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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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  • Linux? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Who235 ( 959706 ) <`secretagentx9' `at' `cia.com'> on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:11AM (#15380560)
    But seriously, I like Antivir. I think it makes catches that others miss. The newest version seems a little bloated, but I have always liked their product.
  • AVG (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gowen ( 141411 ) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:12AM (#15380582) Homepage Journal
    I like it. I've used commercial AV before, but the free AVG is as good, or better than those. And it can be set to auto-update and auto-scan.

    I haven't used the other free ones; AVG has never given me a need to switch.
  • Re:RTFSummary (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy ( 963289 ) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:32AM (#15380797) Homepage Journal
    He wants scanners that provide real-time protection, not just on-demand scanning.

    Fair enough, I read it too quickly. However, clamwin can be integrated into outlook & ie (two major vectors), and be setup to run periodically.

    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.
  • by ultramk ( 470198 ) <ultramk@@@pacbell...net> on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:37AM (#15380841)
    Hmmm, yeah I've had AVG installed and running for 3 years, without having to reactivate.
    Is it every 4 years or something?

  • by abbamouse ( 469716 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:40AM (#15380871) Homepage
    I've used AntiVir since the late 1990s or thereabouts. The most recent version has taken to spamming me with an ad for the pay version every time it updates (once a day). The ad pops up and interrupts whatever I'm doing. It doesn't go away until you click it. So this nice freeware seems to have become nagware. I'll be reading others' responses to find out what I should be running instead of AntiVir.
  • Re:AntiVir (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Neurotoxic666 ( 679255 ) <neurotoxic666NO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:42AM (#15380891) Homepage
    Agreed. AntiVir gets the job done. No fancy graphical interface, no abusive CPU usage, no unwanted services running. It's easy to use, easy to update, it scans rather quickly and I've never seen one single computer running AntiVir that got infected.

    I've used AntiVir to countless a dozen PCs that were running Norton and got infected anyway. I recommend it to all of my clients. So far, I'd say there are around 40 computers I'm taking care of here and there that are running AntiVir without any problem. I am highly satisfied with this product. No, I don't work there.

  • Re:RTFSummary (Score:2, Interesting)

    by martinultima ( 832468 ) <martinultima@gmail.com> on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:50AM (#15380989) Homepage Journal
    I'd have to say I recommend AVG from what little experience I've had working with Windows lately (a couple years ago I ditched my last Windows 98 install for Linux, and haven't had anything Microsoft branded on any of my own machines ever since). Not only is it a very high-quality free virus scanner, it's also got probably the most colorful interface I've ever seen – if you've seen all their Easter Island-ish clipart images, you'll know what I mean. Highly recommended.

    Although if you get tired of Windows, I know this great little Linux distribution [ultimalinux.com] that's got your name written all over it... well, maybe not, but it has my name everywhere ;-)
  • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionary@@@yahoo...com> on Monday May 22, 2006 @11:59AM (#15381092) Journal
    There are plenty of other ways for an infected file to get onto a system besides Outlook, and a scheduled scan can't catch those files until it runs. On demand provides the ultimate protection for uneducated users, which is why ClamWin is adding it in.

    From the FAQ:

    Q.) Can ClamWin check files automatically as they are accessed

    A.) The answer is not yet.

    So far ClamWin does not have on-access scanner so you need to be careful and scan a suspicious file before opening it. If you do that you will be as safe as with a commercial antivirus. User awareness is sometimes better than automatic protection, as it may be easier to break the automatic protection than to fool an educated user.

    However an average user with little knowledge about online and computer security the on-access component is a must and the ClamWin should be used only as a complimentary scanner. We are developing it and will release it in the next major version update.

    If the "Integration with Windows Explorer" option is checked during installation, any file can be scanned from within Windows Explorer simply by right-clicking on it and selecting "Scan With ClamWin Free Antivirus"

  • Re:Go with Antivir (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xtracto ( 837672 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:02PM (#15381122) Journal
    Nice summary, I just installed AVG Free and it deleted the keylogger I was using (it is my own laptop and I have always had a key logger), unfortunately I could not find an option to ignore the specific file/process, each time it was accessed AVG told me that I was infected with "trojan keylogger" and gave me the option to "ignore, heal, quarintine, etc.." but I had to click on ignore EACH time I used it or I restarted my computer (or I accessed the file in any way).

    So, my question would be, does any of these 2 other AV has a way to "incoulate" or ignore certain file and process forever?

  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:20PM (#15381264) Journal
    The point is that the manual scans are using a different software and library to scan. Maybe two or three times over the past year have the manual scans turned up a positive that the autscans didn't -- all on my wife's machine.

    I get paid to manually scan 12 laptops a month -- I run my manuals at the same time. The laptops, the use of which is completely outside my control, regularly have malware on them that I catch via the manual scans. I suspect the users cancel the autoscans because of the performance issues you mention.

    Scheduled scans shouldn't affect performance at all -- that's why you schedule them during downtime (eg, 3 AM). I suggest to my users that they turn their laptops on before they go to bed the night of the scheduled weekly scans -- that way no performance issues the next morning.
  • by kryptkpr ( 180196 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:29PM (#15381361) Homepage
    Nod32's internet scanner (called IMON) hooks into the tcp/ip stack in such a way as to break python-based BitTorrent clients upon their attempt to open a 65th socket.. this results in a ~60 peer limit, which results in poor transfer rates.

