What Security Software do you recommend?

I have recommendations for specific security software and techniques in various places on the site. Here's a short single page summary.

What security software should I use? How about a firewall? And what about spyware? Should I use one of the all-in-one packages that claim to do everything? Is there anything else I need?
October 10, 2013 For those wondering about recent news reports, my recommendation stands. Please see: Do I Need to Stop Using Microsoft Security Essentials

As you might imagine, I get questions like this all the time. As a result, I do have recommendations for security software and techniques to stay safe in various articles all over Ask Leo!.

To make your life a little easier, here’s a short version that sums it all up.

The short-short version

Most home and small business users who don’t want to think about it too much should simply:

  • Get a router even if you have only one computer; it will be your firewall.
  • Install the free Microsoft Security Essentials as your anti-virus, anti-spyware and malware scanner. (If you’re running Windows 8 you already have it, though it’s called Windows Defender.)
  • Turn on Windows Automatic Update.
  • Turn on the Windows Firewall when you travel.

That’s it.

Good basic protection in four steps with only one download.

Basic security software: Microsoft Security Essentials

Microsoft Security Essentials

In the past, I’ve strongly recommended against all-in-one solutions.

By all-in-one, I mean any single program, package, or “security suite” that claims to do everything: firewall, anti-spyware, anti-virus, and often much more all in a single package. What I hear from readers is that these types of suites often have problems or actually cause more problems than other alternatives.

Windows 8?

If you’re running Windows 8 you already have Microsoft Security Essentials … it’s just called Windows Defender. You’ll find it in Control Panel.

That strong recommendation against continues – I’ve not changed my mind.

With one exception: Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE).

In a sense, it’s not really an all-in-one solution like the others. It has both anti-virus and anti-spyware, but that’s it. It’s not trying to shovel in all sorts of other features that you don’t need and that often only serve to destabilize your computer. MSE isn’t trying to compete against other products with long feature lists – and as a result, it wins.

Not long ago, MSE came under fire by rating lower than some other security packages in a test published online. That happens with almost every anti-malware package.  It’s actually difficult to find consistent test results that point to any single, clear winner. In the case of this most recent test, I believe that the user actually had to explicitly ignore warnings presented by MSE and explicitly allow malicious software to be run.

My recommendation stands. MSE remains a solid and free anti-virus and anti-spyware package with minimal system impact that should be appropriate for almost anyone.

Other good alternatives

On the other hand, Microsoft Security Essentials might not be the right solution for everyone. No single product is.

Even with a good, solid foundation like MSE, you may also find yourself needing additional tools at times. The unfortunate but very practical reality is that no single tool or combination of tools can find all malware all the time. As a result, you may sometimes need to bring in alternatives to help out.


I throw Malwarebytes Anti-malware into a classification by itself. It’s not really an anti-virus tool per se. In their forums, you’ll often see the support staff recommending anti-virus tools to install alongside Malwarebytes. But I can’t really call it an anti-spyware tool either.

What’s important is that it continues to have a very good track record of removing troublesome malware that other packages sometimes miss.

Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware comes in two versions: free and pay. The free version is a fully functional, stand-alone manual scanner. I often recommend it as an additional tool when removing malware or when malware is suspect.  The paid version adds real-time scanning and scheduled scanning and updates.


AVG Free and Avira Free are two free solutions that I’ve come to recommend. I’ve run both at various times and on various computers in recent years.

I have two concerns with both:

  1. They both try really, really hard to up-sell you to the paid versions. Be persistent, be careful, and make sure you get the free version – it’s only the free version that I’m recommending here.
  2. They often include additional features, like link scanners, toolbars, search engine overrides, and more that are either unrelated to their function, or in my opinion simply not needed. Be careful to select only the features and functionality that you need.


Spybot Search and Destroy is one of the longest running and highly regarded anti-spyware tools out there. I used it for many years, and wouldn’t hesitate to install and use it again.

Also one of the “old guard” is Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware. It’s had some issues in years past, but as I understand it, it’s a solid alternative once again. My only concern with Ad-Aware is that being a free version based on a commercial product, it does seem to be starting down the road of perhaps trying to do too much.

Locked LaptopFirewall

For home and business use, I recommend the use of any good NAT router as a firewall. They don’t have to be expensive and are one of the simplest approaches to keeping your computer safe from network-based threats. If all the computers on the local network side of the router can be trusted, then there’s no need for an additional software firewall.

When traveling, I recommend simply turning on the built-in Windows Firewall. There’s often no harm in leaving it on at home, but it can occasionally get in the way of some local machine-to-machine activities like sharing files and folders.

I understand that some people feel strongly that an additional software firewall is still called for in certain circumstances. In my opinion, those circumstances are infrequent. I do not have a specific product to recommend, as all of the current software firewalls seem to cause issues, often serious, from time to time.

Offline scanner

If your machine becomes infected with malware of some sort there’s a good chance that you’ll not be able to actually download anything. That means you won’t be able to download the latest updated for your anti-malware tools, or perhaps be able to run them at all. When that happens it calls for an 0ff-line malware scanner.

An offline scanner is simply a complete anti-virus and anti-spyware scanning tool that you download and burn to CD or DVD on another computer.

You then boot the infected machine from the media you burned and run the scanner. That way, the infected Windows doesn’t run and the scanner can check, change, or repair more than the a normal scanner could.

I recommend Windows Defender Offline for this purpose. Unfortunately, it’s not something you download and keep ready to use. In order to make sure you’re running the most recent update of the tool and its database of malware, it’s important to download it when you need it.

What else?

I strongly recommend you back up, regularly. In fact, I can’t stress this enough. 99% of the disasters I hear about could be completely avoided simply by having up-to-date backups. Macrium Reflect is the backup software I currently use and recommend.

Keep your computer up-to-date. That means turning on Windows Update or making sure to visit the Windows Update website religiously. The vast majority of computer infections we hear about are due to the operating system simply not being kept up-to-date with the latest available patches.

And finally, Internet Safety: 8 Steps to Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet has even more tips for keeping your computer safe.

This is an update to an article originally posted : September 30, 2008.


  1. Paul Masters

    As a long-time reader, computer user, and computer-hygiene advocate, my recommendations are quite similar: I use AVG Free on my more robust machines and Avast on the modest ones; each are very good. The latest version of AVG demands more in system resources than Avast does, so install AVG in machines with at least 1 GB of memory and a relatively fast CPU. Avast gets by on less. I prefer AVG, though, because of its user interface.

