don’t let the 32 in NOD32 fool you. ESET NOD32 Antivirus has had a 64-bit version since the era of Windows 7.
Unlike the previously discussed packages, ESET doesn’t take its time scanning. A full can after installation takes only over an hour though subsequent full scans are way shorter. There’s also no quick scan option but offers several scanning options including drag and drop, in case you suspect a file or entire folder is infected.
So what makes ESET NOD32 Antivirus different from the previously discussed packages? ESET can also scan the PC’s firmware using its Host Intrusion Prevention System. Because malware inside the firmware can cause havoc in your system no matter how many times you clean up if the firmware isn’t cleaned up itself. ESET has good malware protection and can stop malware before it can launch or while it is running or installing. ESET can also remove PUAs (Potentially Unwanted Programs) but actively warns users about them instead of deleting them outright. ESET also has a good standing with other test labs with a AAA standing in SE Labs and managed to pass the banking Trojans tests of MRG-Effitas.
ESET is modestly priced at 39.99 per year per license. An added 10 dollars bags five more licenses but still behind McAfee’s unlimited licenses for 59.99. ESET’s good performance however is something to consider if you’re out in the market for a new antivirus program.
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Retro computing fans often give a smirk upon hearing PC-cillin, former name of Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security and a play of words to PC and penicillin. Shame as it’s a more apt and catchy name to cure computer antivirus ailments than Trend Micro. But attach Antivirus+ Security to Trend Micro and we have another good brand right here. Trend Micro still remains as one of the top names in the antivirus business.
What does the “+” mean in Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security? Because much like the other packages here, this antivirus package strives to be something more. Trend Micro includes its own secure browser for users who do online banking transactions, a firewall booster and layered malware protection. Speaking of malware, Trend Micro does an amazing job at holding back dangerous URLs but doesn’t pick up some malware that’s already on the system, after some slow, painful full scans. But like its URL performance, TrendMicro does a good job at blocking phishing sites. Trend Micro is also really good at keeping ransomware at bay. It’s Folder Shield and RansomBuster programs easily keep unauthorized programs from making changes to your folders of choice. As per independent laboratory testing, Trend Micro has been doing well in ratings with a near-perfect score from the AV-Test Institute, an Advanced+ score from AV-Comparatives and a AAA from SE Labs.
Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security is quite competitive in pricing for single licenses at 39.95 annually. It’s good for single persons but protecting the whole family doesn’t come cheap. The price for just three licenses comes at 79.95 which puts it at a disadvantage over other solutions, though keep an eye out for discounts. But if you’re often faced with malware the others can’t cope with, and do most of your work inside a browser, then by all means because URL security is where TrendMicro Antivirus+ Security shines.
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This list says top 4 but Avast deserves an honorary mention for being a good free antivirus program.
When something is free, it often doesn’t have much value, but it’s different with Avast Free Antivirus which is known for being one of the best free solutions out there for cash-strapped computer users, and it has proven its worth for this user for being fast, efficient and almost non-intrusive. Avast Free Antivirus enabled Avast to gain the most market share last 2017. But what about AVG Antivirus? Avast acquired them last 2016, but Avast will keep the brand alive; so if you’re a fan of AVG, you get the best of two worlds.
Avast Free Antivirus includes the free antivirus component, a WiFi security scanner as well as a password manager. Doesn’t seem much but it’s free. The antivirus component can protect against viruses and most malware. Upgrade to the paid Avast Internet Security and users get added ransomware protection, spam checker and a firewall. Ransomware protection is the only important limitation for the free version so if you have some cash, upgrade to one of the paid versions to get it and other worthwhile features. The paid versions are way cheaper than the others in this list.
As for performance, independent testers like AV-Comparatives actually give Avast and Advanced+, an almost perfect score from the AV-Test Institute and a AA from SE Labs. Avast Free Antivirus has good malware protection as well as a great analytical anti-phishing tool. As for full scans, it’s quite fast and depending on your system can go through in about two hours. One useful tool with Avast is the WiFi inspector which can scan for vulnerabilities. The Password Manager is a cool tool as well and saves many users still in denial from actually getting a paid solution.
Avast is a great option for those on a budget. We find ourselves installing it for new systems in order to have rudimentary security aside from Windows Defender. Anyone who’s on a budget and don’t trust Windows Defender should have it as a first line of defense.
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What’s the difference between viruses and malware?
Viruses consist of small pieces of code with an included payload that attach themselves to existing programs and are triggered when the program is run or when certain conditions are met. Malware are standalone programs that are run in various ways such as simply visiting a rogue website. Like viruses, malware is used to malicious effect such as phishing, or enslaving the system to mine bitcoin or perform DDoS attacks on specific servers.
Why so many viruses and malware?
Short answer, money. Virus and malware makers are nowadays after personal information, the least of which are valid email addresses and because antivirus programs keep counteracting them, malware makers just come up with more.
How do I get infected by malware?
Unlike viruses, malware is proactive and may not require conditions or events like viruses. Malware can enter your system just for simply being unpatched and outdated. Malware can infect you just be opening email attachments and can spread throughout the system much like a virus, clicking on everything on your browser especially those that say you’re infected. You can also get infected by clicking on untrusted links on email messages.
Is Windows Defender good enough?
Short answer is yes. It is good enough to block most malware and viruses. It is also constantly updated by Microsoft. Though it’s best to partner it with Malwarebytes or CyberReason Ransomfree.
What happens to Windows Defender if I install another antivirus program?
Windows Defender takes a back seat and enter a passive mode or a disabled mode. Passive mode is entered if the organization is enrolled in Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection.
Do I need to install other anti-malware solutions like MalwareBytes?
Depends on how secure you want to be. Not all antivirus solutions can catch everything. Some malware may get past your antivirus but can get caught by Malwarebytes or vice versa.
My antivirus slows down my PC. What do I do?
Antivirus programs unfortunately can take up plenty of resources to keep you safe, especially with real-time protection enabled. Installing multiple solutions like a separate antimalware program can slow it down further. One solution is to cycle through various antivirus programs or simply upgrade the computer by adding more RAM or switching to an SSD.
I have free AVG or Avast installed. Do I need to upgrade to paid or subscribe to others like McAfee?
This will depend on your needs. If you’re not worried about ransomware and have few security needs, you can stay with the free versions. If you need ransomware protection and other functions like anti-spam and anti-tracking, by all means subscribe to paid.
Is it safe to use a computer without any antivirus software?
Yes. As long as it’s not connected to a network and all software installed is trusted and came from trusted sources. Only clean portable storage must be used with the computer. Never use any portable storage found in the wild without scanning.
My program stopped working after installing an antivirus. What should I do?
Your program is either infected or it’s a victim of a false-positive reading. Antivirus programs allow for exceptions and you can check your scan results to allow your program to run. If it’s not allowed, you can try to reinstall the program, or try to get a clean or updated copy.