Protecting Your Computer: The Best Free Antivirus Software

Matt Stauffer

Every once and a while a new virus will go running amok and we’ll all start paying a lot closer attention to our computer protection. I submit to you, dear readers, that now is the time to make sure you’re prepared. Thankfully, the best antivirus software is free and unintrusive–so you can set it and forget it, knowing you’re protected.

Despite a history of being unhacked, Macs are not, in fact, unhackable. They are more difficult to write viruses for because they’re based on a much more stable backend (UNIX), but there’s no computer in existence which isn’t susceptible to viruses. So, Mac users: as you grow in number, the potential for a large-scale virus concern grows exponentially.

So, without further ado, the best free* antivirus software.

Mac

We can start with Mac because there are so few options.

  • ClamXav: A lightweight virus scanner that uses the ClamAV open source antivirus engine, ClamXav is light, simple, and has been around for a while. It has less of the comfort level of working with a big, well-designed app that clearly has the backing of a big company–but it’s got a good userbase and a strong track record.
  • Sophos: I’ve never used it, but CNET is a fan. Sophos is a larger security company which just happens to have a free Mac offering, so if you’d prefer the security of a larger organization, Sophos is the way to go.
  • iAntiVirus: It’s the most popular free Mac antivirus, but it comes with quite a few complaints about being a resource-hog. Try it if you like, but be watchful for it hogging your CPU and memory.
  • NOTE: Despite what you might think, Avast! Mac is not free like its Windows counterpart. For more information on for-pay antivirus protection on the mac, see the chart accompanying this article.

Windows

  • Microsoft Security Essentials: If you listen to Lifehacker (which I do), the search for quality (and free) antivirus software is finally over: Microsoft has released a powerful, effective, and free antivirus software that’s the best of the bunch.
  • AVG: AVG is an excellent, free antivirus solution, and a great option if you would rather stay away from Microsoft for virus protection (or if your computer is old enough to not run Security Essentials.)
  • Avast: Avast is an excellent, free antivirus solution, and a great option if you would rather stay away from Microsoft for virus protection (or if your computer is old enough to not run Security Essentials.) (There aren’t a lot of distinguishing factors between AVG and Avast.)

Finally, if you’re using Linux or any other alternate OSes and you need my help finding antivirus software, you should probably go uninstall your OS and install Mac OS. Just saying.

Do you have any experience with these products, or any tips to share? Let us know in the comments.

*These free products are all free for home use, but some are not free for business use. Keep this under consideration if you’re installing them for primary use on your ministry’s computers.

By Matt Stauffer | Posted: May 23, 2011
Category: Software & Computers | Tags: , | Permalink | Post a comment | Trackback URL.

2 Comments

  1. May 26, 2011, 4:50 am | Permalink

    As a former staff and current hacker, I would follow-up this good post with another blog post: what to do if you are already infected. This might include how to use the AVG bootable livecd as well as Microsoft Spyware removal tool (mrt.exe). More advanced users might also boot from a Linux livecd, download the latest Linux AV tools, and run a scan on the hard disk.

    Reply
    • May 30, 2011, 11:17 am | Permalink

      I agree Mike, sometimes steps like that are necessary. However my job is supporting staff remotely, and for most malware, all I need to do is talk them into safemode with networking. Then if it isn’t already installed, download Malwarebytes, rename it to svchost.com and install it. Then once installed, rename mbam.exe to svchost.com, and let it scan for and remove the malware. After, reboot, run superantispyware, and Microsoft Security Essentials, and check for files/registry keys that virus is known for leaving behind (there usually aren’t any at this point). change svchost.com back to mbam.exe and the user is usually good to go. This is for Windows systems, haven’t had to deal with any of the OS X malware yet but I know it is out there.

      Reply

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