While lacking features, free versions of antivirus software are available from leading antivirus software distributors.
Most companies and individuals today are looking for ways to save money, and if they are spending big bucks on expensive antivirus software licenses, they may wish to consider the free versions of software they currently are paying for. These editions can be easily downloaded from a number of antivirus companies and often provide enough protection for certain classes of users. Following is a list of a number of the leading providers of free antivirus software.
Panda Security (formerly Panda Software) offers a free cloud antivirus solution available for download. With this particular antivirus, you'll get protection within the cloud--scanning, detection, and removal of malware, security status checking, and vulnerability checks. The company prides this antivirus on being "install and forget" as you can go about your daily Internet activities without noticing the software effectively working.
One of the main features of Panda Cloud Antivirus is its real-time use of Panda Collective Intelligence, which automates the malware protection cycle in the cloud by collecting new samples and categorizing disinfection routines for each selection--all within about six minutes. With Panda, there is no limit to the size of a signature database because the online Collective Intelligence is capable of holding an unlimited number of detections without bogging down the user's PC memory.
The unique difference with Panda is the capability to protect against new strains of malware by correlating its activity from the first time it's seen in one of the nodes. The community becomes the lab, and with more users on Panda Cloud Antivirus, more protection is offered.
You can download Panda Cloud Antivirus here.
AVG Free is a favorite in antivirus protection today, providing real-time protection against viruses and spyware and offering Web filtering and a convenient browser toolbar. The basic protection provided by AVG Free will only get you so far because AVG 8.5 Free does not include protection against identity theft, hacker attacks, infected downloads, and spam. A new feature to the Free product, however, is Active-Safe-Surf, which checks the Web page behind every link for hidden threats before the user clicks on the link. This feature is now in addition to the product's existing antivirus, anti-spyware, instant-message security, and safe-searching capabilities. A new product, AVG Identity Protection, has been combined with the company's Internet security suite. By purchasing the upgraded Internet security package, users can get all of the above as well as protection from rootkits and even a firewall. Although AVG Free may not have the best protection out there, it still is among one of the best values.
Download AVG 8.5 Free here.
ALWIL's avast! 4 Home Edition anti-virus package kicks it up a notch, offering Web filtering and protection against spyware, P2P inspections, real-time malware scanning, and rootkits. It is fairly uncommon to have a free antivirus software product protect against rootkits, a software program that is designed to conceal a compromised system. Rootkits can be used to replace vital system executables, which may then be used to hide processes and files installed by the attacker. The avast! 4 Home Edition is available in more than 30 languages and offers audible alerts when threats are detected. These are among its features:
- Standard shield
- IM shield
- P2P shield
- Email scanning
- Script blocker
- Network shield
- Anti-spyware and rootkit capabilities
- Virus recovery features
- Boot-time scans
- Virus quarantine
The avast! 4 Home Edition can be downloaded and used for 60 days, at which point users need to register to obtain a license key. For full protection, avast! recommends downloading its Professional Edition, available at its Web site along with the avast! 4 Home Edition. There are enterprise versions of avast! as well as ones for UNIX and Linux and even for PDAs.
The free version of BitDefender provides scanning and removal of most known viruses, scheduled system scanning, quarantining of suspect files, and activity reporting. BitDefender Free Edition uses the same ICSA Labs-certified scanning engines found in other BitDefender products and allows users to enjoy basic virus protection at no cost. BitDefender notes on its Web site that for users frequently connected to the Internet, a more complex anti-virus solution is recommended.
One of the handy features of BitDefender Free Edition is scheduled scanning, which lets users plan for full system/drive scans during off hours. BitDefender Free is also capable of removing all viruses in the wild and can create a report when scanning so users may review statistics of their system.
Requirements for BitDefender Free Edition include Windows XP or later, an 800 MHz processor, and 170 MB of disk space.
Learn more about BitDefender Free Edition here.
Avira's free antivirus software provides rudimentary protection against viruses and worms and other Internet-borne threats. Avira AntiVir Personal is free of charge and is capable of scanning disks for malware. It runs as a background process, checking each opened and closed file. Avira AntiVir Personal also performs Internet malware signature updates.
As a free service, Avira offers a bootable rescue CD to all users, regardless of whether they have any Avira products installed (free or not) and irrespective of the machine's operating system. This CD contains its own bootable Linux-based operating system as well as the AntiVir program and its latest virus database. If a computer cannot be booted, the CD may be used to boot the machine so as to run the AntiVir program, which then can scan for and remove detectable viruses and other malware, thereby possibly restoring normal boot and operation.
