2009 Antivirus Software Home Buyers Guide

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By: Charles P. Jefferies

We have reviewed a half-dozen antivirus solutions in the last month and all have passed our tests. Needless to say, this has left many buyers in a dilemma over which one to buy. Read on to see our recommendations.


The antivirus solutions will be objectively and subjectively rated over four categories:

  • Protection
  • Ease of use
  • Performance
  • Extra features

Please see the intro for each section to see on what points the software was evaluated.


The following antivirus products are participating in this review:

Please see each review for a full evaluation.


All of the reviewed antivirus solutions successfully detected our test virus files. Some solutions were more pro-active than others, detecting the viruses during download rather than after. Who was the best?

  • First place: Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2009

Kaspersky Antivirus blocked warning

Kaspersky was the most pro-active of all the antivirus solutions we tested; it detected the virus files before the file transfer even started and prevented us from downloading them. This is more than can be said from other solutions; some detected files during download, but only Kaspersky detected every single one of them right away. After detecting the downloads, Kaspersky immediately blocked the files and stopped the download from starting.

  • Second place: ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4

ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4 comes very close to Kaspersky; it is one of the very best solutions we tested in terms of virus detection. It detected most of the virus files before the download; one or two slipped through but were detected immediately upon download and deleted.

  • Honorable mention: Norton AntiVirus 2009


Computer users of all skill levels do not like to work with confusing software. Fortunately, all of the antivirus solutions we tested were reasonably well designed; we found some achieved a level of simplicity and “set it and forget it” functionality better than the others. The solutions in this section will be evaluated by the visual appearance of their program interfaces and ease of navigation.

  • First Place: ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4

ESET NOD32 Antivirus interface

NOD32 had by far the most simplistic interface of all the solutions. The program interface is clean, streamlined, and easy to navigate, with clearly defined links throughout. To top it off, NOD32 does it without looking boring; the right amount of visual enhancements lead to a sleek, futuristic look.

  • Second Place: Norton AntiVirus 2009

Norton AntiVirus has a more visually enhanced interface than NOD32 which makes it look more complicated than it actually is. Nonetheless, the interface is still quite simple and easy to navigate.

  • Honorable mention: Trend Micro Antivirus+Antispyware


Kaspersky Antivirus scanning progress

All of the antivirus solutions did remarkably well in preserving system resources and performance, evidenced by the system benchmarks we ran. The performance rankings will come down to system scan times; the times below represent how long it took the antivirus software to scan our test system’s hard drive, filled with 37 GB of data.

Solution Time
Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2009 15 min 40 sec
ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4 19 min 4 sec
Norton AntiVirus 2009 25 min 0 sec
Trend Micro Antivirus+Antispyware 29 min 0 sec
McAfee Total Protection 2009 34 min 0 sec
AVG Anti-Virus Free 40 min 10 sec

The results are self-explanatory, with Kaspersky and NOD32 completely dominating the competition. All solutions did not affect actual system performance by more than a few percent and none of them noticeably changed system responsiveness.


The antivirus solutions reviewed here are entry-level packages designed to provide basic protection for home users. In light of this, not many extra features are to be found at this level, but some solutions included more than others.

  • First place: Norton AntiVirus 2009

Norton Security extra features

Norton included more useful utilities than any other. Its most notable features are Silent Mode, the network security map, and the Insight scanning technology. Silent Mode stops alerts and background activities for a specified amount of time; the network security map is useful for those with home networks, as it provides info on not only your connection but also the security status of other computers in your network; lastly, the Insight scanning technology helps to improve scan times down to mere minutes by only scanning the at-risk files. One other convenience feature is the Norton sidebar gadget, which shows security status.

  • Second place: ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4

NOD32 makes second place thanks to one feature: its ability to create a system rescue CD. This option allows users to create a CD/DVD that will assist them in repairing an infected computer.

  • Honorable mention: McAfee Total Protection 2009


All of the solutions will be given a fair shot of winning in the four evaluation categories. Whose antivirus reigns supreme?

  1. First place: Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2009
  2. Second place (tie): ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4 & Norton AntiVirus 2009
  3. Honorable mention: McAfee Total Protection 2009

Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2009 takes first place, but by ever so slight a margin over ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4 and Norton AntiVirus 2009. I had such a difficult time deciding between ESET and Norton for second place that I decided to give both of them the honor. Kaspersky edged into first place because it was the most pro-active of all the solutions; NOD32 and Norton follow closely. While all of the solutions we tested get our recommendation, Kaspersky, NOD32, and Norton on the whole edge ahead of the competition in pro-active security, ease of use, performance, and extra functionality.




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