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Thread: Free Antivirus: Finally Ready for Prime Time

  1. #1
    AO übergeek phishphreek's Avatar
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    Jan 2002

    Free Antivirus: Finally Ready for Prime Time

    I was reading an article about free AV scanners and though others might like it.

    I think I've seen quite a few posts about which to use and which is best, etc.

    As W32.blaster, Sobig, and earlier virus threats have shown, the Internet is not a terribly safe place to connect your PC. Besides updating Windows and your Internet applications regularly, please, I beg you, install two key utilities--a firewall and antivirus software--to ward off future attacks. And if you install any of the products I recommend below, the ounce of prevention won't cost you a dime.

    In last month's column ("Ultimate Network Security: How to Install a Firewall"), I recommended a quartet of effective no-cost firewalls. If you'd had one of those apps running on your PC when Blaster hit in August, you'd have escaped the worm's effects. Free antivirus utilities have been around for a while, but I've never felt comfortable recommending them because testing organizations such as Virus Bulletin and ICSA Labs hadn't endorsed them. To pass the tests administered by these labs, an antivirus utility must, among other things, stop all viruses known to exist in the wild, on demand (during manual or scheduled scans of the hard disk and memory) and on access (using memory-resident shields to block viruses from loading into memory).

    How the Free Four Score
    Up-to-date performance test results for free antivirus programs aren't always easy to come by, but the little information I've been able to dredge up indicates that most of these utilities are improving. I tried all four of the programs below--the only free Windows antivirus programs I could find--and though I found Grisoft's AVG and Alwil's Avast 4 to be the most feature-rich, I feel comfortable recommending any of the four. They all update their virus definitions automatically and have a seal of approval from at least one testing lab.

    Grisoft's AVG Anti-Virus System: AVG passed Virus Bulletin's June 2003 VB100 Windows XP test (the most recent available at press time) after failing previous attempts; it also passed ICSA's June 2003 test. AVG includes memory-resident scanners, plus e-mail scanners for Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, and Exchange client.

    Alwil's Avast 4 Home Edition: Avast likewise passed both the VB100 and ICSA tests, and it offers memory-resident scanning. But Avast surpasses AVG by scanning both Outlook and standard Internet (POP3/SMTP) mail, making it a good choice if you use a non-Microsoft mail client. Amazingly, Alwil also offers support via e-mail for its free product.

    H+BEDV Datentechnik's AntiVir Personal Edition: This utility doesn't appear in Virus Bulletin's June 2003 tests; it did, however, pass ICSA's June 2003 tests. AntiVir includes a memory-resident scanner, but it lacks e-mail scanning (it watches only file read and write operations and looks for suspicious macros). You can use AntiVir's separate scheduler program to launch scheduled hard-disk scans, and virus-signature and program updates; but how to perform these tasks (or whether they're possible) is far from obvious.

    Softwin's BitDefender Free Edition Version 7: BitDefender Free Edition does not appear in the VB100 and ICSA test results, but the Standard Edition passes both tests using the same scanning engine as the free version. Like the other free AV tools, BitDefender employs a memory-resident scanner and is set to download updates automatically. But like AntiVir Personal Edition, it doesn't scan e-mail for viruses during send and receive operations.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Jul 2002
    It wasn't mentioned that Bitdefender free is an on demand only scanner. I use it as a backup scanner. It's fairly quick, updates daily and sometimes twice a day. I think any of the other three that offer realtime scans are good. I've used them all. AVAST would be my first choice just because I liked it. All were reliable on my machine.

  3. #3
    Antionline Herpetologist
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    Aug 2001
    I use H+BEDV AntiVir and I've only had good experiences with it.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member phernandez's Avatar
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    Aug 2003
    Having used AVG for about a year, and most recently AVAST, I have yet to get a virus or other nasty with either. I supplement these with Adaware and Spybot S&D.

    Makes it hard to part with your hard-earned $ with these great freebies around

  5. #5
    Junior Member
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    Jan 2004
    I use AVG in conjunction with Norton's and I must say AVG is easier to navigate through lmao (and it's free!). If I can get over my hypersecurity (is that really a word? lol) consciousness, I may downgrade to one AV when Norton's expires - and just keep AVG.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
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    Jul 2002
    I, personally, don't think you can go wrong with either AVG or AVAST, as long as you have a good antitrojan software backup. Neither is in the top tier when it comes to detecting trojans and worms. That said, I've used both and both have caught trojans and worms along with viruses.
    When I was given a free license for Kaspersky, I did a scan with it and my machine was clean. When that license expires, I'll probably go back to either AVG or AVAST. I trust both. I'm not familiar enough with AntiVir to say one way or the other whether it's good or not.

  7. #7
    I have also been using AVG for a little over a year and so far no infections. It has caught several email propagated virii before infecting my network and my machines are running fine. I do also use Adaware for making sure that my systems are cleaned of any spyware.

    The best thing about AVG is that it is free and I have already recommended it to several friends and family members.


  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Heh, i using DrWeb evalution edition in realtime protection and avast as secound AV scan.
    I tested AV by myself on my pc when i installed few AV at the same time.
    DrWeb, Avast and Antivir does not crashed and dont did my pc slow but one file with virus could detect just drweb, avast, avg. etrus that i used b4 was unable to detect and i uninstalled it with firewall. I must find some good firewall now but i dont know how i can test it and what i must use.
    // too far away outside of limit

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    MrBabis, their are quite a few free firewalls available. Look at

    for three right off the top of my head. Sygate is my choice, but ZoneAlarm is good and both are pretty much preconfigured, so they don't need much tweaking. Kerio 2.1.5 is a great firewall but takes a little (not much) knowledge in the beginning.

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