Avira offers other free tools as well:
- Avira AntiVir Removal Tool
- Avira AntiRootkit Tool
- Avira Boot Sector Repair Tool
- Avira UnErase Personal
- Avira NTFS4DOS Personal
- Avira AntiVir Rescue System
To download Avira AntiVir Personal or AntiVir Professional, click here.
ClamWin is an open-source antivirus application developed and supported by a community of users and developers. The application is designed for all versions of Windows through Vista. ClamWin is one of the few products that comes with open-source code. It has all the basic features a user needs to remain virus-free, including a scanning scheduler and automatic downloads of its regularly updated virus database. One nifty feature of ClamWin is it can be a Microsoft Outlook add-in that automatically removes virus-infected attachments. ClamWin does not scan files automatically, however, when they are opened. In other words, if you are suspicious about a file, you must manually scan it. Since it does not offer fully automatic virus protection, it does not integrate with Windows XP SP2 Security Center. The ClamWin team is working on the on-access scanning component, which is expected in the near future. If you use the MS Outlook email client, then all emails are scanned automatically when you open them.
PC Tools AntiVirus Free Edition 6 is used by millions of users to scan and remove malware from their PCs. It features what the company calls IntelliGuard technology, which provides real-time protection and comprehensive system scanning to ensure your system remains safe and free from any of the known current viruses. Its separate File Guard and Email Guard look after each of your separate system resources. The software protects your PC while you are working or surfing the 'net. It detects, quarantines, disinfects, and destroys viruses, Trojans, and worms. The software automatically checks for virus pattern updates. There are two free editions. One requires registration (but no fee) and offers high-speed updates, dedicated 24x7 support, and phone support. The unregistered version doesn't offer support or fast updates. The software doesn't offer spyware protection or a firewall, however, and the free editions are somewhat slower than the paid version, which offers better support and more granular configuration.
For defense against spyware, PC Tools offers a free unlimited trial version of Spyware Doctor, an award-winning anti-spyware and identity theft solution. Spyware Doctor protects against spyware, adware, spyware Trojans, keyloggers, identity theft, hijackers, tracking threats, rogue anti-spyware, unwanted software, phishing, pop-ups, and bad Web sites. It offers optional plug-ins that include Site Guard, Email Guard, and Behavior Guard. While a free trial of Spyware Doctor offers unlimited real-time protection against spyware, it does not remove threats detected during on-demand scans. However, Google Pack now includes a Starter Edition of Spyware Doctor that offers full scan and removal of threats along with basic real-time protection.
FreeScan from McAfee is a service that uses the highly regarded McAfee engine to check for viruses on your computer while logged into the company's Web site. It gives advice about how to get rid of any viruses it may find, but it doesn't claim it will get rid of the viruses for you. It may be easier just to buy the full McAfee version of its Total Protection product and zap the little buggers--or at least quarantine them.
HouseCall from Trend Micro is a free online scanning service that not only detects most new and existing viruses and other forms of malware but also removes or quarantines them at the same time. HouseCall performs additional security checks to identify and fix vulnerabilities to prevent reinfection.
For those who believe your operating system should provide protection against malware for free, there is Microsoft Security Essentials, coming this fall. This is the successor to Windows Defender, and the current beta version is getting good early reviews. The anti-malware solution employs real-time protection to address potential threats before they become a problem.
Microsoft Security Essentials has what Microsoft calls Dynamic Signature Service, which allows the software to validate suspicious files against new malware in near real time by querying the Dynamic Signature Service. Suspicious actions from unknown sources trigger requests for updates from the Dynamic Signature Service.
Live kernel-behavior monitoring is one of the techniques Security Essentials uses to protect against rootkits and other pernicious threats. There is also support for direct file system parsing to help identify malicious programs hidden from the file system. Other advanced technology removes live advanced rootkits.
Users can download a limited public beta for XP, Vista, and Windows 7 from the Microsoft Web site.
Major fee-based antivirus service providers typically have a free 30-day trial period. These include Norton, McAfee, AVG, CyberDefender, Shield Deluxe, BitDefender, and Trend Micro.
When one considers the increased threat level of malware on the Internet these days and the sophistication of cyber thieves, who are operating at a level of organized crime rings, one can't be over-protected from viruses and malware. Free versions of the software mentioned above can be employed to effectively protect large numbers of PCs at a very low cost. Attention to antivirus software configuration details and proper behavior on the part of users to avoid porn sites and other known sources of malware can go a long way toward helping to save a company money on expensive antivirus software during this challenging economic period.