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Free Antivirus Protection Programs
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Antivirus Software Features
Antivirus/antispyware software has one basic function -- it absolutely, without fail, must protect your system against all malicious software that can sneak its way into your PC at any moment. Fortunately, there are plenty of good free antivirus protection programs that will keep your PC healthy if all you want is a shield against viruses and spyware.
Cheap and Free Antivirus Protection Programs Capabilities.Our research found that the free antivirus protection programs offer the same basic protections as the paid versions sold by the same company. When you actually buy antivirus software programs, you're paying for extra features that throw up more barriers against a wider assortment of threats, such as phishing Web sites. All the cheap antivirus software programs that we researched include at least some extra protections. One reason Ad-Aware Free earns a top spot on our list as best free antivirus protection program is its wide defensive net, which snares malware like rootkits and keyloggers.
All of our top picks can find malware with a high rate of success (although some outperform others). New viruses appear regularly, and most antivirus programs are set for automatic updates that may occur as often as several times a day. Some antivirus programs let you update manually; if so, make sure you do this at least weekly. Downloads of the latest virus definitions form a kind of library on your PC that's used to identify an attacking virus; once flagged, it's put into quarantine so you can determine how best to deal with it (follow the prompts). Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus 2011 (starting at $11.50/up to three users, Amazon), on the other hand, forgoes the virus library in favor of cloud technology, which is essentially a network of PCs that can share services and information through the Internet. The company's online security network continuously seeks out the latest malware menaces. When a new one is discovered, that information is added to the cloud, an approach Trend Micro says can stop malware threats before they can even get to your PC but one that hasn't won over expert reviewers, who aren't yet convinced it provides sufficient protective cover.
No matter how good the PC security experts may be in spotting and defining a new virus, it's possible (unlikely, but possible) that an unidentified virus will try to attack your PC. Some virus protection programs can still detect such an intrusion even if they don't have a definition for it by using a problem-solving capability called "heuristics," which examines the behavior of all programs running on your system. If your PC starts to run a new program that displays suspicious, virus-like behavior, the antivirus software tags it as a potential problem and sounds the alarm. Heuristics is a pretty common feature, even in cheap virus protection programs, including McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2011 (starting at $9/up to three users, Amazon), Kaspersky Lab Anti-Virus 2011 (starting at $18, Amazon), Norton Antivirus 2011 (starting at $17, Amazon), and Bitdefender Antivirus Pro 2011(starting at $20/up to three users, Amazon). This capability is less common in free antivirus protection programs, although Ad-Aware Free is an exception -- like the paid programs, it, too, can sniff out new, unidentified viruses.
Most virus protection programs also include a scheduler so you can set up antivirus scans of your hard drive whenever convenient. A thorough scan can take a while so it's a good idea to schedule it for a time when you won't be using your PC, such as late at night. If the scan turns up a problem, you'll get a message with prompts for dealing with it.
Antispyware Defenses.Like antivirus software, antispyware software protects your PC against various types of malware. But it specializes in a different kind of threat: software programs and Web sites that try to surreptitiously install bits of software on your PC to keep tabs on your activities. Commonly referred to as "cookies," these are small files that Web sites install on your PC so they can recognize your system when you go to those sites. Some cookies are harmless -- they simply remember your settings or login information for a site you frequently visit, such as a Yahoo! or Google home page. Sometimes, though, a site adds information to your PC that tracks where you go online (i.e., it spies on you), or inserts a program that runs advertisements on your PC (i.e., adware). Some spyware may attempt to collect personal information about you or cause other mischief, such as resetting your home page to another Web site.
Antispyware software can detect this type of malware in much the same way that antivirus software detects viruses. When you run an antispyware scan on your PC, the software flags any programs or cookies that look suspicious. It used to be that virus protection and antispyware were separate programs, but nowadays, antivirus programs include antispyware protection, as do all the cheap antivirus software programs we researched.
Don't Bother Cheap Antivirus Software
AVG Anti-Virus 2011 Review
Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus 2011 Review
Bitdefender Antivirus Pro 2011 Review
McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2011 Review
Kaspersky Lab Anti-Virus 2011 Review
Ad-Aware Free Review
Norton Antivirus 2011 Review
January is an excellent month to take advantage of sales on Christmas decor, electronics, furniture and more.
Halloween is just around the corner and the deals are on!