With the widespread use of internet, a pc is always at the risk of virus attacks. A decade back, the risk was substantially low and the pc was safe if you do not use media from an unreliable source. Almost all modern day pcs access internet at some point and virus can infect the pc from a website we visit, or a mail we open. An Anti-Virus software is a must have on any pc.
There are a lot of free and commercial anti-virus programs in the market. For a home pc, a good free anti-virus program makes perfect sense than a commercial software.
1. AVG Free : I’ve been using AVG Free on two of my home pcs for the past couple of years and I’m extremely satisfied with this. The program has detected, warned and saved me from potential threats on visiting some websites or while running some programs(downloaded ones, mail attachments etc). It immediately moves the detected files to virus vault(its an area controlled by AVG and virus can not infect the system once it is in the vault). Chrome browser automatically detects threats and warns us when visiting a potentially risky website known for malware. IE does not do this and my AVG comes into action here.
Once you install and look around, you will realize tthere are a lot of customization options like which areas to scan during a scheduled scan and full scan, whether to scan usb drives, archives. In fact, there are too many options that you can tweak and customize the program the way ideal for you. One feature I especally like is, if the pc is off at the time of scheduled scan, the scan will start when the pc is switched on. This way we never miss a scheduled scan. I did not find this feature in other anti virus programs I used in the past. AVG Free also scans incoming and outgoing mail and has a plug in for Microsoft Office. Make sure you select these options at the time of installation.
When the scan is running, the pc becomes considerably slow. There is option to limit cpu usage by the program, but I still feel this the pc to be slower for my settings. This is only when the scan is running.
AVG Free, the free edition of AVG can be downloaded from AVG.com. The installation file for both AVG Free and AVG is same. When you try to install AVG free, it selects 30 day trial version of Full AVG by default. You may upgrade to Full AVG after the trial period or it will continue to run as Free Version after the period with reduced functionality. If you have no plans for upgrade, I suggest you to deselect the trial and proceed with the free version at the time of installation itself so that the extra functionality is not installed.
2. Microsoft Security Essentials : This is from microsoft and this is free. Microsoft is not very known in the antivirus space, but it has been offering its free anti virus program Microsoft Security Essentials since few years. You can download it from http://www.microsoft.com/en-in/security_essentials . While installing, it will check if your OS is genuine before continuing. I’ve been using this for 2 months now on one of my laptops. The program is good, seems to be protecting me from malicious websites and programs. The scope for customization is limited. It runs well with the defult options and little customization provided and is light on resources. Recommonded for someone who is interested in protection and not in customization and tweaking.
An annoying point is that there is no built in help in the program. Clicking on help takes us to support website of security essentials which has a couple of questions and some bland answers. These answers are of no use for a power user.
My scheduled scan is always missed, it does not run the missed scheduled scan on next startup like the avg does. Finally one fine day my tray icon turns oragne, when I check it says “its been couple of days since a scan is run” and the system is at risk. I have to manually click scan now. Again, there is no “shutdown after scan is complete” option like AVG does. So I have to shutdown the pc after completion. With AVG, I always use this feature to run a full scan before hitting bed and the PC shuts down automatically.
3. AVAST Free : This is another major name in free antivirus space and is one of the most used free antivirus programs like AVG Free. The user base of AVAST Free is much larger than Microsoft Security Essentials. I have not tried or used this as AVG has the right options for me, but some of my friends are using this and said to be offering good protection.
4. AntiVirus from ISP : Most ISP’s also offer free anti virus programs. If your ISP is offering a good one, check it out. My ISP offers Semantic Endpoint which is actually a highly valued commercial antivirus program. The company where I was employed previously bought multiuser licenses and was using this software on all the PC’s. This has lot of features and customization options for a power user. IIRC, the network admin can monitor and control the Symantec Endpoint on all pcs from the server. The software and protection was good, except for one problem which most of us faced in the company. When sending some mails from outlook, the mail was sent from outlook, but was not blocked by the program. A small notification pops up in the system tray saying the mail was not sent. This notification only stays for a couple of seconds and if you miss this notification, you will never know that the mail was not sent, because in outlook the mail shows up in the sent items folder. To overcome this, we had to disable the particular option.
Hopefully you got some idea on choosing a free Anti-Virus application for your pc.
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