    This was the main reason I ditched it, it was otherwise a great piece of software. Of course, YMMV.
  • Re:AVG here.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:31PM (#15381386)
    Ok, I have a genuine bad experience with AVG. This was back in 2003 I think. I was at university on the halls network when one of the big worms infected someone. My windows computer was running Norton at the time, and at any rate I kept a router between me and the university network.

    Every one of my friends that had a pay-for AV program installed had warnings popping up about the worm hitting them, but the payload was stopped from activating. Even the people with Sophos were safe.

    But I had a few friends running AVG. They got infected badly. So I cleaned one up, reinstalled AVG from behind my firewall, got everything patched back up to date and handed it back. AVGs website showed that they had a pattern for this virus. The computer had the latest updates downloaded to it, so I returned it to it's owner. 5 minutes later, it was rooted again.

    Since then, I haven't trusted AVG at all.
  • by the_rajah ( 749499 ) * on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:36PM (#15381440) Homepage
    convincing my 83 year old mother that it's OK to leave an "appliance" on when it's not being used. It uses electricity, you know, and that costs money. She's also the one who doesn't have caller ID on her phone because that costs a dollar a month or so.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 22, 2006 @01:16PM (#15381782)
    Been using AVG forever now, but it has let a few things through. Back a while ago when I was still on IE, a few of their security holes let some malicious exe get through and run without AVG stoping it. Luckily ZoneAlarm stopped it before it reached the net.

    I'll be checking out this Avast thing as well, now that I know there are more than 1 free alternative.
  • Re:RTFSummary (Score:3, Interesting)

    by skiflyer ( 716312 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @01:46PM (#15382035)
    AVG's personal email scanner solution sits between any mail client(using standard protocols) and the mail servers and performs transparent scanning of messages sent and received, and a very good job it does too.

    Has something changed since I last looked? I thought it was protocol... as in POP3 only, leaving me and my imap solutions out of luck.
  • by Slugster ( 635830 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @03:35PM (#15383009)
    I saw this problem back when the OEM version of McAfee ran out (30 days) on a laptop I had just bought. And I was surprised to see that I could not simply purchase a 1-year subscription to McAfee, I had to pay for a full-install for a year--that cost more. So I said "fuck McAfee" right then and there. ...I ended up going with Norton, I am old-skool enough not to believe in free lunches and Norton shows a couple bugs but has worked fine so far.

    Lots of people warned that Norton would bomb the system and be "uninstallable" (hadn't heard of regedit apparently) but I have been around long enough to know that ANY antivirus program can bomb an OS, and they all have. Some of that is due to the OS already being infected, and other times it's just bugs in the program, but one belief I do firmly hold is that any time you install new AV, you are risking the OS install (-Avast! bombed one of my own XP Home PC's into unbootability, for instance-).

    But when I went looking, I found that it was very difficult to objectively compare AV programs. There's a few big ones and a hundred or two little ones, and lots of websites to reviews, but they grab one or two of the big ones and a few of the ones many people have never heard of and they test them. And every website tests a different group of AV software, every time they do a test. So the results are never really comparative across different websites, or even across two separate review tests done on the same website.

    Ideally there'd be a website that repeatedly tested a large number of AV programs, the SAME programs with very little variation in the programs tested, once a month or so (and listing observed bugs would be good too). And then if one AV consistently came in near the top, or always did poorly, or worked but always showed lots of bugs you could form some real opinion of it. Elsewise, all everyone does is spout opinions and their own observations, "well I tried this one and it sucked, I tried that one and it was great". Everyone I asked online and IRL had tried one that sucked, and had tried some-other that was great, and they were all different and often conflicting.
  • Re:AVG here.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Danga ( 307709 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @08:28PM (#15384668)
    * Installation and use in a network environment.

    Nowhere does it say environment and I highly doubt that was what was intended and more than likely was a typo by the attorney. What is says in the license is "You must not use the program in a network or on more than one computer." If they didn't intend it to be used in a networked environment then why would they even include the internet updater since the internet is the biggest network in the world? The other reason I believe this to be a typo is because if you look at the feature limitations found here http://www.grisoft.com/doc/289/lng/us/tpl/tpl01#Li mitations [grisoft.com] it says:

    "AVG Free Edition cannot be installed on server operating systems (such as Windows Server 2003), nor can it be used for the scanning of network drives."

    By reading that it looks like they intended "in" to be "over" in the license and that was the attorneys attempt to say you can't use it to scan drives over the network. I think someone should contact them about that (I would but I purchased a license so its a non-issue for me).

    I also don't see a problem with the single computer restriction. If it is going to be used on multiple computers owned by the same person then they shouldn't be a total freeloader and pony up the whole $109/2 years for the SoHo license which gives you 5 licenses so its only $10.90 per computer per year (there is also a 2 user package available). If you can't afford that then how can you afford to have so many computers (both purchase and/or if you got them for free pay for the electricity for all of them)? Also, the single user restriction should not be a limitation for a family that has children and computers for each child since each family member is entitled to their own single user license. This restriction is only an issue for the freeloaders who don't think that maybe the developers of the software might like to be able to eat something besides Ramen noodles all the time.

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982