    Anti-spyware, I can’t vouch for Defender but have had good success with Spybot S&D. It’s been around long enough to have the bugs worked out of it.

    I also use Ad-Aware 2007 for another layer of protection.

  2. Ray

    – Anti-Virus

    AVG is the best free anti-virus. I used NOD32 because it’s extremely lightweight and their tech support is second to none.

    – Anti-Spyware

    I used Defender and the one time I got a infected it didn’t stop it. I think for most people, the decision to get an anti-spyware tool or not is based on how well they can put up with the annoyances.

    – Firewall


    – Backup

    Drive Snapshot and BartPE for system recovery. Any compression utility (I use 7-zip) for data backup. The bugs in Acronis TrueImage just aren’t worth it.

    – Keeping your OS and Applications Up-To-Date


    – For those that regularly surf the net:

    Use OpenDNS for your DNS servers.
    Use any browser other than IE
    Use PeerGuardian (It’s always fun to watch who’s trying to contact your computer and viceversa.)

  3. rakesh

    I am using AVG free for last 4 years and never had any problem with it….though i must say latest AVG 8 is slightly more resource hogging n complex….

    As for spyware…..spybot search & destroy,ADAWARE,spyware blaster….all fine and wonderful packages….& hizack this in case everything fails….

    ….FIREWALL…windows firewall & ZONE ALARM….

    & lastly i want to add i am a fan of C-CLEANER as well…..

        • John

          I was surprised to hear you use a MAC….and happy to hear that news because I have a non-PC question: My kids bought me an iMAC for my birthday….I’ve been a PC guy for 35 years and wonder what security provisions I need to add to the MAC….if any……

          • I’m definitely not a Mac expert, which is why I don’t talk about it a lot. Right now I keep the system up to date, and make sure I’m behind a firewall. I have no added security software. Oh, and I try very very hard to use common sense when dealing with the internet. :-)

    • Norbert Gostischa

      Once you start your Mac, protect it with avast! Antivirus (Free) to keep it safe. :)
      Even you Mac can get infected.

    • bill

      “get a Mac” is what Apple would have you believe is the answer to viruses, and has advertised that you cannot get them if you run a Mac.

      However it is a lie that Macs are any less prone to viruses. There are many viruses out there that run on Macs and they depend on people believing that lie.

      The main reason that most people with Macs don’t get viruses is that (relatively speaking) Macs are rare. The bad guys really don’t think about attacking Macs as much because they don’t have as many potential victims.

      Back when Macs were the big machines in academia and schools had rooms full of them (not networked) for people to use, they were the big virus targets with floppy disk transfer being the method.

    • IT Security

      Gina, even though it’s been 7 years since your silly comment, SURELY you are joking, thinking that iOS is impervious to malware.
      I use ALL OS’s and by far, the most secure OS for a standalone system is Linux based. If you haven’t already done so, check out a few.
      Isn’t it funny OR odd to you that Macs are now able to run Windows programs? It’s why Macs are still relevant in most business situations.
      This doesn’t apply to small businesses without any on-site IT needed since there are so few computers in use.
      Apple saved themselves from falling more into the iOS only ecosystem, which is what some people have gotten themselves locked into, thus
      limiting themselves from diversification when it is quickly needed. To those who don’t need more than iOS can provide, more power to them.
      Your comment is just not useful, nor is it warranted. I hope your opinion has at least somewhat changed by now.

      As far as recommended antivirus software now, Avira and Kaspersky are consistently the best in A/V comparisons that are NOT sponsor driven
      ads for their products. Malwarebytes is also quite useful as an On-Demand Scanner for malware.
      There are two independent testing labs that do not solicit, nor accept payments from the software manufacturers.
      Search for them. They are fairly easy to find.

      • Connie

        It’s strictly profit based. As Mac gains more of the market share it will be worth it for hackers to target IOS. Phones used to be very safe, but now they are becoming a target of malicious apps. It’s crazy to think any operating system is immune.

  4. Phil

    As a long time PC user (as in IBM PC/XT), I was a very early user of Norton Utilities, version 1. Now they are Symantec. Over time I became frustrated with two things about them. 1) I have five computers in my home (six counting my 85 yr old moms), and the cost of yearly upgrades was exorbitant. 2) the time overhead using their products was killing throughput, particulary the full system scans. Not having lots of time to load and maintain separate solution pieces, as described in the article, I’ve started using Trend Micro’s Internet Security Pro. It comes as a 3-user pack, which suits a multi-user situation nicely. Have had it on-board for about two months, and I am very happy thus far. Especially with the much shorter times needed to do full system scans. Also, my machines are running much faster. Now, if I could just find a way to kill off the bandwidth hogs who are degrading the Verizon FIOS…

  5. William Edginton

    Although all-in-ones are not recommended in this article, I’ve had no infections of any kind for the past 2 years using Kaspersky Internet Security. It also doesn’t hog up system resources.

  6. DM

    You don’t mention it, but it’s possible to use more than one product to cover the same bases (maybe pair up free-ware and commercial products).

    For example, I too use CA eTrust (still the MS corporate solution) in realtime, I also have others anti-virus scanners I use, expecially when doing a software build that will end up on a customers system.

    There’s no reason you couldn’t have two backup systems for critical data.

    I also use MS Defender, but periodically do a scan with Lavasofts Ad-Aware or Spybot Search and Destroy.

    Each product has different strengths.

    I agree, mostly. It’s important that there only be one “real time” anti-virus scanner in play at a time as they can conflict with each other. Similarly, many anti-spyware programs also have resident or real time monitoring that there should also be only one of. And finally suites often do all sorts of things seemingly constantly – I would only run additional tools if you’re certain that they won’t conflict with the installed suites. Stand-alone scans offered by many good anti-malware packages are perfect for this.

    – Leo
  7. Dave Mc

    I agree with all comments above. Packages for getting rid of spyware and malware that I tend to use are super-anti spyware and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (particularly good). As for an antivirus program NOD32 is quite and it also doesn’t hog your machine like McAfee does…!!!

  8. Papa

    I’m curious, how can you make these recommendations when it seems to sound as though you are recommending them only because these are the only ones that YOU have tried and not because you have used and compared several different anti-virus or internet security products? Have you ever tested Trend-Micro AV or Int security? Or any others such as Stop Sign?

