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Best of the Free Anti-virus Choices? 499

iamjoltman writes "I've been looking to replace the McAfee anti-virus on my parent's XP machine. So, I've been looking at the three free anti-virus choices, AVG Free Edition, avast! Home Edition and AntiVir Personal Edition. I know there are other options, but I believe any others are only on-demand scanners, and that's not an option. So, what does the Slashdot crowd think is the best of these choices? Keep in mind, I'm only looking in anti-virus, I'll go elsewhere for firewall or malware protection."
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Best of the Free Anti-virus Choices?

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  • Oblig: ClamAV (Score:2, Informative)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy ( 963289 ) * <> on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:10AM (#15380552) Homepage Journal
    I'd reccommend clamAV for windows [] or clamwin [], both are windows ports of the excellent GPLd clam AV [].

    But I'm also going to make an obligatory [] dig at windows. Consider downloading some software that means you wont have to run anti-virus software.

    (Staying true to my username, I would also like to reccommend os x, but as it's not available for download [], and requires new hardware, I won't).
  • AVG here.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by the_rajah ( 749499 ) * on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:12AM (#15380567) Homepage
    I've been using the free (as in gratis) version of AVG on all the Windows computers in the family for a long time and have been very pleased with the results.. No successful virus attacks in 9 computers over a period of at least 3 years. The hard part, and this is not specific to AVG, is getting the family members who still use dialup to stay current with updates since some of the downloads take quite a while.

    I can't comment on the other free antivirus programs as I've not tried them.
  • RTFSummary (Score:2, Informative)

    by JeanBaptiste ( 537955 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:13AM (#15380590)
    He wants scanners that provide real-time protection, not just on-demand scanning.

    And I've often wondered why Clam doesn't make a real-time protection piece. With all the other stuff they have I figure they're already 97% of the way there, with the AV signature databases and all. I'd use it, or at least give it a try.

    AVG by grisoft is where its at though.
  • AV Comparison (Score:5, Informative)

    by OneFix at Work ( 684397 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:14AM (#15380599)
    I would say according to this [] comparison, AntiVir is the best...and of course, this is the only comparison that really matters...
  • AVGfree (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:15AM (#15380611)
    I use ezAntivirus, the AVGfree thing, but there was recently a 1 year free promo of the registered version - I dont have the link atm, but that might be worth checking if it's still an active promo.

    It was listed on if that helps.

    It's MUCH less ressource craving than the norton package it replaces for me ... :)
  • Re:Oblig: ClamAV (Score:4, Informative)

    by jawtheshark ( 198669 ) * <slashdot@ja w t h e s h a r k . com> on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:18AM (#15380635) Homepage Journal
    I think you missed: I believe any others are only on-demand scanners

    ClamAV is an on-demand scanner. Do not despair: with WinPooch [], you can make it a resident scanner. Alas, I only read about it here on slashdot and didn't try it myself. Anyone here knows how good it is?

    I personally use AVG Free Edition and it works just fine. It's non-intrusive and does its work well. That's the reason why I didn't uninstall it to try out WinPooch.

  • ClamWin (Score:1, Informative)

    by fak3r ( 917687 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:19AM (#15380645) Homepage
    I'm sure that this will be covered, but I have installed ClamWin [] on my Mom's and Mother-in-laws computers to cover their anti-virus needs. Every now and then I'll get a call or glance at it when I'm over, but the most complicated thing for them is when they get a 'new engine available, click to download' link; which the click, it's installed, and they're done. All virus updates happen daily and it'll report that to them so they know things are working via the icon in the taskbar. At home on my FreeBSD mailserver I trust GPLd clam AV [] and BitDefender [] in parallel, so I know it works, no reason for this 40$ a year McAfee with the all the bloatware you'd never need! ;)
  • Firefox? (Score:1, Informative)

    by rizole ( 666389 ) <{rizole} {at} {}> on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:21AM (#15380670)
    I've installed AVG and Avast on other peoples systems and for the non-technical, AVG seems to be the least scary and easy to use for them. It's the one I use and it's done the business for me for 4 or 5 years. Of course, some of the best anti-virus software I've used is Windows update, Firefox and Thunderbird. (I'm not quite linux/mac troll yet)
  • by TrappedByMyself ( 861094 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:24AM (#15380712)
    I've also seen Avast find things which both Symantec and AVG had missed.
  • Avast vs AVG (Score:5, Informative)

    by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:25AM (#15380719) Journal
    Avast has an excellent feature that nobody else has, which is the ability to scan in command line mode on reboot before major services load, similar to running chkdsk. This enables you to kill a lot of things that fire up as a wndows service. They get a gold star for this.

    AVAST also has plugins for about a dozen IM and p2p services. This is excellent for a number of reasons.

