Monday, August 10, 2009

Bill's Recommendations - Free Anti-virus Software for Home Use

Let me start by saying, "One should always consider that any information they store on their PC or access through a web page to be invaluable and kept as confidential and safe as possible."

There are many ways a user can protect themselves and their PC from being compromised. In this post I will be discussing what every PC should never be without: Anti-virus software! Whether or not the PC is connected to the internet or not, one should always be using Anti-virus Software.

There are many different vendors out there that provide Anti-virus software both for a fee and for free. With the current shape of the economy, many users may be looking to cut costs in many areas including what they are buying for their computers. Oftentimes that hefty $60+ USD for Anti-virus software may deter a penny pincher to forego protecting their system thinking that they have to pay for the software before they can be protected. I know the feeling, I’ve been there!

With a little online research, one can find that there are many FREE choices out there that provide ample protection against the most major and common threats out there. I have chosen four that I have personally used recommend to others on a regular basis to others seeking basic protection for their PC's. These are strictly for home uses only, if you have a business and want to use the software I strongly recommend paying for the full versions because 1) you get support and 2) there are even more robust options available geared towards the business environment.

#1) Comodo Internet Security (Product Info - Download)
This particular vendor offers quite a selection of really great freeware that works. Here's what they say about their software:

"Comodo Internet Security is the free, multi-layered security application that keeps hackers out and personal information in. Built from the ground upwards with your security in mind, CIS offers 360° protection by combining powerful Antivirus protection, an enterprise class packet filtering firewall, and an advanced host intrusion prevention system called Defense+."

As stated earlier in this article, I have personally used this product for a while and have been very pleased with the ease of use and available features for a free product. I do find some of the nag alerts to be annoying but most of them can be turned off with a little extra configuration. I am also impressed with the built in firewall and the amount of control one does have with this free product. I currently recommend and install this software on PC's I repair for home users.

#2) AVG Anti-virus (Product Info - Download)
Before I discovered Comodo, I was a strict fan boy of this software. I still recommend this software for basic protection but it is no longer my first choice. The main reason is that it does not offer any more features with the free version beyond basic Anti-virus/Anti-Spyware protection. Here's what they says about their software:

"In a nutshell, AVG enables people and businesses to use computers with confidence and without aggravation by protecting them from disruption and loss."

If you want other features, you have to pay for them. I do like the fact that there is a choice to either do a online or offline install. I have used the business version of this software and found that it was shockingly easy to deploy across a business network and was a good value for the money compared to other business grade Anti-virus deployments I have done. Try it out, it's still a great choice in free Anti-virus software.

#3) avast! Anti-virus (Product Info - Download)
Where AVG Free Edition lacks in features, Avast! makes up for. However, the user interface is a little less intuitive for my liking. Here's what they have to say about their product:

"With over 80 million users of avast!, you can rest assured that you are using one of the most tried and trusted products in Windows security. We support more Windows versions (from Windows 95 to Vista 64bit) than any other anti-malware product. No matter what system you have, avast! has it covered."

If you consider yourself technically inclined, then this software may be a good choice for you. For the average user, I would stick with Comodo, AVG, or my next recommendation.

#4) Microsoft Security Essentials (Product Info - Download) (In BETA, currently using on my personal laptop.)
This is one of Microsoft's latest attempts at improving security on the Windows operating system for home users. So far, this software has impressed me with it's capabilities and it's speed. The interface is very intuitive and easy to use. Since it's still in BETA, downloads were limited and are not available currently from the Microsoft website. Here's their pitch:

"Security Essentials is easy to install and easy to use. Updates and upgrades are automatic, so there's no need to worry about having the latest protection. It's easy to tell if you're protected – when the Security Essentials icon is green, your status is good. It's as simple as that."

Microsoft has shown it's willingness to help their users secure Windows, and to do it for free (so far). I used the software a few weeks ago to remove some really nasty malware from a hard drive. No traces after running Security Essentials when scanning with other software titles. Good Job Microsoft! As stated above, this is still in the BETA phase and can no longer be downloaded from Microsoft, but a quick Google search will land you on sites that have the BETA available for download.

I hope this post helps you in researching further and choosing a free Anti-virus solution for your home PC.