With the ubiquity of the internet and ever increasing security threats, no gadget is safe from spyware and malware. If you believe you are doing fine, you are mistaken. While it may look like everything is working fine, some spyware could be spying at everything you do. One day you will wake up and find that half of your files were corrupted by some dormant malware. In this day and age, whether you are connected or not, you must have an antivirus software installed to keep you safe.
It doesn’t matter if you are a newbie to computers or someone with massive experience and know your way around a PC. Protecting yourself against viruses and malware is no easy job. Even standalone antivirus software can no longer keep up with the influx of new malware. This has led to the development of centrally connected cloud-based protection and monitored antivirus solutions.
It would be wrong to say that there is one best antivirus solution which suits all types of users. Some users require light antivirus solutions or less intrusive anti-trojan software, while others need the most secure antivirus out there, one which deals with the security threats by itself. Therefore, we will list multiple antivirus software categorized based on their performance and real world test results.
The antivirus software listed below are categorized based on the following 4 criteria:
- Real World Test: The testing is done on a Windows 7 Home Premium with latest third-party software which is mostly used by the general users. The results are based on 368 live test cases including malicious URLs.
- Performance Test: The same system is used in performance tests. SSD drives are used to provide a better reflection of the effect of each software. During the tests, file copying, installation, launch and download speeds are used as a benchmark. PC Mark is also used to get an accurate measure of the antivirus’ burden on the PC.
- File Detection Test: This test is used to detect the efficiency of an antivirus in detecting a malware. During the test Windows 10 64-bit was used and 163,763 malware samples were used.
- False Alarm Test: False Alarms occur when a file is incorrectly marked by an antivirus as a virus. The more False positives (FPs), the more unreliable the antivirus is in terms of automatic decision making.
How Adequate is the Default Protection?
Microsoft Windows 7 and above users can use the free Windows Defender (formerly known as Microsoft Security Essentials). Latest iterations of Windows come with the default protection pre-installed but is it sufficient? Tests show it is not.
Microsoft’s solution is better than nothing but its not enough to protect you in this day and age. It isn’t cloud connected and doesn’t come with advanced heuristics. Even its performance in tests shows this.
Microsoft’s Antivirus managed to fend off only 91% of malware in real world protection test, lowest amongst all paid and free antiviruses. Even in the File Detection and False Positives tests it came out second last. The antivirus failed to detect 1.6%, or over 2,600 infected files, in the tests. As far as performance is concerned, it is no longer as fast as before. The software was the second slowest and scored only 159.3 points. However, its score in PC Mark was acceptable at 99.3 (still in the bottom 10).
With the results mentioned here, it leaves little doubt that if you want free and better protection, you are better off using a third-party antivirus solution. If you have the cash, a paid one would serve you even better.
The Least Resource Hungry Antivirus
Avira Antivirus 15 is the lightest antivirus this year. When compared with 18 other antivirus solutions, Avira comes out on top in every single test. It has the least impact on file copying, archiving/unarchiving, installaing/uninstalling applications, launching apps and downloading files. The antivirus beats all its competitors in each category or ties for the top spot. It doesn’t matter if you start a task for the first time or several times, Avira keeps it quick and smooth.
When tested with PC Mark, it retains the top spot. If a PC without any antivirus is considered to score 100 points on PC Mark, Avira scores a virtually perfect 99.8. Overall Avira scores 174.8 out of 175 performance points.
Avira is closely followed by ESET Antivirus solution which scores 174.7 and only loses in the PC Mark benchmark.
The Most Secure Antivirus
Kaspersky and Avira antivirus identified 99.9 percent of the malware samples in the file detection test. Trend Micro Internet Security 10.0 and Kaspersky Internet Security 2016 and F-Secure Safe 2016, managed to evade 100 percent malware infections in the real world performance test. However, Trend Micro raised 6 FPs while F-Secure raised 10 FPs. Meanwhile, Avira has a tendency of claiming a few false positives every now and then too.
To sum up and decide the most secure antivirus, our decision goes in favor of Kaspersky Internet Security 2016. Real World Performance matters more than scanning through a huge number of malware samples and it secured the top spot in both tests while raising 0 False Alarms.
Top Free Antivirus
Avira Antivirus Free uses the same engine as the one found in the pro version. The Free version of Avira lacks some of the advanced features, firewall, spam filters and user control that make it a complete suite. However, since it employs the same security protocols and engine as the pro version, the free variant offers premium security at no cost.
Avira also topped the performance and file detection tests. The real world detection tests were great too and it scored a good 99 percent. The only downside of Avira was the number of FPs, which was the only result where it didn’t make it among the top 3 antivirus.
Avira Free can be downloaded free from here.
Best Overall Antivirus Solution
The title for the best antivirus software/suite is best suited for Kaspersky Internet Security 2016 (We assume the simple Antivirus will offer similar protection and performance as well).
Kaspersky offers a multitude of features and tops the file detection and real world performance tests. The antivirus software comes third in the performance tests with a score of 174.6, 0.2 points below Avira in the PC Mark benchmark score.
Finally, Kaspersky is among the top 3 antivirus in terms of least number of False Positives as well. It raised zero alarms in real world performance and displayed rare occurrences of FPs in the False Alarm test.
Best Alternative Antivirus Solution
Bitdefender Internet Security 2016 comes in second after Kaspersky. Bitdefender’s score nearly tied with Avira Antivirus Pro 15.0. The only point which goes in favor of Bitdefender is the lack of False Positives.
Other than the paid features of the software, you will get an antivirus software which scored 174.6 points in the performance test and recorded one of the highest scores in file detection, real world performance and false alarm test.
Bitdefender is available as a free edition, which comes with basic security features, and three different paid version, which come with additional features, for different types of users.
Update: The article was updated with test results regarding Microsoft’s own antivirus solution and its reliability.
The information in the article is sourced from the advanced tests undertaken by AV-Comparatives Labs. Fore more detail head over to the AV-Comparatives website.