    On the other hand, the free version does not seem to have a scheduled scan feature, not that I've noticed.

    AVG is more user friendly, does have a scheduled scan feature that Avast does not seem to have. It does not seem to have a plugin for IM and p2p networks.

  • Go with Antivir (Score:5, Informative)

    by Deathlizard ( 115856 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:27AM (#15380736) Homepage Journal
    A while back, I did some testing of my own using the three above scanners. The test was done using a virtual PC VM that could be rolled back and reset, that way all three were tested with an exact PC image and system. Then they were subjected to an IE attack from a known malicious site (which I wont mention since I don't want you infecting your PC)

    AVG was dead last, and could not stop even simple web attacks from propagating, even with the highest settings, although it was the least intrusive and fastest of the three, and didn't nag you to upgrade or anything.

    Second was Avast. it stopped a lot of the malicious code, but some still got through and started to drop spyware into the system. It supposedly has guards similar to Windows defender, but didn't seem to do anything to stop the unknown propagations from occurring even on maximum settings.

    Antivir was the best out of the three, catching most of the viruses at it's default setting, and all of the malware at it's maximum (it has definitions for questionable programs like VNC, Jokes and the like, but it's turned off by default) It's biggest problem is that it is the naggiest AV of the three, which constantly asking you to upgrade to the paid version. It also has a tendency to be very sensitive to programs that do virus like behavior at maximum settings, so expect some false positives from time to time.
  • I've never had to reactivate - how long are the periods?
  • Re:AV Comparison (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:31AM (#15380779)
    You aren't allowed to say that! From the site:

    It is forbidden to provide the tables or results in full or in parts on other sites! Please just refer a link to

    You also aren't allowed to link to anything but the front page, so you are in double-dutch.

    "forum/site admin", please remove the parent post.

    What a crock.

  • by lseltzer ( 311306 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:35AM (#15380821)
    PCMag looked at these three last September. []
    Most new computers come bundled with a free antivirus solution, but sooner or later you have to start paying to get the latest virus-definition updates. When the subscription lapses, your protection evaporates. Don't let that happen! If you don't have the funds or inclination to maintain a subscription, try a free antivirus utility. We looked at three that provide full system scanning and also scan all files on access. (Two others, BitDefender 8 Free Edition and ClamWin Free Antivirus 0.86.2, were omitted, because they lack real-time scanning.)
  • by btrain ( 235160 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:36AM (#15380832)
    I had the same experience with AVG. Sluggish and not finding anything, I used Trend Micro's online housecall and found viruses. I ditched AVG for Avast and have been pleased with it so far.

    I would be like to hear about the OP other ideas for firewall and malware.

  • AVG for me (Score:3, Informative)

    by randomErr ( 172078 ) <ervin.kosch@gmail . c om> on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:37AM (#15380837) Journal
    AVG Free Edition - Use it, Love it. Our curch used the commercial version.
    avast! Home Edition - Had install problems. Many of my firends live by it.
    AntiVir Personal Edition - Ran good, but I have had problems with random freezes when used on a system with an accounting package writen in VB 6 that used SQLBase. Not sure which cause which.
    clamAV for windows - Haven't used it.
    clamwin - Haven't used it.
  • Re:Oblig: ClamAV (Score:4, Informative)

    by i621148 ( 728860 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:38AM (#15380847) Homepage
    after you install clamwin:

    open notepad and paste the below,

    # Save this as C:\Program Files\ClamWin\bin\freshclam.conf
    MaxAttempts 3
    then do as the first line suggests and save it in the location.

    then open notepad and paste the below,
    echo off
    echo Clam Scan Open Source Virus Detection and Removal Script
    chkdsk /f /r
    cd C:\Program Files\ClamWin\bin
    freshclam --datadir="C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\.clamwin\db" --config-file="C:\Program Files\ClamWin\bin\freshclam.conf"
    clamscan --database="C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\.clamwin\db" --recursive --verbose --bell --remove C:\
    echo .
    echo beginning hard drive maintennance...
    defrag c: -v
    shutdown -r

    save this as tune_up.bat somewhere and click on it when you
    are done with your work everyday.

  • Re:AV Comparison (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:39AM (#15380853)
    1) that comparison tested PRO not FREE versions

    2) antivir did NOT have the highest score
  • Re:Oblig: ClamAV (Score:2, Informative)

    by dunxd ( 976419 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:41AM (#15380879)
    Research documented at Linux Pipeline showed that ClamAV did a lot better at responding to new viruses than any of the paid for apps [], which is pretty cool. I have tried WinPooch and ClamWin on my PC. Gave up after a week. It gave so many warnings when I ran anything that I couldn't tell what was legitimate and what was nasty. Too many false positives means you end up ignoring all warnings. The lack of documentation just had me scratching my head. It seems to me that WinPooch does much the same as Spybot's TeaTimer, but a lot more intrusive. Can't really say whether the on-access av scanning worked. I didn't find much to have faith in with WinPooch. Shame as ClamAV would clearly be the best option if only it did on access scanning. Who can rely on on-demand scans in these days of 500Gb hard drives anyway? DunxD
  • Re:AVG here.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by twilightzero ( 244291 ) <[mrolfs] [at] []> on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:41AM (#15380881) Homepage Journal
    I'll third this comment also. I use AVG Free at home, my parents use it on their computers, my siblings use it (at my insistence), and the church I run IT for uses AVG Network edition.

