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Antivirus Software Performance

In antivirus software reviews, one criterion towers above all others: The software must protect the user's system with a very high degree of success. A program that doesn't meet that standard isn't worth buying or downloading, even if it's free.

Experts and consumers have other expectations, as well. The software must be fast and shouldn't noticeably slow down the user's computer. It should also be very user-friendly and practically run itself.

General Performance.

Most people choose virus-protection software based on how well it shields their PC, not on how slick it is or how many non-virus-related bonus features it includes (such as file shredding). Based on this benchmark, antivirus software reviews assert that Norton Antivirus is one of the best antivirus programs. PC World rates it No. 1 for its excellence at detecting malware and viruses. Norton also scored very high in lab tests by PC Magazine; it didn't beat the competition in every contest but logged the best scores overall. For the best free antivirus scanning, Ad-Aware Free is the program for you. PC Magazine grants it an Editors' Choice award and tests by experts at Softpedia found that Ad-Aware Free detected more than 90 percent of malware threats. Users posting antivirus software reviews on CNET also applaud Ad-Aware Free's efficacy, noting that it blocks threats and wipes out cookies.

The two programs we identified as good antivirus protectors also exhibit muscle. McAfee has long been one of the most popular security software makers, and its AntiVirus Plus draws praise in antivirus software reviews on Amazon for basic functionalities that keep viruses and malware at bay and for signaling unsafe websites. An antivirus software review by PC Magazine hedges a bit, noting that McAfee's protective prowess in lab testing was about average -- it missed some malware threats and didn't clean up existing malware as thoroughly as it should have -- but the reviewers like the extra features, including antiphishing capabilities and a firewall (users agree). Regarding Kaspersky Lab Anti-Virus, an expert antivirus software review on PC World extols its ability to sniff out malware, particularly when blocking live attacks, as well as its cleanup efforts. On the other hand, the review site Antivirus Ware points out that updates to the virus definition database occur less frequently than is the rule with other well-regarded antivirus shields.

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Some antivirus programs just don't seem to provide adequate protection. Bitdefender Antivirus Pro does a fine job defending against phishing attacks and detecting rootkits, according to PC Magazine's review, although it can't seem to completely remove them or stand tall against other malware, either in terms of blocking attacks or removing infestations. Users offer up harsher assessments, with one reporting on PC Magazine that viruses have multiplied on his computer and others commenting in reviews on Amazon that the program sent messages indicating the computer was vulnerable and removed a backup program that it misidentified as a virus. A few reviews on Amazon, however, champion Bitdefender for its reliability. Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus also attracts strong criticism from expert and user reviewers. Antivirus Ware, for example, says this latest version of the software is disappointing, partly because it's so bare-boned and automated but largely because it's not very effective. The site's review further notes that independent testing labs found that Trend Micro Titanium didn't adequately detect viruses or malware, an assessment likewise stated by PC Magazine, which adds that it's particularly weak in the face of older threats and already-present infections.

Antivirus Software Speed.

Most programs on our list earn a passing grade in antivirus software reviews for relatively speedy performance. But they accumulate demerits here and there for slow scanning and hindering overall system performance. Several antivirus software reviews on Buy.com, for example, say McAfee AntiVirus Plus takes its time scanning, and one user comments on Amazon that deep scans impact the computer's speed. Some user posts on CNET say scans can be slow with Ad-Aware Free, especially on large hard drives, as well as resource-intensive. Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus takes a few hits in antivirus program reviews on CNET and Amazon for slowing the browser. PC World reports that Norton Antivirus's scans are slower than competing products but users posting comments about the top antivirus programs on Antivirus Ware and Newegg argue otherwise, saying it doesn't drag down a PC's performance and can fix problems without having to reboot. Among the top antivirus programs we looked at, Kaspersky Lab Anti-Virus takes the most heat for slow scans and sluggish PC performance in antivirus software reviews on sites such as PC World and Amazon. On CNET, users of Bitdefender Antivirus Pro groan about irritating pop-ups, system crashes, and browser freeze-ups. In a review of a competing product on Amazon, one user writes that the computer froze up while Bitdefender went about its virus-scanning business.

Ease of Use.

The best antivirus software isn't very useful if it's not user-friendly. Fortunately, most programs are easy to install and use. PC Magazine praises Ad-Aware Free for its very simple interface and Bitdefender Antivirus Pro for its excellent, flexible interface. Bitdefender gets dinged, however, for weak customer support and installation headaches. PC World considers the Kaspersky Lab Anti-Virus interface to be clean, easy to read, and well-designed. And users commenting on Newegg like the Norton Antivirus interface because it offers lots of options, although PC World says those options may overwhelm inexperienced users. The interface on McAfee Antivirus Plus boasts a vertical orientation that PC Mag considers awkward, and both experts and users report installation struggles with this virus scanner on a PC already infected with malware. Some of the changes incorporated into Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus don't sit well with users, according to antivirus software reviews on Amazon. They like the simplicity of the interface but say the absence of scanning options, for example, and the inability to choose whether to connect to the Internet directly or through a network are downers.

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