Anti-virus (AV) software is a must for any Windows PC, considering the ever expanding population of pesky and even potentially devastating malware out there. In this article, NotebookReview (NBR) simplifies the task of of choosing an AV security solution by shining a spotlight on the top five, based on rankings by our expert review team.
Above and beyond respective capabilities for fending off malware, though, the third-party software packages tend to offer extra PC software utilities that you won't find in Windows.
Here are the top five AV software solutions, in order of their reviewer ratings on a scale of 1 to 10. We've averaged the scores for factors that include performance; usability; design; features; software and support; upgrade capabilities; and price/value rating.
For expanded views of the screenshots at right, please click on the images.
Now released in a 2013 edition, Symantec's Norton AntiVirus continues to be one of the most polished security software products for home users. It's also among the most proactive at detecting malware before the bugs even get a chance to download on to a PC.
The user interface (UI) in Norton AV 2013 is the sleekest yet, and the AV package has almost zero impact on system performance.
The latest edition also brings an improved updates system, along with cloud-enabled remote management of security settings on your Norton-equipped devices.
Rating Average: 8.7
Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2013 came close to tying Norton for the top spot in our reviewer rankings. Once again, Kaspersky is easy to recommend due to its friendly user interface, high level of protection, and speedy scan times.
In keeping with the advent of Windows 8, Kaspersky AV 2013 sports a new UI which is supremely touch-friendly and easy to navigate.
The package also rolls in extra tools that include a rescue disc creator, Windows troubleshooting assistant, privacy cleaner, and browser vulnerability scanner.
Rating Average: 8.3
#3: McAfee AntiVirus Plus
For example, the top-left tile displays the "Virus and Spyware Protection" status. You can click on any tile to get more options.
Although not quite as proactive as Norton and Kaspersky, McAfee's performance impact is low and its scan times are relatively quick.
Meanwhile, McAfee stands out from the crowd by including a two-way firewall along with extra tools such as a vulnerability scanner and file shredder. The shredder is meant to make sure that deleted files cannot be recovered.
Rating Average: 7.4
Scan times were super fast, and performance impact was minimal.
VIPRE might not offer a futuristic user interface, but the software does its job quite well.
The Tools section offers useful utilities such as a history cleaner which lets you remove not just Internet history but history stored in other programs, including Adobe Reader.
Rating Average: 6.9
If you're a Windows 8 user, you probably know that Windows 8 comes with a new version of Defender. Unlike previous editions, the Defender in Windows 8 protects against not just spyware but viruses, too.
Unlike the other antivirus solutions on this list -- which protect Windows 8, 7, Vista and XP -- the Defender in Windows 8 safeguards Windows 8 only.
Defender doesn't update as frequently as paid AV packages, and it isn't as proactive. Still, it provides far more security than no antivirus and it performed pretty well under NBR's testing.
Moreover, Defender is free! (Keep in mind here, however, that third-party AV software vendors typically offer free trial downloads of their products.)
Defender runs by default in Windows 8 unless another security suite is installed, in which case it disables itself.
Rating Average: 5.3
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