    The client is very light and non-intrusive as opposed to some well known others *COUGHNORTONCOUGHSYMANTECCOUGH*. I actually like that every email, both incoming and outgoing, gets a stamp that it was scanned. Lets me know that yes, it's still working properly and lets everybody else know that the email was definitively scanned.

    The corporate network edition we use at the church is definitely VERY nice to work with. For $250 we got 10 licenses, 2 years of updates, and a central administration program. Installation is the easiest I've ever done on any networked antivirus:

    1) Turn on all machines
    2) Install AVG network admin tool on your file server (or any other machine)
    3) Click Services > Install Antivirus, put in the relevant info, click Scan Network, and it will find all the active computers on your subnet.
    4) Select the workstations you want done and click Install.

    It's that simple. I think I installed all 8 workstations in under 5 minutes (and that includes turning them on and waiting for them to boot). You can also very easily set the server admin to download updates and push them out to the clients however often you want so the clients aren't bogging your network down with update requests.

    I haven't used Avast but I've heard both good and bad things about it from other people, but I have yet to hear true negative feedback about AVG (true as opposed to fanboy whining).
  • Re:RTFSummary (Score:5, Informative)

    by erktrek ( 473476 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:45AM (#15380933)
    You can use WinPooch [] in combination with ClamWin to allow for active scanning type goodness.
  • by geobeck ( 924637 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:46AM (#15380946) Homepage

    What I can't understand is why people will pay $500-$2500 for their computer, another $200-$1000 for software, but won't pay a measly $20-$40 per year for an antivirus.

    I use Trend Micro Pc-cillin Internet Security 2006 []. It's $50 to buy, and $25 a year after the first year, and it's the best I've tried so far. It includes antivirus, firewall (very configurable), anti-spam (which I don't use), and malware protection.

    Unlike Norton, which only updates their definitions once a week, Trend Micro updates theirs every three hours. It's the same update frequency as their enterprise solutions [], which are very powerful and easy to administer.

    I know I sound like a commercial, but come on; with all the money you've spent on your computer, don't skimp on protecting it. Then again, as others have suggested, you could just go with Mac or Linux and not worry about viruses at all. (Just get something to protect against worms and root attacks.)

  • Re:Avast vs AVG (Score:2, Informative)

    by solafide ( 845228 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:48AM (#15380966) Homepage
    Avast, having tried it, is not pleasant for me. Avast seriously slowed the computers I installed it on (and they sped up again when I uninstalled it), while AVG - I can't tell any difference. Been running AVG for nigh on 9 months now, and no virii yet.
  • I second Antivir (Score:2, Informative)

    by Norfair ( 845108 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:57AM (#15381073) Journal
    Twice now, it's caught virii that AVG missed, and the scanning engine is, in my experience, a lot faster than AVGs.
  • Re:Avast vs AVG (Score:2, Informative)

    by Observador ( 224372 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `setyerfa'> on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:00PM (#15381103) Homepage

    I also recommend the free version of AVG. Due to user-friendlyness, sheduling, set-it and forget updating, etc.

    AVG also runs on Linux []

  • Re:Oblig: ClamAV (Score:3, Informative)

    by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:07PM (#15381169) Homepage Journal
    ClamAV is an on-demand scanner. Do not despair: with WinPooch, you can make it a resident scanner. Alas, I only read about it here on slashdot and didn't try it myself. Anyone here knows how good it is?

    I use it on my virtualized Windows 2000 Server box running inside Qemu on top of Ubuntu.

    Not sure if it's a result of running under Qemu (and I use kqemu acceleration, BTW) or if it's just the code itself, but WinPooch seems to take a long time to start up, but once it does the performance hit doesn't seem too bad.

    The only thing is that it seems to turn up a bunch of false positives. I think it might be due to ClamWin returning some result code, but a lot of times WinPooch will popup even when ClamWin hasn't detected anything (and it says right in the report window that 1 file(s) were scanned and 0 viruses were dectected.)