    You’re correct, I have not done exhaustive comparisons. I am reporting my personal experiences (which is typically what people are asking me for), and I’m pretty clear about that. I don’t have the time to try every possibility, I simply report on what works and works well for me. God knows there are plenty of comparison sites out there for those wanting more. That’s also why comments on these articles are so valuable, since many others report their own experiences with products I’ve not tried.

    – Leo
  9. Papa

    The above comment is directed to Leo, the author of the article, not to other users who made comments.

  10. E Johnson

    Panda is a software that allows you can choose yor protection according to your computer activity and your need for security levels. I’ve tried many and I love the platinum version. Never have the problems that spyware causes. It’s Always giving notifications of actions taken that makes me feel more secure. I’ve tried Avast but prefer Panda.

  11. Kelly Poole

    Is it possible to be TOO clean with your computer? At the end of a day my husband and I run CCleaner,Spybot,Ad Aware, Spywear Terminator and Spywear Dr. ( not at same time) . People say we are silly but some programs find things others won’t.

    • oblivious

      Do a search for adwcleaner on the net. The site is in French or English. To access English, click on English key at top right corner of its webpage. Its free or donation ware. Portable. Updates itself. Fast. Cleans browsers and parts of registry. First time I ran it my keyboard worked correctly again and this computer speeded up to normal. Start. Stop. Run. Until I setup a lab to clean Gmail spam, my computer was ravaged by a Craigslist spammer and running adwcleaner was the only way I found to clean it. After running it you will need to reboot your computer then it scans again. To make sure it removed the problems. I’ve been running AVG, Malwarebytes, Spybot. They don’t touch what Adwcleaner can do.

  12. David

    I have found that most anti-spyware is a waste of time…I’ve made a c: partition (8 gigs) strickly for the os and a d: partition for everything else (my docs, program files etc.) and use acronis to image my c:. Anything happens to the os and it’s a simple 10 mins to reinstall the imaged os. I do use antivir for realtime antivirus and kaspersky for scanning new installs, not realtime. Online armor for firewall and that’s about it. I’ve found adaware and spybot just too bloated and doesnt really help all that much. Oh and I also use sandboxie for questionable .exe’s. Needless to say I don’t worry abit.

  13. Martin

    If you use AVG Anti-Virus 8.0 and choose to turn off LinkScanner as recommended by Leo, the AVG tray icon will show an ‘error’ state (appears with a big red ! over it). It is possible to turn this off as follows: open the AVG user interface, from the Tools menu choose Advanced Settings… On the left-hand side click Ignore Faulty Conditions, then check LinkScanner.

  14. JayD

    NOD32 from ESET has worked well for me for a few yrs now. Only lately have they gone to the suite thing where they now have anti spyware which I am informed is not compatible with Sunbelt Software’s CounterSpy. Counter Spy seemed to be a very good anti spyware program. Have also been using aSquared along with Windows Defender. I guess I got carried away and paranoid. But aSquared has become a monster bother and soI may uninstall it.

  15. James

    Most successful software
    serach-and-destroy [broken link removed] has been the only software to successfully detect blocks and removes spyware, adware, pop-ups. It is the only one which could defend my computer from hijackers. No other software could do it. It’s simply great.

  16. James

    A great help
    As a student I was always worried regarding my presentation files getting corrupt.
    Re-doing all my files was always an extra work for me. But After installing serach-and-destroy [broken link removed] all the problems regarding my pc were solved. Now I am least worried about trojan invading my pc. This software has helped me to a great extend to make my pc spyware free.

  17. Andrevm

    thanks for all your good advice. In this summary, you don’t say anything about “Registry Scan software to Repair Process Errors”. I’ve seen them advertised here and there, and also on your website. I have recently had a virus attack, and Kaspersky personnel suggested that it (the virus) might have changed the registry. Fortunately, with their help, the virus was finally identified and eliminated without having to recourse to working at the regisrty. I know from your previous comments that if something is advertised on your site, it does not mean that you recommend it. Fine, but if you say nothing about registry scan and repair softwares, does it mean you do NOT recommend them, and of course my main question is: what do they do?
    Thanks in particular for your advice concerning backup. I retired recently, and realized that at work our IS department had taken care of that for us, … Now, I have to take care of myself. If it was not for your excellent newsletter, I would be lost!
    A million thanks (sorry to be so long)

    I address registry cleaners and scanners here: What’s the best registry cleaner?

    – Leo
  18. catherine fusco

    This happened the last time, you never answered me! Norton told us Cyber defender are “Hackers’ causing computers to become well, screwed up? Question: I have CA or Ca security for Anti-virus&Spyware only as I could not get Norton again, bec/ I cannot use credit card on comp/ They gave me free 3 mo’s w/ ACER then another 3 when CyberD messed me up!”Why did 17 then 42 pages show up STACKED w/ connecting at top of empty page one by one until it finally stopped beeping? Will this happen again/was it a “glitch” cause it happened once before a while ago,long time ago/ Does this happen only w/ dial-up bec/ I cannot get DSL/Answer me please or I’ll go away, it is a sad thing to be ignored and ran all over the place!

  19. catherine fusco

    Leo, Your sight is so informative, I’ve written down AVAST& MicrosoftDefender/Firewall& Serach-and Desroy[broken link removed??]means what? Are those all I really need?WindowsVista IS part of Vista, but are they free too? Is AVAST[free] better, your opinion only? Please, why did those empty pages STACK up after leaving site,kept r-clicking to “close” until they ALL did, just tell me that if you cannot tell me the others until another time, you’re intellegent AND knowledgeable not always a duo, you know!

  20. Robert M.

    I have been using Norton AntiVirus since Symantec bought IBM’s AntiVirus program. At the time, IBM’s software and research facility for AntiVirus software seemed to have the best credibility I could find.

    My firm had a McAfee site license, but I found some items that McAfee would not catch (on floppies) would be blocked and removed by Norton (NAV).

    The 2009 version of NAV seems to have gotten many things right. Symantec has shrunk the side effects of NAV – boot up is only marginally slower after NAV is installed; scans seem to truly run in the background, and don’t drag down other processes that are running; the auto update feature has two modes, and neither have a negative impact on other programs; web browsing is not much slower than before NAV is installed.

    I used to agree with Leo’s assertion about security suites. But after reading PC Magazine’s thorough review (Jan 2009) of Norton Internet Security, it seems that the anti-spyware portion of NAV is as effective as any of the others. NAV is the anti-virus & anti-spyware portion of NIS.

