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Choosing an antivirus for your computer can be confusing, time-consuming, and all out frustrating.  Additionally, there are paid programs and free programs.  There are many programs to choose from, with many offering different features and different levels of protection.

 

Here are some features of the top five free antivirus products on the market.  Hopefully this information can help you make a good assessment of what is available and can, ultimately, take some stress out of your decision-making process.  Five free antivirus programs are listed alphabetically, and are in no particular order according to ratings or reviews.  Only you can decide what tools are right for you.

 

Avast

Avast Free Anti-Virus offers the expected protection from viruses and spyware.  It offers customized installation where one feature is the ability to place suspicious programs in a “holding pattern”.  The ability to customize the download is very appealing to tech-savvy individuals.  In contrast, if you don’t consider yourself very computer literate, the default installation works well also.  It is slower than the paid version from Avast, but it gets the job done.  It is easy on the eyes and also offers proxy connections to other users in case you need a little help.

 

Based on actual user reviews, the “pros” are reported to be that Avast has a Windows 8-inspired interface, tons of features, cloud services, and upgrades can be purchased within the app.  The “cons” are reported to be that there are plenty of reminders of missing features and there are no PC maintenance features.

 

AVG

AVG is becoming very popular, most likely due to including free anti-spyware protection that is built in.  That additional feature is compelling a lot of people to take a serious look at AVG.  Most antivirus programs only bundle anti-spyware into their paid programs.  AVG offers effective protection while staying minimized in your system tray without constantly bothering you with warning windows or update messages.  A new feature in 2013 is a simplified firewall.  Previous versions did not include any firewall.  The settings for the firewall are easy to use, making network access an easy task.  The firewall scans links, fights spam, and protects against Wi-Fi hacking.  The program integrates nicely with Windows Explorer, allowing files to be scanned from their context menus.  AVG runs automatically, every day.

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Based on actual user reviews, the “pros” are reported to be that AVG works silently (in the background), runs frequent automatic updates, includes an anti-spyware tool, and has a modern interface.  The “cons” are reported to be the registration window and the fact that the AVG program tries to modify the user’s browser settings during installation.

 

AVIRA

Avira continues to be a top-rated anti-virus program due to its performance, as well as its easy to use navigation and customization tools depending on your computer know-how.  Avira can be slow if you have a lot of things saved on your computer, but once the scanning begins, the process is hassle-free.  A downside to Avira is its toolbar, which can be complicated for people who don’t use computers very much.

 

Based on actual user reviews, the “pros” are reported to be that Avira is light on resources, provides support for schedule scans, makes automatic updates, and performs very fast.  The “cons” are reported to be that there is no filter for e-mail or web browsing and there are frequent false alarms.

 

Bitdefender

Bitdefender offers maximum protection due to adding its own technology to the basic technology of antivirus scanning.  Bitdefender scans every file as it is accessed.  The antivirus detects, marks, and/or stops potential threats from being accessed, either while clicking online or while checking links entered in your browser.  The newest version of Bitdefender uses the cloud for protection of Windows systems.  The downfall to Bitdefender is there are not many options.  You can turn the anti-virus on or off and choose whether you want to auto scan while the system is idle.  If you don’t care about or don’t know how to customize the software scans, this may be a program to look into a little further.

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Based on actual user reviews, the “pros” are reported to be that Bitdefender did successfully catch and block a Trojan.  The “cons” are reported to be that the screen consistently reported that a scan was run when, in fact, it wasn’t, as well as constant errors and horrible customer service.

 

PC Tools AntiVirus

PC Tools AntiVirus detects and erases viruses and threats by attempts through storage media, e-mail, and the Internet.  Updates are released a lot, and by running the updates regularly, you can keep your system free of infections.  PC Tools AntiVirus allows users to customize settings, as well as to quarantine or restore items that have been detected.  An enhanced feature of PC Tools AntiVirus is the ability of people on limited permission user accounts to scan the system to insure there are no threats.

 

Based on actual user reviews, the “pros” are reported to be that PC Tools AntiVirus is a great program that finds several potential problems.  The “cons” are that the program often finds too many things that require advanced computer knowledge in order to follow the instructions given to fix the problem.

The best advice for people searching for a free antivirus program is, “Do your research.”  Go online and search for products with high ratings and good user reviews.  If you have a relative, neighbor, or friend whose computer skills are similar to your own, find out what they have used in the past and if they were happy with it.  Visit an electronics store and ask questions about what program would be a good fit for you, based on what you do on your computer, as well as what you know about computers.  Some of those stores offer free demonstrations or hands-on mini classes so you can actually experiment with the programs.  Once you feel comfortable to make an informed decision, go with it.  Most of all, remember, only you can decide which tools are right for you and your computer.

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