Five Best Desktop Antivirus Applications

Five Best Desktop Antivirus Applications


Five Best Desktop Antivirus Applications

Good browsing hygiene and "common sense" only get you so far on the internet. A good antivirus utility is worth keeping in your pocket in case either of those two things fail you (as they have been known to in the past) or someone less tech-savvy asks you for a good tool. This week we're looking at five of the best antivirus tools, based on your nominations.

We immediately nixed some contenders we knew would come up, namely "nothing," "OS X/Linux," and "Microsoft Security Essentials," for a few reasons: First, "nothing" and "OS X/Linux" don't really help anyone and only serve to stoke a debate that no one will—or is interested in trying to—resolve.


Avast! Free Antivirus


Avast! Free Antivirus is our current pick as the best antivirus for Windows, but it remains to be seen whether it'll be your pick as well. It's come a long way in a few short updates, with the 2014 version offering a streamlined, easy to navigate interface and a plethora of on-access scanning and protection tools (some of which you may not want, so take care when installing). It's still one of the top picks available, according to AV Comparitives and AV-Test, and performs well in antivirus tests. Avast offers an on-access antivirus scanner that examines files downloaded, pages you visit, emails you receive, and any files downloaded, and also features an on-demand scanner you can run at any time. It updates quietly in the background without fuss, and has a "silent" mode where you can disable any and all notifications and warnings to keep performance slim and trim. The app itself is relatively resource light—you may not even notice it's there. Best of all, it's completely free.

In the nominations round, many of you praised Avast for its performance and light use of system resources, and others pointed out that you'd been Avast users for a long time and were pleased to see its updates. Others highlighted specific features, like Avast's screensaver scan, where the application only kicks in when you're away from the computer or the system is idle. A few of you even highlighted the fact that Avast is cross-platform, and available for multiple operating systems. It's not perfect by any means, but it's a great tool. 

ESET NOD32 Antivirus


ESET's NOD32 Antivirus suite has been popular for years, and has earned a reputation for offering complete on-access and on-demand protection while being extremely lightweight when it comes to system resources. If you thought you'd have to balance performance with protection, NOD32 has consistently proven you don't. The most recent version of NOD32 includes more than just antivirus protection however—you also get anti-malware scanning, phishing protection, anti-spyware protection, and even special tools to make sure you don't fall for scams and hacks on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. AV Comparatives still loves it, and while it's not free (it'll starts at $40/yr), it does offer premium protection to match its price tag. If you're looking for even more protection, it's worth stepping up to the pricier-but-more-robust ESET Smart Security, which earned its own praise in the nominations round. It also offers anti-theft protection for your devices, advanced tools and scanning options, multi-device management tools, a silent "gaming mode" that's somehow lighter on resources, parental controls, and more. It'll set you back $60/yr.

The nomination threads for both products were full of praise, with almost everyone highlighting how well both tools performed both in virus detection and removal tasks as well as in everyday use when you didn't want to notice it. Frankly—that is the test of a great antivirus tool: When you're doing nothing, you don't want to notice it running, and ESET's tools both provide that kind of resource-light computing experience. Those of you who nominated NOD32 highlighted its fire-and-forget features that don't need a lot of tinkering, but those of you who highlighted ESET Smart Security highlighted its advanced tools and options that give you incredible control over the tool. 

BitDefender Antivirus


BitDefender prides itself on offering a one-click antivirus and security tool for people who both need to be able to get their hands dirty when they want to as well as people who just need a simple tool that runs and keeps them protected from threats without a ton of tweaking. Whether you go for the paid or the free version, BitDefender's minimal interface and lightweight install earned the praise of the folks at AV Comparatives. BitDefender's Internet Security ($80) suite comes with a firewall, parental controls, and other useful tools to keep your system—and presumably all of its users—safe. If you're looking for something lighter to keep your machine safe without all the bells and whistles, BitDefender Free won't cost you a cent, and gets the job done. In fact, if you were a fan of MSE's simple install and silent protection, BitDefender Free is very close to that experience without a ton of options, tweaks, or toggles. Just simple security for your PC.

Those of you who praised BitDefender in the nominations thread praised the completeness of the Internet Security suite, but particularly highlighted the free version and its set-it-and-forget-it protection. It's simple—as in some advanced users who like features like silent mode or additional on-demand malware protection may find it lacking, but for those people who just want to make sure nothing gets past their eyes without being properly inspected, it's a simple option that you download, install, turn on, and forget about. It's even cross-platform. 

Kaspersky Antivirus


Kaspersky Antivirus is a bit of a controversial entry. It earns extremely high praise in some quarters, and revulsion in others. For their part, AV Comparatives gave it their product of the year award, which counts for a lot in our book. Kaspersky boasts rapid updates, strong heuristics, and the ability to quickly adapt to new threats without needing entire product updates to keep you protected. It's a fully-featured antivirus tool that offers both on-access and on-demand scanning of files, emails, downloads, and executed applications. Kaspersky promises that their smaller, more regular updates will help protect your PC from known threats, but also keep you safe from OS exploits and holes in software you may not have been able to update or patch yet. The tool also comes with a resource-light "gaming mode," that will let you play in peace, anti-phishing protection, and more. It's a premium product, and starts at $40/yr.

Kaspersky's nominations thread was full of the back-and-forth we mentioned earlier. Some of you praised it for being complete and well-rounded, and taking a proactive approach to internet security. Others noted that it's one of the more heavy products in the roundup and felt bloated and slow on your computer. Unlike many of the other contenders, Kaspersky makes no lofty claims about its resource utilization or lightweight install. However, it does offer complete protection from threats, and depending on what you use your PC for, that may be more important. 



Avira is another tool that ranked among the top of AV Comparatives' list of great antivirus tools as well as AV-Test's rankings, and offers a suite of features beyond traditional on-access and on-demand scanning, completely for free. It also offers anti-malware protection, anti-spyware protection, and browser protection. It's not brimming with features, but the important ones are there, and they perform well. Avira also prides itself on its cloud-based scanning, meaning instead of waiting for updates to the application, the program can upload suspicious files to Avira for scanning against more recent threats.

Avira earned some solid praise in the nominations thread, with a few people noting they've used it for ages (back when it was called Avira AntiVir) without issue, and the general note being that if you want something a bit more complicated than BitDefender but don't care for Avast! for some reason, this is a great bet. Like many others on the list, it's also cross-platform, and if you upgrade to the paid version, you get even more features.

Title image made using Maksim Kabakou (Shutterstock).

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