Which free and paid antivirus products are best for you?
Avast Free Antivirus comes out tops among free products thanks to its all-around strong malware-detection scores, good design, and low system drag. Avira AntiVir Personal takes second place: It put up solid malware-detection scores, but its interface is kludgy.
Norton Antivirus leads the paid-software pack owing to its excellent malware detection, very good interface design, and comprehensive feature set that includes file-reputation analysis, a cloud-based scanner (which can help identify new malware more quickly), and system performance analysis tools. BitDefender Antivirus Pro 2011 is a close second thanks to strong malware detection; but slow scan speeds and some interface issues prevented it from taking first.
Top Free Antivirus: Avast
Avast Free Antivirus couples good all-around malware detection with a speedy, well-designed package. We liked its easy installation process, smooth interface design, and minimal impact on system performance.
In traditional signature-based malware tests, Avast Free Antivirus detected 94.8% of samples, which is neither particularly good nor bad. It also did a decent, though not outstanding, job at detecting malware in our real-world malware detection tests: It completely blocked 76% of attacks (which is right about average), and partially blocked 4% of attacks.
But on the plus side, Avast Free Antivirus didn't falsely identify a single "safe" file as a piece of malware, the only free product we looked at that achieved this. Avast Free Antivirus also did a good job at disinfecting a PC; it removed all active components of malware infections 80% of the time, which set the pace among the free products we looked at.
Scan speeds are also very good. Its on-demand scan speed of 90 seconds was a close second to Avira AntiVir Personal, which completed the test in 87 seconds. And Avast Free Antivirus completed the on-access scan speed tests in 3 minutes, 40 seconds, tops among the products we tested.
Top Paid Antivirus: Norton Antivirus 2011