Free antivirus you can trust

Can a free download really protect your PC? Yes, but you have to choose the right one.

Threatfire is designed to work side by side with most antivirus products, so if you just bought a new PC, installing Threatfire is a good addition to your setup routine.Malwarebytes' Antimalware

Malwarebytes' Antimalware is another supplemental free product that can help bolster your existing security software. The makers of Malwarebytes' Antimalware pitch it as a tool for detecting and removing brand-new "zero-day" malware, and it uses a number of different technologies to accomplish this task.

The software did perform decently compared with other freebies when it came to stopping new malware. In our real-world tests, Malwarebytes fully blocked 78.6% of samples—slightly better than average—and partially blocked an additional 14.3%. It's also reasonably fast: It had the lightest overall impact on system performance of any free antivirus product we tested.

Malwarebytes isn't something you'll want to use as your primary antivirus software, though, as it isn't great at stopping known malware: It detected a scant 57.1% of known malware samples collected from the past four months—far and away the worst result we saw from any of the freebies tested.

The software has a fairly no-frills interface, but it's straightforward. One clever feature is Chameleon, which lets the program run even when a particularly evil piece of malware attempts to block it.

Malwarebytes' makers don't see its product as a first line of antivirus de­­fense, and frankly, neither should you. But it's something to consider adding to your security toolbox.

Hands On With Ad-Aware 10

Ad-Aware recently released version 10 of its free antimalware software. The program came in too late for our full suite of testing, but we had a look at its slick new user interface.

The work Lavasoft put into the UI shows right from the installation phase. Ad-Aware uses its own custom installer, which downloads the most recent definitions file as part of the installation process, so you don't have to update Ad-Aware immediately after installing it. That's slick, but what isn't is that you still have to restart your system before Ad-Aware can start working.

As part of the installation process, Ad-Aware suggests installing its browser toolbar, and switching your default homepage and search engine to Blekko. These are enabled by default, but you can opt out of them if you wish.

The home screen feels like the dashboard of a powerful application, but it will not confuse even a novice user. The Scan Now button can't be missed, nor can the current system status. More technically inclined users will easily be able to view scan reports, quarantined files, protection settings, and the status of definition updates.

It is very easy to switch features on and off, although there is no real reason to toggle protection off. The only toggle button I see users routinely using is the one for Gaming Mode, newly available in the free version. This is a silent mode in which Ad-Aware doesn't show pop-ups. Another significant new feature in the free version is real-time protection, or scans of your computer as you work.

All in all, Ad-Aware 10 is a promising product, and it feels polished and modern. As for its effectiveness, only lab testing can render a verdict.

(Ad-Aware 10 reviewed by Erez Zukerman)

This story, "Free antivirus you can trust" was originally published by PCWorld.

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