    Here’s the best part of Norton – SystemWorks Std. Ed. includes NAV as well as Norton Utilities.

    I have never had any success with Ad-Aware or SpyBot S&D. In clearing out spyware from others’ PCs, I’ve used SpySweeper to much success.

    In any case, I have historically always recommended NAV for the best anti-virus protection, despite some installation & upgrade problems with this software, as well as the performance hits.

    Now, with the 2009 version, the performance hits have been minimized.

    It would be great to find free security apps, as there are many fantastic free apps out there. But when it comes to security, free does not seem good enough for me.

    Now, I will wait for the newest version to be offered for free or close to it. I have seen NAV 2009 offered for free when buying tax software, NIS 2009 and Norton 360 for under $20, but not yet for NSW 2009.

  21. Chris B

    There are 3 good free anti-virus products:-
    AVG, Avast and Avira. Of these three AVG has the biggest performance hit so I prefer Avira or Avast, especially on low powered machines.

  22. Janice Totten

    I just uninstalled AVG and installed Avast (free for personal computers). AVG did not pick up the virus software that Avast found. It seems to do a better job and its FREE!

  23. Henrik Nielsen

    About keeping your computer up to date: Windows Update is not enough! In addition to Windows itself, it is important to update all programs that you use for

    1. accessing the net
    2. opening files that you got from the net.

    This includes not only browsers, mail, chat, and P2P programs, but also office programs, PDF readers, media players, archive/compression software etc…

    I have three recommendations for helping with that:

    1. Secunia PSI (Personal Software Inspector) is a free (for personal use) program designed to run constantly (without using a lot of resources) and check your security-critical installed software against a database of updates.
    2. FileHippo Update Checker (also free) does the same thing, but only when you manually start it. Its database (range of programs covered) seems larger than Secunia’s, but it doesn’t distinguish between critical and non-critical updates.
    3. If you have installed programs that are not covered by FileHippo or Secunia, set a Web service to watch the home pages (or, maybe better, the download pages) for those programs and send you a mail whenever they change. I use one called WatchThatPage.
  24. John

    For a free firewall, I recommend Sunbelt. At the beginning, the popups asking what you want to do are slightly annoying, but once it learns your habits, it works well. And it consumes little resources. I have also used Avira Free Anti-Virus for years, without a hitch.

  25. Matthew Hall

    I find that GFI Backup works equally well for hard disk backups. it does not do any hard disk clones, but i can do without this feature considering that GFI Backup does what it does for free! :-)

  26. paul redfern

    i was using avg free some time back and some geeks in west australia recommended i use NOD32. the said its the best and i believe it. ive had 0 probs since i got it. nothing ever seems to get by it. id recommend it over anything. regards

  27. darren

    i used avg free for 3 weeks then it or windows failed.. i had windows security telling me that avg free was turned off, when i went to avg it said it was on all things fine no need to do anything.. so you must ask which one was lying. i dont know. because i’m using windows avg had to go. sorry dudes didn’t work for me. now i use something else not a problem since

  28. Gerry

    Oh, c’mon. The millons of Internet users with only a single PC are not going to buy a separate machine just to use as a firewall. However, they certainly do need a firewall, so it has to be software.

    Reread the article you just commented on. Nowhere did I recommend getting an separate machine. A $50 router is all you need – ’bout the same cost as a software firewall, more reliable and easier to set up. Yes, I remain convinced it’s a very reasonable recommendation. A software firewall is not required.


  29. Richard Tapp

    Like you Leo, I have been using CA Antivirus for years – but I won’t be renewing my subscriptions. The 2009 suite (I know you don’t like suites!) seems to be a real resource hog. I switched my wife’s computer (worst affected by the CA performance drain) to the free version of Avira and after a week of restored performance, bought a licensed version. No regrets. When my CA license expires, I plan to switch all my PCs to Avira.

    Yes, I’m moving away from CA myself, and will be updating my recommendations as time permits.


  30. Sandi

    I’m surprised not to see Malwarebyte’s AntiMalware program on your list of recommendations. I’ve cleaned up my own as well as my kids’ machines along with those of friends and family with AMW when nothing else would fully do the trick. Myself and many people I know are happy to recommend AMW to others.

    It’s a free download and stays on your system without running in the background, so it’s not a real time scanner but when you have a problem you launch it, download the updated files and then scan (either quick or deep version).

    I’ve been amazed to see AMW pick up dozens and even hundreds of issues (including worms, dialers and trojans) on various machines. The effects are instant and we’ve all had our speedy, happy computers back in working order.

  31. Betty

    I would really like to hear about Norten 360. I am a beginner and thought it was good,but what do i know? Thanks

    As I mention in the article, I’m not a big fan of all-in-one suites.


    • Keith

      I’d like to go against the grain and put in a vote for all-in-ones. I’ve been a Norton user for years and it has progressively become less of a system hog so that now it runs unnoticed. Using rebates, I never pay more than $9.99, which I paid for my current Norton 360 Premium for 3 machines. You install it and forget it. It does everything and I have never had a virus infection even though I sometimes visit dangerous sites (because I write about Internet security, among other things, for a living). I also run the paid version of Malware bytes as extra backup — it’s fast and effective at spotting troublesome sites. As Leo says, people have different needs and solutions. Norton 360 is mine.

  32. Don Taber

    I definitely agree with your position on “suites”. I used Avanquest’s SystemSuite Pro (SSP) for several years. While it’s convenient to have a do-all like that, its AV and (especially) AS programs are weak. Firewall and PC cleanup routines were good. However, after getting a new computer middle of last year, SSP conflicted with the TPM (trusted program module) on the mobo, and I had to stop using it. I replaced it with Avira AntiVir (#1-rated free AV by Consumer Reports and PC World), Spyware Blaster, Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware, and use Windows’ firewall. Have not had a virus or serious spyware infection in 2 years. Also tried Avast for awhile, and other than it’s kludgy interface, found it to be almost as good as Avira.

    I’m surprised that you didn’t mention any of these except Avast. CA and AVG were probably very good 5+ years ago, but not today. Avira is rated the #1 free AV by both Consumer Reports and just this month by PC World.

  33. Clifford Myatt Jr

    BitDefender Internet Security 2010
    Have been using it for over 10 years. European, so folks have not really heard of it. Have installed it on over 300 PCs, including all family members. Not one of them has had a virus or (fill-in-blank)ware problem. Ever.
    The Zeus virus that can grab your bank double verification codes is stopped cold. Hourly updates if wanted.
    At .03 cents a day, it is worth it. Don’t go to Starbucks for 2 days and you got it covered.

    ps Also have SpyBot S&D.

