What’s the best antivirus program?

We hear it almost everyday: “I’m sick of dealing with viruses!” followed by “What anti-virus program should I buy?

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Viruses and Spyware can do all sorts of damage to your computer.  That’s why people install and use antivirus programs in the first place.

Remember, NO ANTIVIRUS IS 100% EFFECTIVE.  The people that create viruses and spread them are specifically trying to get around as many anti-virus programs as possible, so each day some new viruses come out that could infect you, even with an updated anti-virus program installed on your computer.


For the purpose of this evaluation, I will not factor cost into my rating, but will note if a free version (not just time-limited trial or online scanner) is available and was evaluated.  I will also be considering only those titles that have a true real-time anti-virus scanning engine, not spyware removal programs like Spybot or TDSS Killer (though these can be excellent in recovering from a virus). I will also be evaluating the titles based on the Windows non-Server versions of the programs, not MAC, Linux, etc.


It’s worth noting that the grey area between viruses, spyware, and root-kits has now extended into network security.  The NETWORK FIREWALL used to be a separate concern than the ANTIVIRUS PROGRAM.  But as our computer usage has changed from electronic typewriter into Internet browsing machine, so has the need for antivirus programs to monitor the network traffic in and out of the computer.  Programs like Norton 360 or AVG Internet Security work as a higher level software firewall


Antivirus Comparison
Avast Free YES SLOW YES MEDIUM Excellent
ESET Smart Security 4 NO MEDIUM YES MEDIUM Average
Kaspersky Internet Security NO SLOW YES HIGH Average
McAfee All Access NO MEDIUM YES HIGH Above Average
Microsoft Security Essentials YES MEDIUM NO LOW Above Average
Norton 360 NO SLOW YES HIGH Excellent
Trend Micro Titanium Max NO SLOW YES HIGH Above Average


This list is not comprehensive of all available antivirus programs.  It instead covers the most commonly used titles in the U.S.

These ratings are through MY PERSONAL experience, and were not conducted in a controlled test environment.  For that type of data, you may want to check a site like http://free.antivirusware.com/

Avast and AVG have been favorites among many users looking for free protection from viruses for years.  The scanning engines are comprehensive and dependable.  Avast seems to be especially good at guarding against web page attacks like scripts.


SUMMARY:  Get AN Anti-Virus program and keep it UPDATED (not expired).  That really is 90% of the battle.  After that, you can worry about everything else (speed, effectiveness, etc.).  That said, for most users I recommend (in order):

  1. Microsoft Security Essentials
  2. Avast
  3. Norton
  4. McAfee

If you ask a hundred different technicians their opinion, you’ll likely get several different opinions about which software is the best… and that’s for good reason.  Each of us has different experiences with different software and each virus works differently than others, so if one technician gets a lot of a certain type of virus that Kaspersky is good at removing, then he’ll think it “always works.”  If the same shop used McAfee a lot and it happened to be unable to remove that type of virus, he’d think it “never works.”  The bottom line is, there are numerous programs that claim to all be the best – a la “#1 Best Wok” for Chinese food.  The universal truth about virus removal that I’ve learned after thousands of cases is that there is no best option – there are just a long list of pros and cons associated with each one that usually make some trade of performance, features, and overall effectiveness.


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Have questions?  Send them to us using our feedback form and I’ll respond and post the answer on this post.

Amit Mehta

General Manager

Fast On Site Computer Repair


1 Comment

  • Dan

    Best antivirus I’ve used to date: Linux, combined with a little common sense. Haven’t gotten a virus since.

    Although if you’re tied to Windows for whatever reason, I agree that MSE is the way to go.

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