I have no idea why this information isn't better known. Free anti-virus programs are some of the best bargains I know of for Windows users, and yet many people have never heard of them.
First of all, every Windows computer needs an anti-virus program running at all times. If you are running a Windows computer right now without up-to-date anti-virus software, your system will become infected with a virus sooner or later. In fact, your PC may be infected right now without your knowledge. Yet there is a free and easy method of avoiding most viruses.
If you already have an anti-virus program installed, there are several things you should know:
- All anti-virus programs will slow the operation of your computer. This is inevitable. However, some anti-virus programs will slow your computer more than others. Generally speaking, the well-known, more sophisticated programs will slow the computer down more than the simpler ones. The free program I will describe slows a computer less than most of its competitors.
- Almost all commercial anti-virus programs cost money to purchase, and then you find out that the program only works for a year. In fact, every anti-virus program must be updated daily or every few days to make sure it is always prepared for new virus that have recently been found. After twelve months, most commercial anti-virus programs will ask you to pay another $30 to $60 for another year's worth of updates. (Some programs will not ask for two years.) The free program I will describe is free to purchase and never asks for any additional money.
- The better-known commercial anti-virus programs seem to suffer from “feature-itis.” That is, the software producers keep adding more and more features to make the program do more and more. Common additions include anti-phishing features, anti-spyware, online identity protection, web site authentication, a firewall, anti-rootkit protection, and more. To be sure, some of these features may be very useful, especially for computer novices. Knowledgeable Windows users may find such features unnecessary since most of us can recognize phishing, spyware, and such things without additional software. Whether you deem these “extra features” to be useful or not, each adds bulk to the program, slows the computer down still more, and also probably increases the price. The free program I will describe is simple: it protects against viruses. However, the same software producer offers a free anti-spyware product and a free anti-rootkit product. In addition to the free products, the same company adds an even more sophisticated combination of features for a modest price, although not free.
NOTE: For more information on some of these terms, look at the following:
Virus - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virus
Spyware - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spyware
Phishing - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phishing
Rootkit - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rootkit
I have used several free anti-virus programs on the multiple computers that I maintain for myself and for others. After several years of using the different ones available, I have settled on one program that works as well as, or better than, the rest. It is simple to install and use and, best of all, the price is: FREE.
This free program can stop viruses from entering your Windows system. If your computer is already infected, the same program may be able to remove the virus (no program is ever guaranteed to be able to remove ALL viruses). The program is:
AVG Free Edition produced AVG Technologies CZ (formerly known as Grisoft)
AVG Free Edition is an excellent anti-virus program that stops viruses as well as most of the commercial products. Its effectiveness has been tested and verified by West Coast Labs, ICSA Laboratories and Virus Bulletin. I do not have proper virus testing capabilities, so I cannot test AVG myself. However, I will say that I have been using AVG Free Edition as the anti-virus program on one of my Windows XP systems for several years and have never had a virus on that system, despite the fact that it is exposed to the Internet and many web sites and e-mail messages every day. I have also installed AVG Free on quite a few of my clients' PCs and not one of them has contracted a virus since it was installed.
Obviously, the best thing about AVG Free Edition is its price: free. You can download it right now and start using it immediately. The program updates its anti-virus rules every few days to keep your protection at the maximum level possible.
AVG Free Edition does have several disadvantages, however. You need to be aware of these limitations:
- AVG is licensed for private, non-commercial, single home computer use only. You cannot use it on any computer being used at work or at any corporation or for any commercial use whatsoever. It also may not be used in schools, charities, churches, or governmental organizations. AVG sells a commercial version for computers not allowed under the Free Edition license.
- You may use AVG Free Edition on a maximum of one computer. If you own two or more computers, you may legally only use AVG Free Edition on one of them.
- There is no tech support available for AVG Free Edition. Full tech support is available only with the commercial version.
- Downloading the program and/or the updates may be slower for AVG Free Edition than for the commercial version. This strikes me as a minor limitation.
I am pleased with AVG Free Edition. In fact, a few months ago I needed to renew the subscription of a commercial anti-virus product I had been using in my other Windows computers. Since I was already using one copy of AVG Free Edition, I could not legally install a second copy in my other Windows systems. Instead, I purchased the “high end version: of the AVG free program: AVG Internet Security Home Edition, which is licensed for installation in three separate computers. The total cost to protect all three systems for one year was $64.95. However, I chose the two-year option for $96.99. That works out to $16.17 per computer per year – a bargain when compared to the anti-virus programs I see at the local computer store. Unlike the free version, AVG Internet Security Home Edition includes full tech support from the producing company.
If you have a single Windows computer that needs anti-virus protection, I'd suggest that you look at AVG Free Edition at http://free.avg.com.
If you have more computers to protect or need still more protection for a single computer, I'd then suggest that you look at the company's commercial products. They work well and are cheaper than most competitive products.
I don't have as much experience with these programs but will point out that they are also available free of charge. Some of them do allow for commercial use and may allow for installation on more than one computer:
avast! Antivirus Home Edition is a free antivirus product for non-commercial and home use only. Both of these conditions should be met! It is available free of charge for non-profits. The same company also offers avast! Professional Edition that can be used by businesses. More information may be found at http://www.avast.co/eng/avast_4_home.html.
SecureIT Free Edition is based on the award winning ClamAV antivirus engine. It provides real-time virus protection, real-time proactive spyware protection, a malware blocker, a personal firewall technology, and more. SecureIT Free Edition is compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. Best of all, it can be used on an unlimited number of home and business computers. More information may be found at: http://www.fightspyware.net.
Avira AntiVir provides antivirus, anti-spyware, firewall, e-mail protection, and even parental controls, all in one package. Avira also warns against fraud using falsified Facebook applications. You can obtain more information about this free product at http://www.free-av.com.
Panda Cloud Antivirus is a lightweight but powerful solution that provides security for computers that are connected to the Internet most of the time or even all of the time. The program is “cloud based.” That is, much of the computing is performed in other computers connected “in the cloud” via the Internet. As a result, the reduction in your local computer's processing speed is minimized. Panda Cloud Antivirus is a good solution for all Windows system but is especially suitable for modern “netbook” computers. More information may be found at http://www.cloudantivirus.com.
HouseCall by Trend Micro is a different kind of program from the above. It does not prevent viruses but does tell you whether or not you already have a virus. If you think your computer is running slow or exhibits other “virus-like” symptoms, download and run Housecall at http://housecall.trendmicro.com.
Does your Windows computer have an anti-virus program installed and running with updates made within the past few days? If not, you need one of the above!