  34. Dave Smart

    I suspect you may have created this article before Microsoft Security Essentials was released. M$ Security essentials has received good reviews.
    btw I use all your other recommended tools at times.

    You apparently missed the sidebar that directly discusses Microsoft Security Esentials.


  35. nancy

    What is “CA” thaat is taked about in the comments section?

    CA is Computer Associates – http://www.ca.com – they’ve been around for a looooong time, and have several anti-malware products.


  36. Mary Fisher

    Like you Leo, I have been using CA Antivirus for years – (I know you don’t like suites!)

    <Leo’s reply>
    Yes, I’m moving away from CA myself, and will be updating my recommendations as time permits.

    Mary: but you said much earlier that you didn’t like suites and couldn’t recommend them so why have you been using CA?
    We have used CA in this house for years and have had no problems. There may be some lack of ‘speed’ but if you lock your house door you are slowed down when wanting to get out!

    CA has multiple products, one of which is a dedicated anti-virus program only, which I did use for many years. I used it because it was the corporate solution while I worked at Microsoft, and I figured if it was good enough for them … Smile. I used it for many years after leaving. As I mention in the article what’s “best” tends to change over time, and I switched.

    CA does also have a suite, which is a different product than the stand-alone anti-virus. And you know my position on suites.


    • Jazz

      While locking your door slows you down when you enter or leave, it does not slow you down while you are moving around inside the house. That is where the problem is. Most testers just look at how effective an AV program is at detecting and removing stuff, but these testers usually have very powerful machines and forget how important resource requirements are for millions of users who can not afford to keep up with the hardware upgrades required to feed these resource monsters.

  37. Dopey

    As someone already mentioned it, MalwareBytes is (in my humble opinion) by far the best free scanner on the market. It digs out everything that shouldn’t be there. As primary AV I use Eset Smart Security, but AMB finds things which Eset has overlooked. I scan with it once a week, and have never been in trouble!

  38. John Mutch

    Some months ago I started using Microsoft LiveOneCare, and am quite pleased with it. Having used many of the others it dawned on me to try MS. It seems to have worked well and also backs up my files. So far so good. John Mutch

    • paul

      im with you mate. ive used nod 32 for years now and have no complaints. its caught everything that tried to get by it and they are the greatest with help if needed. I tried a couple of the freebies too initially but when nod 32 was recommended to me I got it and tried it and it found numerous things that the others missed. ill be sticking with them for sure. cya

  39. Bill3


    This is a free for home use, all in one suite, as the 2 programs compliment each other. It takes a bit to learn them, especially heuristic alerts, but its worth the effort. Do NOT run them with anything else, or you will have software conflict.

    Comodo performs as well, or better, than all the other security software, including some excellent payware. However, nothing is going to be a perfect solution, so don’t beat yourself over this.

    I have used these for 2 years now, rarely scan, and have no problems. I highly recommend this security solution. Regards Bill3.

  40. stan

    I CURRENTLY USE AVAST FREE ANTIVIRUS + TC-SPY ANTISPY + COMODO FREE PERSONAL FIREWALL, and can honestly say my computer runs like a dream very quick,I use TC-spy for quick scans results are excellent, I can recomend these programs which are all free.

  41. claude johnston

    I have used CA for a year & had no problems, but when the renual date came up I didn’t feel like the cost was worth it especially with all the good freebees you can get.But now I can’t get it off my computer & it keeps popping up saying I need to renew, this has gone on for about three months now & no matter what I do I can’t get it off my pc.

  42. paul redfern

    i had avg free and when i got my NOD32 it found two viruses that avg missed and one other thing i dont recall what. i have not had a single problem with NOD32 ever. great program and reasonable too.

  43. Ravi Agrawal

    I have used AVG Free Antivirus but many of the viruses go undectected despite performing all regular updates. So I don’t use it now.

    Commodo is good so, really very advanced with all sorts of Rules you may want to setup, shows active applications connecting to the internet and much more. The Antivirus seems good too. It also protects most vulnerable Windows Registry keys that are often modified by Malware. Plus the option of getting surveyed detailed data with what most users did (like they allowed / denied access) when they encountered the same Question from the Firewall.

    But one Big drawback with it is the size of the software plus the size of the updates, it takes. A massive 250MB. If you have a 1 GB capped plan, you are doomed. One more problem is that the whole update needs to be downloaded as One-piece, Every single disconnect and you have to start the update all over again. Plus the website doesn’t give Standalone Update Packs, that can be singly downloaded and installed on Multiple PCs.

    Otherwise once installed and updated, Comodo is something which really guards you. I once used to have a combination of NAT router + ZoneAlarm + AVG Antivirus and did malware scanning manually. But once I installed Comodo, I was satisfied. Yes safe browsing habits do count.


  44. Rien Snijder

    Some virus scanners (eg avira) claim to protect against both viruses and spyware; could this conflict with let’s say windows defender?

    Yes, it could. But whether or not it will really depends on the specific program, how it works and what options are enabled.


  45. Terry Hollett

    I would also recommend Winpatrol from http://www.winpatrol.com/ – it’s like UAC in Vista but it doesn’t complain everytime you move your mouse :-)

    It only warns you if you startup options are being changed. I have XP but I tempted to tell Vista users to disable UAC and install Winpatrol instead.

  46. sirpaul1

    To Rien: Nope!

    I disgree. “Nope” is too simple. While many will not cause a conflict, many will. Two anti-spyware programs watching in real-time can easily come into conflict and cause various problems.


  47. Gary Richtmeyer

    There’s a new kid on the block as of Tuesday, September 28, and that’s Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). It include an anti-virus and an anti-spyware tool and has gotten a lot of positive feedback (including mine), and best of all, it’s completely free.
    I’ve been running it on 3 PCs while it was in beta test and have installed it on all my PC since it was officially released. Runs on XP, Vista and Win 7 (both 32 & 64 bit).

    Please note that I do talk about Microsoft Security Essentials in the sidebar with the article. While it is an interesting tool, I do have some reservations about it that I’ll covering in an upcoming article.


  48. John N.

    WinXP SP3, IE7 both w/ latest updates. Listing what I use (all freeware).

    -Comodo personal Firewall. Better than Norton or Zone Alarm!

