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Which antivirus product? Part 1 of a 2 part series on antimalware

1/6/2014 - update

Q+ now recommends Trend Worry Free Business Security Services to clients. The minimum license buy is two seats. With that, the end user not only has two licenses for regular workstations like their laptop or desktop, but they also have two mobile seats. This means they can also install the software on their Android or iOS smartphones or tablets.

Please listen to the Breakfast Bytes shows on Trend Worry Free Business Security to learn all about why the product is the best.

1/23/2008 - Author: Felicia

I often get questions about which antivirus tool is the best. There are a number of factors that affect that answer. I aim to explain all those factors to you so that you can make an educated decision for yourself. Let’s start with some general understandings.


General understandings

  • Antivirus/antispyware is a required tool to protect any computer regardless of platform or operating system.

  • There can only be one king in the castle.If you have multiple antispyware tools, they generally will eat on each other. The same is true with multiple toolbars in Internet Explorer and multiple antivirus or firewall tools.
    It’s amazing how many times I’ve seen problems with PCs exist purely because someone installed too much conflicting software on their computer.

  • Internet security suites are usually not a good idea.They generally have some sort of parental controls or Internet content filtering that suck up a huge amount of your computer’s horsepower. They also have firewall products that are not controllable.

  • McAfee requires separate renewals so it’s more expensive.Their firewall and antivirus products have to be renewed separately where Norton and Trend have it all in the antivirus/antispyware tool annual renewal (~$40/yr).
    It should also be noted that most users find the McAfee interface confusing.

  • Trend is the only company that gives free tech support.

  • Norton and Trend AV/AS products have a controllable and effective firewall built-in.

  • Parental controls have been known to be so demanding on the horsepower of your computer that the network connection cannot startup.

  • Everyone’s situation is different.The answer to which tool is best for you and your computer right now has to do with a number of factors.

Brief history

It’s useful to understand some history. Back in the day, you used to have a firewall product and an antivirus/antispyware tool separate. This was actually very handy because if something did compromise one tool, it didn’t turn off all of your protection. However, there are some advantages to having security software that comes ready to rock and roll out of the box. Norton Antivirus/Antispyware and Trend Micro Antivirus/Antispyware don’t require any configuration out of the box. They don’t prompt you like tools that need to learn, so they are best for people who don’t know how to answer the prompts correctly. This also means you only have one piece of antivirus/antispyware/firewall to take care of. People who are still using AdAware and Spybot are delusional about their effectiveness.

ZoneAlarm used to be a good firewall product, but they started adding email plug-ins and a built-in antivirus tool. This was very bad because their integrated security suite product didn’t perform as good as the standalone firewall. Additionally, it liked to take over your email and make your computer crash. This is a good example of one tool trying to do everything and doing absolutely nothing well.

Why is this all important to understand?

The world changes. Not only do security risks and attack vectors change regularly, but the horsepower requirements change with each product. Additionally, as these software vendors change their products, they may add or remove features. The trending has been towards adding features. As you have already seen, in the case of ZoneAlarm, that addition of features ruined their product.

How do I stay on top of all this?

Frankly, I don’t think the typical computer user has any ability to keep up on all of this. Only people who deal with these issues on a variety of computers over a long period of time have any comparative perspective. Use your experts where appropriate.

One of the most successful strategies I can recommend is where you send an email to your tech support person annually at renewal time. Depending upon your situation, your tech person may simply reply telling you to go forth and renew your existing product. How much did that email cost you? Probably nothing. But if you make the wrong decision regarding what to do with your antivirus/antispyware tool, you may end up with a dead computer.

My sister recently called me telling me that she was just about to upgrade to Norton Internet Security because it was only $5 more than her existing subscription renewal. I stressed to her that was a bad idea on many fronts. For her, that software would have crippled her laptop. Yet Norton’s antivirus/antispyware tool has kept her computer safe.

Your number one role in all of this is to make sure that you involve your expert when needed.

Decision factors

Here are the primary decision factors for your antivirus/antispyware/antimalware solution.

  1. Support
    Who will support your computer? Do you have a regular tech? If you are going to self-support, you really need to use Trend or Norton so that you can call their tech support.

  2. Computer horsepower
    Ancient computers (5 years old or more) can’t run today’s antivirus/antispyware security tools. And a lot of computers can’t handle running internet security suites plus iTunes, and all the other junk people typically load on their computers. If your computer has any less than 768 MB of RAM, you better upgrade your RAM.

  3. Cost
    Don’t get sucked into thinking that the free tools are good enough. I describe later the one circumstance where a free tool is appropriate. You get what you pay for.

  4. What security tools do you already have installed?
    If what you have now is working, then simply renew it. Don’t worry about upgrading to the new software every year. Contact your tech person each year just to verify.

Which tool?

My first choice is Trend Antivirus/Antispyware. This tool has proven very effective and is #1 rated. Their support is very effective as well.

For computers that you don’t use very often and that you don’t feel you want to spend the $40/year to protect, it is best that you use Comodo Antivirus. This tool is free and works based off of whitelist technology. Detection is doomed, so whitelist technology is really where it’s at. I explain this more in next month’s article. Comodo also has a free firewall product. Note that you should NOT have multiple firewall products installed and activated simultaneously.

One of my client’s spends 5 months out of the year in Mexico. For her laptop in Mexico, it makes the most sense to use a non-expiring tool like Comodo. However, we have done training sessions so she knows how to program the software effectively. More about this next month.

Another good example is that spare computer that you use when your primary is down. Go ahead and use Comodo on that. Well I hope this clears it up for you. Be sure to read next month’s article on why detection is doomed.