Frequently we have people ask which antivirus software is best to protect their computers. Well, as you can read elsewhere in our Free Advice area (such as here), we highly recommend Norton Security. This article details why we have such high regard for it.
Every week, we have clients bringing in their machines who say, "The computer acts like it's infected but I have [some random antivirus package] installed, so why didn't it protect me?" The only answer is that not all antivirus solutions are created equal. The following chart bears out this fact quite plainly. For ease of comparison, I have highlighted in bold red the results that show 1500 or more missed infections which were found and removed by Norton Security.
Now, to give our opinions on each of the software packages. To put it in simple numbers, if you average the number of infections missed by the packages listed above, the absolute worst is Sophos (1737), followed by Trend Micro (1538), AVG (1170), Avast (1123), no antivirus protection at all (1046), and the best of the lot is McAfee (614). There are those who say that having a free antivirus (such as both AVG and Avast offer) is better than nothing. This chart proves otherwise! In fact, out of the failed antivirus packages above, only McAfee is better than having nothing at all. What an abysmal state!
So, let's talk about each of the packages. To start, both AVG and Avast come in two flavors: free and paid. From what we have seen, whether you use the free version or the (very expensive) paid version, you are not going to get competent protection. Also, the paid versions cost much more than the price of Norton Security. The current price for AVG with the same antivirus and computer cleanup functions as Norton Security is about $100 while Norton Security is only $45. By comparison, Avast wants $80 for their most comprehensive product but it does not offer the same level of protection (as made obvious by the above chart) nor does it have any of the computer cleanup functionality (such as a built-in temporary file removal routine or disk defragment utility). Why pay nearly double for less protection and functionality?
McAfee was once the big name in antivirus software, albeit about 25 years ago. After McAfee Associates merged with Network General and became Network Associates, it seemed that they lost their way and their software quality degraded quickly. Since that time, they have played catch-up but have not yet regained their formerly high status. While McAfee is better than everyone else in this chart, it is not strong enough for us to feel confident in recommending it to our clients by letting such a high average of missed infections to occur.
Sophos is a relatively small company about which most people have never heard. However, they do have big clients, such as the University of Kansas. KU uses Sophos on ResNet (the network for the dorms, Greek houses, etc.). Most who live on campus are able to obtain cheap or sometimes even free service from KU, so it is not often that we see a machine with Sophos. However, as you can see, when we have seen it, it has definitely not been ideal. Over the past several years that we have watched, it has definitely gone downhill. When we first learned of it about a decade ago, we had high hopes since it seemed to be having a very low number of misses compared to everyone else (about 250 on average). Those days are gone. With its worst-of-the-lot score, we cannot recommend this package to anyone. If you have this installed on your machine and you are not forced to keep it by your school or employer, definitely dump it for Norton Security without any further delay.
One other comment about Sophos: something that we have found is that their removal tool is not as functional as it should be. All too often, despite the tool saying that the software has been fully removed, it will leave some memory-resident pieces of itself behind that become quite difficult to ferret out so that one can install a better product. We can only hope that the manufacturer will correct this issue sooner rather than later.
Trend Micro (abbreviated as TM in the chart) is not much better than Sophos. In fact, with scores of 1737 for Sophos and 1538 for Trend Micro, it is not enough better to be statistically significant. In other words, whether you have Sophos or Trend Micro, you are potentially in the same world of hurt because of the great likelihood that viruses are running rampant on your computer. We know that there are various big retail stores that are pushing Trend Micro (and have been for the past few years) but these results make us wonder why.
Now oddly enough, those machines which had no antivirus software on them when we were asked to clean them actually scored better on average than most other machines with antivirus programs on them. Given all the potential for infections from nefarious websites, viruses and other maladies spread by Facebook, and so much more, we do wonder why anyone would want to run such risks by having no antivirus protection whatsoever but, given that having none appears to be better than having most of the other brands of antivirus software, maybe the "naked computer" owners are being somewhat wise. Whatever their reason, when they come to realize that their machines are sick, we will continue to clean them up and make the computers and the owners happy once again.
I can already hear some people saying, "Oh, what about Panda or Avira Antivir or..." All we can say is that we have seen other packages so infrequently that they did not make the editorial cut for being included in this review. We wished to present the information that was collected in sufficient quantity to justify our reasons for our recommendations. In fact, in the past we have had only one experience with Panda (Panda Platinum specifically) and found it to be such a mess that the only way to fix the client's machine was to reformat. Avira, on the other hand, was a software package that we used to recommend for those who were averse to Norton Antivirus (the predecessor for the modern Norton Security) or who could not run it due to having too old an operating system. However, we have found other better choices, so we now rarely see a need for Avira.
If you have any questions or would like to have your machine checked for infections, let us know. Contact us via the Contact Us selection in the menu on the left and we'll be glad to help you.