    -Dump AVI, go with AVAST!. No begging, updates constantly, fully configurable AV.

    -Spybot S+D, Super Anti-Spyware, SpywareBlaster.
    Those cover that prob.

    -CCleaner for everyday temp etc. file deletion.
    The included Registry scanner/cleaner is great for ridding the hd of left-overs after uninstalling programs.

    -Comodo System Cleaner for monthly cleanup that CC might miss, or if things on pc get slow.

    -I also have tools for checking/controlling- internet connection speed, running processes, running services, start-ups, system resources, sys. config, and emergency recovery tools, both on the pc and CDROM… You get the idea lol. The main thing is to find what works for YOU, and then stick with it! Paid or free, if it doesn’t do what you need without confusion or work-arounds, then it’s value is zer0.

    John N.

  49. C.U.

    Has anyoneever heard of the Free Advanced System Care and Sytem Care 360? I think these are anti-spyware type products, but not sure. Can anyone shed some light?

  50. vince

    iam using advanced system care 360 free version and it seems to work quite well for me lot of tools on this one as for supraantispyware it used to be a good one as well but something happened and cant seem to get the updates sometype of problem there !

  51. Cynthia Letellier

    For years I used the free version of Spybot Search and Destroy, but I’ve read that it is no longer the good program it used to be. Yet I see that you recommend it. Could you comment on this?

    My take is that Spybot is still a solid tool in the anti-spyware arsenal. No tool is perfect, but Spybot’s still a good program.


    • Dave Leippe

      People who are new to Spybot Search and Destroy 2 need to know that immediately after installing the program you must download all the updates, then immunize. Just installing the program without the updates leaves it ineffective. Otherwise the fully patched version 2 has all the protection of version 1.6 and more…

  52. Cynthia Letellier

    I would like to say that I have been using BitDefender Internet Security from the 2008 version to the 2010 version. It seems there are always issues after installing the new version, but eventually they get worked out. This program has done a good job for me and runs very well on my Vista Home Premium machine. It doesn’t seem to take up a lot of system resources at all. The only thing I would warn about is their tech support leaves something to be desired. Other than that, I would have to recommend this program from my experience. I also use Malwarebytes and SUPERAntispyware as on demand scanners.

  53. Glenn P.

    Leo, to the best of my knowledge and belief, “disrecommend” is not a word, and even if it was is clunky and unworthy of you. Would any of the following synonyms better serve your intention:

    Discourage, disapprove, disincline, dissuade, oppose, disparage, reject, condemn, discount, discredit, disdain, disfavor, repudiate, rule out, be skeptical of, call into question?

    And yet it’s working its way into common usage. “Not recommend” is technically the absence of a recommendation, which isn’t enough. “Disrecommend” – call it my word if you like – without even having been seen before clearly implies an actual negative recommendation. I don’t want to get into get into an English fight, but in this case since it gets the point across the way I want it too, I’ll probably stick with it.

  54. Howiem

    After looking through all the comments, I was surprised that Sandboxie was only mentioned once. This program should be a must have for 1) protecting the operating system from web threats 2) testing new programs, which, if they do not work well, confines the problems to the sandbox, which can easily be deleted. 3) Especially good for online banking, since a separate sandbox can be set up for each bank. Conduct your transactions (don’t visit other web sites in the same sandbox, log out, close the browser and delete the contents of the sandbox after each banking session.

    I do plan to review Sandboxie in the future. I’ve heard good things.

  55. Allan P.

    What do you say about Sophos? been using for a year and did not get into major trouble with the kind of protection it uses. .

  56. Ed Lada

    Leo, I think the comments on grammar are a waste of time.
    You have numerous mistakes in the little I have seen so far, but who cares. If I can understand what you are saying, that to me is what matters.
    None of the words that are listed get the message
    across better than “disrecommend”, period. This is the first time I’ve been to your site and I get the feeling you are probably a one man operation and don’t have someone on staff to just proof read and check your grammar. The only thing that concerns me is how good are your answers to our problems, not how they are written. If I can understand the answers, that’s enough for me.
    Keep them coming, Ed Lada, PA

  57. Ralph Hosmer

    I’ve just purchased an Iomega 500GB External HD and am using the McAfee ‘Total Protection’ Backup/Restore feature to Archive my data (Full Backup Daily and Change Backup every 2 Hours). I’m told that the’Backup/Restore’ feature in McAfee can NOT be configured to do a Total Image Archive. If so, can I partition the External Drive to allow continued use of McAfee ‘Backup/Restore’ and use another S/W product to allow me to do a Total Image Archive? If so, what S/W do you recommend and HOW do I partition the External HD? I see that you are recommending Acronis for OnLine Backup, but I’m not sure how to accomplish Local Total Image Backup.

  58. RJ

    I just have to ares Avast and Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, is that ok and should I download AVG Free or Avira Free just to be on the safe side ?

  59. russ jones

    Like the poster above, I too use and love Sandboxie and have peace of mind when doing my banking transactions, it’s a fantastic product

  60. Andrew Wilson-Lee

    Hi Leo. I have got a nice new Windows 7 machine running,Spywareblaster,Malwarebytes (paid) and Secunia PSI.(which I wholly recommend to all and sundry. Do you think it would do any harm to have Defender running as well? I know two Anti Virus programs running concurrently is a big no no! But how about Anti Spyware?

  61. John Shumate

    Leo, I have been using Vipre Antivirus software from Sunbelt Software for about a year now. It appears to have won awards in several areas. I wonder how it stacks up against some of the other AV software you’ve reviewed.
    Thanks, John

  62. Moyra Gaunt

    Gday Leo,
    I have downloaded Microsoft Security Essentials on my Windows XP. Apart from this programme, I have a Windows Firewall running, and Malawarebytes. Is this sufficent protection for my computer please?
    Thank you and Happy New Year from Australia.

  63. Marshall Neill

    I use Microsoft Security Essentials, Microsoft Firewall, Malwarebytes, HiJackThis and Spybot.
    I’m not a fanboy of Microsoft, but will use their products when they provide the needed service.
    I have been running the above combination for over 3mos. and no problems. I run checks with Malwarebytes, HiJackThis and Spybot periodically.
    MSSE runs nightly and has updates about 3 or more times a day, so it is up to date.
    My computer flies. Windows 7 32bit, 3gb ram, 250gb disk integrated graphics (Intel) 17″ Toshiba. Boots up in 40secs.

