Antivirus programs

Protection against Viruses and other Nasties

Microsoft Security Essentials
Not before time, Microsoft have come up with a very good security program.

In a nutshell

For non-commercial home use

As already mentioned, I currently recommend Microsoft’s Security Essentials or one of the three “A”s: Antivir, Avast!, or AVG. Here’s a brief description of these free alternatives.

Microsoft’s Security Essentials

I’ve been using Microsoft’s new Security Essentials on two computers since it was first released. I’ve found it excellent. Unlike many anti-virus programs it doesn’t hog resources so it doesn’t slow your computer to a crawl.

Fred Langa at Windows Secrets tested Microsoft Security Essentials exhaustively on nine computers for six months and gave it a resounding thumbs up.

It just works. What’s more it’s absolutely free for home and commercial use. Windows is the biggest target for the pushers of malware and its file system is not as secure as Mac OS X or Linux but at least Microsoft are now doing something about it.

Good job Microsoft. Not before time.


At the time of writing, Antivir performed well in most tests of free anti-virus programs. AntiVir is free for home use. Get it right here.

Avast! Home Edition

Avast! is free for for home use. It can be obtained at special discount prices for non-profit, charity, educational and government institutions. It runs a close second to Avira in current trials and it’s the program I used at home before I switched to Microsoft Security Essentials.

Get Avast! right here

I suspect that Avast! is as good as Antivir, but many testers don’t like its interface. I have no problem with it.

AVG v7.0 Free Edition

AVG is free for home use but last time I checked they would give a 50% discount to volunteer organizations. I’ve found AVG to be a little too proactive in trying to persuade you to upgrade to the paid version and unless you keep your wits about you it’s hard to find the free version. You’ll find free AVG here.

For commercial use:

Business users please note

Please note: If you’re a medium or large business running Windows you should probably be using Microsoft’s Forefront Client Security or an equivalent service. This is beyond the scope of Mistywindow. Your IT department should be able to advise. If they’re not on top of it, fire them.

If you’re a large or small business user, and if you value your data, and if the loss of one or all of your computers would be a significant problem, then you should be using imaging software or other forms of full backup. Anti-malware programs are not 100% bullet-proof, but if you create regular images of your machines and if you’re punctilious about backing up your data files you will have peace of mind which may be priceless.

If you’re small business user you should consider the products listed below. They’re in order of merit at the time of writing. They’re all very good, but there’s a range of prices. If you need a licence to use the program on more than one computer the relevant offers vary so you’ll need to do a comparison if you’re at all budget conscious.

Most commercial programs come in more than one version. There’s usually a basic version which includes anti-virus and anti-spyware, then there are more expensive versions which add extras like parental control and system tuning.

In addition to the free Microsoft Security Essentials (as discussed above for home use) the following are all very good programs:

G Data AntiVirus

G Data

German software company G Data is currently receiving the top reviews on most tests for their AV and it’s well priced for single PC or 3 PC licences.

Some users consider support to be lacking, especially for English language users. For most users support shouldn’t be an important issue but some corporate users may need it. Get G Data here.

Norton Anti-Virus

Symantec’s product is currently at or near the top of the reviews and allows you to install on 3 PCs with one licence. Symantec had a few years of bloat and high resource use for their products but they’re now back on track. Get it here.


BitDefender is a good price if you only need it for one machine. It includes anti-spyware and parental control. Get it right here.

Avast! Professional Edition

Get the Pro version here.

Commercial programs may be easily purchased on the Internet via the links I’ve given above or from your local computer software dealer.

Top security software reviews

PC World

The top standalone antivirus software for 2010 as tested by PC World in their latest review right here. You can see a detailed review of each of the top performers. More useful stuff from PC World right here.

Top Ten Reviews

Top Ten Reviews anti-virus page.

Antivirus Ware

Antivirus Ware Independent Antivirus Reviews & Testing.

AV Comparatives

AV Comparatives test reports.

Don’t delay, do it now!

Procrastination can be expensive, so install anti-virus software today, keep it updated and make sure that it runs automatically or manually on your computer at least once a week.

New pestilence is released continually. Each of the programs recommended regularly update their virus and spyware databases to cope. Your job is to download these updated definition files just as regularly.

With most of the antivirus programs I’ve recommended this can be done automatically. With some that only works if you have your computer switched on at the preset time. In each of these programs there is a button or other type of link which allows you to update the definitions. I always do this before running the program.

Related page

See Anti malware strategy. You need more than just anti-virus software to keep your computer safe.

Anti-malware stategy for Windows

Protection against Viruses and other Nasties

You can easily avoid this frustrating scenario

Antivirus programs are not the only means by which you can keep your computer free of infection. This page introduces those extra methods.

If you wish to skip to the next page—which provides links to the best antivirus products and to websites which regularly check their performance—click here:

In God we trust, all others we virus scan. Author Unknown

Strategies which will help keep your computer clear of malware

I never have trouble with viruses, spyware and the like. Although I keep antivirus and other anti-malware programs on both of my Windows computers, I’d lose no sleep if I didn’t have them.


I have strategies in place to minimize the likelihood of infection and to enable me to recover to a completely clean machine in the event that those strategies fail.

I’ve only had one PC virus cause my computer harm and that was in 2000. I was a victim of a “zero-day” attack: my computer was infected by a brand new virus unknown to my antivirus program at the time, Norton Anti-Virus. The virus stopped me from downloading Norton’s updates and from visiting their website.

I had to re-install Windows 98 to solve the problem and I lost some valuable data in the process. Since that time I’ve learned a thing or two. If the same thing happened to me today I’d be back in business in 30 minutes and I certainly wouldn’t lose any data.

What to do?

It’s not rocket science. It takes an hour or two to set your computer up initially, but once that’s done you’ll save a lot of time and worry in the long run.

Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software

The most obvious protection is to install anti-malware programs, to update their definitions regularly and to run them often. More about that on the following page.

Create an image

The most effective protection is to create and maintain an up-to-date image of your system so that if your computer becomes infected you can wipe your Windows installation and restore it to health in half an hour by reverting to your backed up image. You can read all about creating your own images here: Imaging. Home users can do it with excellent free software. If you maintain up-to-date images of your installation and current backups of your data files you could quite happily do without anti-virus software and some IT pros do just that.

Use a firewall

You should use a firewall. If you use Windows Vista or Windows 7 you have a built-in software firewall. If you have a high speed Internet modem, it should have a hardware firewall built in.

Surf safely

Don’t tempt fate.

You shouldn’t visit the type of Internet sites which invite infection. That includes pornography sites; distributors of pirated software, movies or music; and any other sites that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to know you’d visited.

You must never click on any link or on any image in any email you receive unless you’re absolutely certain that it’s from a legitimate source. And don’t reply to them.

You should never even open any email unless you are certain of its source.

Don’t use Internet Explorer as your Internet browser

Partly because Internet Explorer is a big target and—according to most critics—partly because it’s a less secure program than some browsers (Microsoft insist on sticking with ActiveX controls which can be a security hole) I recommend that you use Mozilla’s Firefox, Opera or Google Chrome for day-to-day browsing.

Most Windows professionals and power users run Firefox because it has many useful add-ons, but Opera is also excellent and Chrome is lightweight and lightning fast.


  • Install and use imaging software right now. There is an excellent free imaging program for home use and commercial users can bullet-proof their installation for US$50 or less. Find out all about it right here.
    Home users, grab the free Paragon Backup & Recovery from right here


The next page

Antivirus programs tells you the best antivirus programs and has links to their download sites and to sites which regularly check and compare their relative effectiveness.

Related stuff

Dealing with spyware and online financial security.