  • ClamWin+WinPooch (Score:2, Informative)

    by nawspac ( 76152 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:54PM (#15381597)
    Clamwin [] + WinPooch [] = Awesome Open Source AV solution for Windows Desktops.
  • Re:RTFSummary (Score:5, Informative)

    by de Selby ( 167520 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @01:19PM (#15381797)
    "As every 'real time' protection anti virus scanner I've ever reccommended has been more trouble then its worth (high resource usage, memory leaks & false alarm pop-ups causing the user to turn it off every single time), I would still go with my reccommendation."

    For Windows, I've been happily using NOD32. The install file is about 11 meg, the install dir is about 25, and the memory footprint I'm seeing right now is about 16 (and I think I could get it lower by turning off some options). I haven't noticed any delay in booting and I haven't received any false positives. (It's even found things on my system that Norton didn't.) Best of all, the only two times I've ever received a popup were when it actually found a virus/trojan -- and you can even turn that off and have it act on its own.

    The downside, though, is that I don't think it's grandma-friendly; options galore.

    They have a free 30 day trial version if you're game. // That's my product placement for the day.
  • I have really had good luck with Clamwin. It doesn't do realtime scanning - so you actually have to scan stuff manually, or setup some auto scans. On the other hand, it won't bog down your system scanning every bloody little thing you download. Plus it is open scource - that is a bonus.

    If you couple clamwin with winpooch (open source anti-spyware) it gives you incredible control over your system. With winpooch, clamwin can do real-time scanning.
  • OK. In a near-futile effort not to display too much of my ignorance or stupidity, I'll only give about as much information (commentary) as I actually know in reply to this. Otherwise, my head might deflate or implode. :-)

    I actually use a firewall (a seperate firewall/router) to protect my system against silly things like DOS attacks. Yes, they are actully useful. But, not a real virus / trojan deterrant.

    And all the emails coming to my boxes are scanned for spam, cruft, filth, etc. So, this is not about email protection, as I have nothing but praise for email scanners.

    It's about an exploit gaining root access to a system. That's what is required to damage the integrity of the system. You talk about root-kits... OK, how is the root-kit put on the system? Unsuspecting users you say? Well as long as no privilege-escalating programs are enabled for non-root user access, no issue there. As long as no binaries are allowed in user directories and the current dir is not allowed in a root level users path (in fact root path can be hard coded to a known good directory set and checked regularly.) and email, web and other services do not run under privileged account... no problem with getting a root-kit. Unless the admin is at fault going and building such a rootkit on his own machine. I guess then, that he/she gets what they deserve.

    Don't get me wrong, folks. The odds just say you're wasting your time worrying about this. Even the worm mentioned earlier (Ramen) only had success with 2 distros Redhat 6.2 and 7.0 and only when the were running unpatched version of specific daemons. That left an awful lot of Linux users pretty safe.

    Last point, the heterogeneity of Linux systems makes a virus writers job difficult to impossible. Imagine having to pack alist of every distros possible vunerabilities in ever copy of the virus. Ergo, Windows needs AV software critically. Linux, minimally and only then if your admins are fully competent to secure their system from attacks and silly exploits.

    End of comments. Now the Mods can downgrade me as Troll.

    L L
    Waiting for my mandatory down-mod to troll

  • Re:AVG Camp (Score:2, Informative)

    by pfunk ( 19705 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @02:48PM (#15382612)
    After I helped my dad manually remove a trojan horse from his computer, I had him uninstall Norton Antivirus (which was completely updated and current) and install AVG Free Edition. The only reason he even found out he had a Trojan Horse to begin with was because Norton crashed every time it tried to fix it. On the first virus scan AVG did, AVG found 4 other viruses that Norton totally missed.

    I have used AVG for a couple years now and whenever I get a new computer or work on a family member's computer, the first thing I do is uninstall the commercial Anti-Virus and install AVG Free Edition

  • Re:Avast vs AVG (Score:2, Informative)

    by Danga ( 307709 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @07:28PM (#15384455)
    It's not a bad lightweight av solution, but it seems really dated in terms of how it actually finds infection (ala scan only).

    That is because they want you to buy a license to get the "Resident Shield" protection which is described directly from their website as "The powerful AVG Resident Shield provides maximum protection by scanning every file opened, executed, or saved. It will also prevent the opening or executing of infected files.".

    Honestly, I am happy to pay the license fee (right now you can get 2 years for less than 40 USD which is NOT expensive) since AVG doesn't slow my system to a crawl at times like Norton does on my work computer. I used the free edition most of my college years and was so impressed with it that I decided to buy a license for the Professional edition once I graduated and could actually afford to pay for more than rent, food, and tuition (well not all of it, had to get some loans of course). While I used the free edition I didn't really find it too much of a hassle to have to manually scan files that I downloaded before I opened them and yes I know that the average user probably wouldn't do that but this is an Ask Slashdot question so I would assume the person asking the question could manage to do that.

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