What is the best antivirus software?

We look at how you can protect your PC

1: Detection Rate

Very important as you can imagine. The antivirus program needs to be able to immediately recognise a known virus threat and block its ability to infect your PC. The top products are currently achieving detection rates of between 95% — 99%

2: Removal Ability

Viruses can and sometimes do slip past the defences of your antivirus software. Modern antivirus software programs however, are constantly updating themselves, and adding more virus definitions into their internal databases. The unknown virus that sneaked onto your PC yesterday may well be caught today, as its specifications were included in the last update. It is now important for the antivirus program to be able to clean the offending virus off your system and leave your system virus free and fully functional again. There is no point being able to detect viruses if you can’t remove them.

3: Footprint

Another important consideration is the performance impact the antivirus software has on your PC. Gumblestump antivirus may have 99% detection rate and 99% removal ability, but if your PC’s performance is reduced to the speed of a Galapagos Tortoise after a mouthful of sleeping pills, then the frustration of using it will certainly overwhelm any feeling of security it provides.

A good antivirus program will try to strike the best balance amongst these critical features.

It is also important to understand that the antivirus software market is a bit like a never ending horse race. Due to the burgeoning rate of infections which spread across the internet and peer to peer networks, antivirus companies are constantly working to detect, catalogue and provide removal functionality for new virus threats as they are detected "in the wild." At any given point in time some companies may have their noses in front of others. Here at DCA Computers we like to keep track of the major antivirus solutions over a reasonably long period of time and make our recommendations based upon the consistency of the product in the long term.

Here are our current recommendations.

1: Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 — Consistent performer for many years. Very Strong detection and removal rates. Footprint is slightly heavier than some competing products, but not unreasonably so, particularly on modern dual or multi core systems

2: F-Secure Internet Security 2011 — Very good detection and removal rates. Extremely light footprint. Recommended particularly for older slower systems

3: Eset Smart Security — Eset products were originally marketed under the name Nod32 and have been a popular choice amongst many technicians I know within the industry. Eset’s products have won many awards spanning the last few years and the current security suite scores consistently highly across the 3 categories.

4: Bitdefender — Another product which scores highly on detection and removal. Slightly heavy footprint.

5: Symantec Norton Internet Security 2011 — The Norton name has been around for just about as long as any of us can remember. Often criticised for its very heavy footprint over the years, and at times studiously avoided, the current incarnation has improved greatly and scores consistently well across our 3 categories

Glenn Howlett is the general manager of DCA Computer Technologies a computer retailer and support provider. Read more articles at the DCA Computers blog, follow DCA Computers on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

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