Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Home Antivirus Comparison

Up until recently, I used to run several servers at home to support my personal consulting business. I had a Windows domain controller, an Exchange 2007 server, SQL Server, plus a few Linux CentOS systems that hosted virtual machines under the Xen hypervisor. Recently I had a couple of hardware failures that made me re-evaluate the wisdom of maintaining these servers myself. It just takes too much of my time, so I started looking for other alternatives. The first to go was the Exchange server, which was replaced by Google Apps. In short, it is simply awesome. Next to go was my antivirus setup, which is the point of this post.

Previously, I had been using Symantec Endpoint 11. Now I hate Symantec and Norton antivirus products as much as anyone else, but the main reason I was using it was because it worked on Windows server operating systems (I had both 2003 and 2008 servers running). Many of the more popular (and frankly, better) systems wouldn’t run on server OS’s. But now that I’m getting rid of my servers, it’s time to look for something better.

There are dozens upon dozens of antivirus products and I’m not going to do a comparison of all of them. Just the top 3 or 4 that meet my needs. My criteria for these are:
  • Must have a proven track record
  • Easy to use, stable system
  • Free or relatively inexpensive
  • Needs to run on Vista and Windows 7 (64-bit for both)
  • Not interested in peripheral features, like firewalls, because I already have other solutions in place for those needs
  • I need at least 3 licenses to cover my laptops and workstation

    In order to determine what the top 3-4 are, I looked at two main websites that rate antivirus products: AV Comparatives and Virus Bulletin. Both of these websites are well-respected in the antivirus community and they both use different methods and criteria to rate products. It is also worth noting that the rankings change quite often so I wasn’t too worried about which one was #1 at any given moment. But my choices are based on the rankings as of June 2010.

AV Comparatives gave the highest ratings to TrustPort, G DATA, Kaspersky, Microsoft, AntiVir (Avira), NOD32, F-Secure, BitDefender, and eScan. According to Virus Bulletin, the top-rated products were by AntiVir (Avira), avast!, and AVG. I picked 3-4 that were pretty high on both lists and were popular with most users. My picks were:

Keep in mind, I wasn’t out to evaluate the actual effectiveness of these products, because I trust AV Comparatives and Virus Bulletin to do that for me. All I needed was to compare the feature sets and prices.


Avira has three products targeted at the home market: Avira AntiVir Personal, Avira AntiVir Premium and Avira Premium Security Suite. These break down as follows:
  • Personal – basic antivirus, spyware, and rootkit protection. Cost: FREE
  • Premium – adds protection against phishing and protection for web browsing and emails. Cost: $26.95 for one license, $67.95 for three licenses.
  • Security Suite – adds backups, network bot protection, spam filter, firewall, and parental controls Cost: $53.95 for one license, $79.95 for three licenses


avast! comes in three versions as well:
  • Free – basic antivirus and spyware protection. Cost: FREE
  • Pro – adds the Sandbox, which uses Process Virtualization to run a web browser or other app in a safe, isolated environment. Also adds protection against scripts and “suspicious websites”, as opposed to the free version which only provides protection against “common websites”. This version also allows scheduling of scans, whereas the free version only supports manual scans. Cost: $39.95 for one license, $54.95 for three licenses
  • Internet Security – adds firewall and spam filters. Cost: $44.95 for one license, $59.95 for three licenses.


Much like the previous two products, AVG also comes in three different versions:
  • AVG Anti-virus Free – basic antivirus, spyware, and web page protection. COST: FREE
  • AVG Anti-virus 9.0 – adds rootkit and phishing protections. COST: $27.99 for one license, $83.97 for three licenses
  • AVG Internet Security 9.0 – adds identity protection, firewall, and spam filter. COST: $43.99 for one license, $131.97 for three licenses.


Kaspersky breaks the mold by offering only two versions of their product instead of three. Most notably, there is no free version. While they do offer a free trial of their two products, it’s only good for 30 days so there is no long-term free solution if you go with Kaspersky. Their two products are:
  • Anti-virus 2010 – basic antivirus, spyware, email and website protection. Also includes a virtual keyboard for entering sensitive data, privacy tools to clean up browsing history, and parental controls. COST: $49.95 for 3 licenses. They don’t have a way to buy just a single license.
  • Internet Security 2010 – adds protection against hacker attacks, phishing, and identity theft. Also includes a spam filter and a firewall. COST: $59.95 for 3 licenses. Again, there is no way to purchase just a single license.

For me personally, I chose to go with the Pro version of avast!, because it rated high on both surveys and had the lowest price. I couldn’t go for the free version because their free license only covers non-commercial use and my computers are used for business. Plus I like some of the extra features, like scheduling and protection against scripts.

But at the end of the day, I think any of these products would work well. They are all highly regarded. Even many other products not on this list are quite good, and even ones that aren’t would still be vastly superior to not having any antivirus protection at all.

1 comment:

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