In the age of DDoS attacks and Trojan Horses, there’s no excuse for not keeping a PC, laptop or even something like a Lenovo tablet fully topped up with high quality anti-virus software. Fortunately, this can be done at the grand cost of precisely nothing and we’re going to show you how. These are what we believe to be the stand out free virus protection programs and they’re all available for download immediately:
We’ll start with the easiest software to obtain. Windows Defender is automatically installed on any computer that runs Windows 8 (if you’ve got one, you’ve already got it!), and downloading Microsoft Security Essentials in any other Windows OS will offer basically the same level of protection.
As a free program, Defender will pick up almost all modern known threats and a reasonable amount of those that haven’t been seen before (these new assaults are known as ‘zero day attacks’). Defender is also brilliant at not providing false positives – it just doesn’t seem to produce any warnings without just cause for doing so. In this area, it’s the market standout. If you absolutely can’t be bothered to lift a finger, it’s far better to have Defender in place than to not have it.
Avast! has become more and more popular amongst computer users in the past couple of years and it’s not totally tricky to see why. Put simply, it’s a cracking piece of anti-virus software and is particularly adept at dealing with the so called ‘zero day’ attacks. Indeed, in a study by AV-Test, the software picked up 98% of unknown threats compared to the industry average of 95%. It also picked up 99% of all previously known threats and – like defender – showed no false positives. This is a seriously powerful piece of protection and the free version (there is a paid one) isn’t crippled or hindered in any way.
Alongside Avast!, AVG is probably the most renowned of the third-party anti-virus software and deservedly so: it has provided constant protection to users all over the world for a good few years now, all for free. System performance, indeed, is better than of Avast!, so you can be sure your computer won’t be slowed by AVGs processes. In the AV-Test series, it detected 99% of known threats and 98% of zero day attacks, which again is better than the industry average. The only thing worth noting is that AVG has been known to kick out the odd false positive here and there but that’s hardly something worth panicking about. AVG is still more than trustworthy.
ZoneAlarm is another big name and one that combines genuinely top notch system performance with an incredibly easy to use interface. It is also outstanding in its ability to minimise false positives, with only Windows Defender beating it on that score. The point to mention here is the zero day attacks (ZoneAlarm found 99% of all known threats in testing), which the software only found 91% and 95% of during the testing. This is by no means bad, but with the industry average coming out at 95%, it’s obvious that ZA will be out-performed by AVG and Avast! It’s still a cracking bit of software, though and would be very suitable for a low powered PC that wants protection without being substantially slowed down.
Photograph by Stuart Pilbrow