    PS. I bought Kaspersky Internet Suite last year but found that it hogged the system and caused the bootup to be about 1min 30secs.
    Great computer so far; I’ve had it for 1 year.

  64. Elaine Schaeffer

    article interesting. did not see Norton listed at all. I have heard good and bad things about them but do not understand. Most says it buggs the computer down but they do not say how or why? Would be very interested on some info about the norton security good or bad or both I do run the premier addition 360 and this past year has been the best but the first 2 years along with vista premium has been a learning experience. Windows vista has been replaced with windows 7 but so far i like my vista. Just very curious about it all.thank you

  65. Chris

    I used to use McAfee when it came with the computer and would just keep buying the yearly upgrade. Then computers starting comeing with Norton, so I would just keep it and buy the yearly upgrades. In May 2009, I switched to Trend Micro Internet Security Pro v.2. It will let you install on up to 3 pc’s. I love it. It came with Anti-virus, spy-ware detection, firewall, and a system tuner. I think it works fantastic. I had Windows XP until January 4, 2010 when I upgraded to Windows 7. I really like that too.

  66. Oke S.O.

    Your recommendation on security software is not too perfect. my expectation is that you will not give name of any product. but analysis what and how they function. If you wishes to know what i am talking about. have a look at this site toptenreviews.com they are independent research body that rate softwares on a given perameter.

    OKE S.O.

  67. Jim H

    I still stick with my Norton Internet Security suite. I can’t really accept that a company with that reputation would sell a half-baked, cut cornered product to consumers! Such a strategy could backfire on them worse than Starforce’s DRM software did on them! As a few commented here, around 2007 or 2008 it did become a resource hog and i tried a couple other brands. One needed to be put back into learn mode every 2 weeks because it resulted in boot-up times of nearly 15 minutes -yes fifteen minutes- and at times 6 minutes for a web page to change once it was loaded. Another had no feature to pause a scan and it was impossible to do anything while a scan was running. I went back to Norton in 2009 and they have revised it so it is nowhere near the resource monster it once was. All I can say is i have used Norton’s products exclusively since having a PC and the only time I ever had a problem was picking up an infection when it was in the wild. It was one of those that found its way into my computer through the Internet connection rather than as an attachment or something I did. My computer is on 24/7 and has been for years. The trend now seems to be rather than a simple cookie cutter match files against a database to find malware to watching for suspicious activity that may indicate behavior that viruses would follow. This real time approach definitely seems to have its advantages. The problem with what you recommend is that it’s hard enough to get people to install this software and keep it updated to begin with using a single suite program, but realistically, if they need to start doing this with several sites and programs it isn’t going to get done. I know that about all have auto-update features but from the IT boards and other computer boards I frequent, no matter what safety measures are installed, what safe practices are recommended, people will still find a way to to get around them.

  68. sirpaul1

    Leo, I’m surprised you didn’t mention ‘SuperAntispyware’! It is excellent for picking up ad-tracking cookies that ‘Avira’ and ‘Malwarebytes’ misses. Other than that, my only other suggestion is ‘CCleaner’ for “Index.dat” files in particular.

  69. Dana McKinzie

    I hate the all-in-one suites. I’ve used many over the years. They almost always bog a system down.
    If you had to buy anti-virus, I like Symantec Norton Anti-virus 2010. This can always change. I do use and install AVG 9.0 free, and Malwarebytes on all my client’s PCs. I also use CCleaner and IOBit Advanced System Care and Smart Defrag for regular maintenence. Tip – Run CCleaner before all scans to eliminate wasted time scanning junk files.

  70. Charles Tilley

    Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is a first class anti virus and anti malware protection. Don’t let that Windows Defender look fool you, it’s lightweight and effective. And the built in Windows Firewall should be fine for most, as long as you configure it right. When it comes to public spots, check “Don’t allow exemptions”. And the most important part of your protection: YOU! Safe browsing habits and having strong passwords helps a lot. Stay away from porn and social networking sites, a lot of viruses comes from those places. And email, don’t open spam, unless it was misplaced and you know the sender. And your regular emails that aren’t labeled as spam, look carefully. If you don’t know the person or company, mark it as spam and trash it unopened. Common since goes a long way towards staying protected and virus free. And if you’re one of those porn freaks or social networkers, buy a cheap laptop and don’t risk your main system.

  71. tkjtkj

    Whick AV product allows one to add sites to be ‘blocked’ , eg, if its a popup generated by an ‘ok’ browser site?
    Where can i make the ‘ok’ site ‘not ok’?

  72. Bettie Gatewood

    I am still using StopZilla on my notebook. I am elderly and they gave me a lifetime update. Stop Zilla does a good job. I also have Avest on my desktop and laptop. No problems in a year.

  73. James

    I would add Firetrust Mailwasher to the security list. It stands between your server and computer to pre-screen email, allowing you to delete mail from the server before it’s downloaded. The free version provides good basic service, while the pay version includes a larger number of screening options and spam tool screens.
    The same company makes Benign, which strips out and makes harmless various email infections. It’s also available in both free and pay versions.
    I’ve used both for years and wouldn’t want to be without them.

  74. hash

    My local pc guru suggested using Malwarebytes & either Avira or Avast for security. I installed Malwarebytes @ Avast some months ago on my XP Home, and since then have had no problems. Both are free programs & seem to do the trick.
    So between my Guru’s advice & yours, Leo, I am having trouble free computing. Many thanx.

  75. Helpful hand


    Appreciate what you do! FYI: My experience with the AVG browser add-in has been positive. The little green stars can be annoying at times, but I feel comfortable knowing the site is safe. Hope it really works as presented!

    Also, I have no complaints with the following security and maintenance software. Some are run monthly and some weekly. AVG is run nightly.

    You mentioned some of these in your article.

    AVG free
    Windows Built-ins
    ERUNT (Auto registry backup upon reboot)
    Backup ‘My Documents’ to external HD

    No issues, no complaints, no fees, no cost.

    Perhaps this will be helpful to a reader in some way.

    Thanks again!

  76. Ken Power

    I have read elsewhere, quite a lot of enthusiastic opinion of Sunbelt’s Vipre Antivirus Premium, and have recently installed a 30 day free trial.
    I dont see any mention of it here at all.
    Any particular reason ?

    Nope. I simply don’t have time to try absolutely every available solution.


  77. Bettie Gatewood

    My Spyware Doctor will be out in May. Can’t afford to keep it. What other free scanner would you recomend in place of it?

    Please read the article you just commented on.


  78. Patrick Jean-Philippe


    Great article. I am wary of free products though. In principle there is no such a thing as a free lunch… Why are these free in the first place ?

    I am running my own one man band business and therefore I purchased my laptop security softwares:

    McAfee Total Protection Service: I am wondering and have strong doubts if this really works since I have not seen any performances tests throughour internet but only marketing hype… My laptop caught viruses which went un-detected and all the malware detected thus far are exclusively cookies… Would you have any experience with this product ?

    Yoggie Gatekeeper Card Pro: This is a hardware miniature firewall with its own CPU, SSHD, RAM and hardened Linus OS running 13 or 14 security suites. It seems to be working well but again I’d be happy to read about performances tests.

  79. Uniharjad

    Im studying IT for the first time. Your article clearly explained to me the need for a firewall and the type I should use. Thank you

  80. Hamid Kaashif

    Good Article.
    I’m using Microsoft security essentials. Does it give better protection?
    Is there anything that i need to know about that anti virus

  81. Dale Forguson

    I’m “In the Business” with 10 years of experience. I agree with the article but wish you had been a bit more explicit about the difference between spyware and conventional viruses and worms. Typical blended threats require a solution for both for any Internet connected computer. malwarebytes and Spybot are both tools I use but I would be seriously handicapped without Superantispyware.com

  82. David Ryley

    Has anyone had success running Windows Defender and MSE together? I have tried on a Vista laptop and it just freezes.

    I wouldn’t. Microsoft Security Essentials replaces Defender and adds additional tools.


  83. Andy

    To answer David Ryley’s post, I have Defender + MSE + Avast Free running on this laptop (Win 7) without any problems.
    I used Zone Alarm for a week until I realized it was bugging up my pc, so I restored and got rid of it since the windows firewall seems to do the job pretty well as per reviews. It’s almost certain that Microsoft is constantly updating all these built in programs with features and abilities to get rid of competition….and I’m buying into it!

  84. Kirk

    I have used Avast for many years without issue — recently I had to reload Vista due to harddrive crash — and decided to use Avira based on Consumer Report & Leo’s recommendation.

    I plan to un-install soon as this program is causing 10-20 second ‘hangs’ in the OS — nothing will work while it’s doing it’s thing. Once it’s done updating… everything is good again — anyone else experience this?

  85. Scott

    Excellent Leo, Just excellent. You are current, relevant and, well, excellent. You are one of the few sites I subscribe to. Thank you. Scott=

  86. R.Michael..Klug

    Thanks for the Great info, Leo .. My Norton 360 is about to expire and I want the best .. I don’t mind paying $$ but I want the best….

  87. Glenn Meyer

    Have you tried avast as a free anti-virus alternative? I’ve been using that for a year now on three laptops, ranging from old (PIII 500 Mhz) to newer (dual core 2ghz) and find that I have had few av problems since I started using it, and that it slows down my machines less than other packages. It also has a gamer mode that is perfect for my impatient, non-technical family. I also, once a week, use the free malwarebytes to do a complete system scan, after turning avast off.

    The two together have greatly dimished the number of XP systems I’ve had to restore. My wife hates Vista and isn’t yet convinced that 7 is a good upgrade, so we’re stuck with XP viruses for a while.

    I run Linux for my own use. It’s just so much easier to not have to worry about viruses. I’m probably one of the few Linux users out there who DOESN’T want to see Linux become as popular as MS Windows.

  88. Paul LeRoy

    I recommend Comodo.com and use it. It has a combo firewall (excellent) anti-melware and anti-Virus program and it’s free. I’ve used it for quite awhile now and the latest version now has a new feature called sandbox. There is a separate software program you can buy that does the same thing that is not from Comodo. I just found out about it. What sandbox does is completely isolate the program from the rest of your computer. Very good stuff.

  89. Jon B.

    Sage and consistent, as always Leo… good work! I’ll put my two cents in here and offer my maintenance routine which appears to be quite similar to yours. Sometimes folks DO get caught up in redundancy. What I use is simple, easy to use, all free, and, I think, sans redundancy.

    I’ve used AVG free, GlarySoft, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, and the Windows Firewall for years. No complaints on these freebies! Checkdisk (for DOS level scan,) Scandisk (for Windows level scan,) Disk Cleanup, and Defrag. Updating and doing a backup regularly is a must. I use a spreadsheet to list all maintenance tasks. Some are weekly tasks and some are monthly tasks. I may spend 20 minutes a week in front of the screen, but mostly run maintenance programs as I do other things around the house. I may try new freebies after reading reviews (ie. My Defrag 4.3.1) but try maintain a schedule that works and is simple.

    Backup, Backup, Backup! I bought a 1Tb ext. HD about a year ago. ($100) I use this to copy ‘My Documents’ weekly. Based on your recommendation Leo, I plan to change my backup routine to an imaging routine for the HD. Macrium (again free) is what I’ll start with.

    For those with limited HD space, (and why at today’s prices,) copying ‘My Documents’ does provide an elemental ‘data’ backup routine. All of us ARE keeping data somewhere in the ‘My Documents’ folder right? Good!

    I keep a System Boot Disk, and the CD’s for XP and MS Office. All other programs I use can be downloaded from the web. Having a HD image, however, DOES make sense in terms of ease of recovery.

    As others have mentioned, I found you on another website (the one with the Pit in it!) and followed you here.

    Kudos to the chef for a much needed service.

    Love the archives… (OMG)


  90. Tom Adams

    Hello I am kind of dumb founded on all the Internet security question’s that people have. I bought my computer pre-loaded like most people now days and the security that came with Microsoft sucked it let 3 Virus’s into my computer and caused a great deal of grief so I went looking for something new and after being told by every store I went to I was told to buy Kaspersky and I bought it, I have been with them now for over a year and it is the very best, as of right now it has stopped 6 virus’s, 2 trojans and 3 malware from getting into my computer and it is so easy to use and it come’s with everything you can think of, firewall, email security, malware, virtual keyboard,Anti-spam, two way firewll, parental controls, proactive protection and it up-date’s your computer every single hour around the clock, plus so much more. It has worked so well I just bought 2 more years of Kaspersky Internet Security, my wife’s business computers also has Kaspersky and my children’s computers also. I recommend Kaspersky if you want the job done right. I dissagree about windows defender I have had so many problems with Microsoft’s so called security it set me back months on a book I am writing, after installing Kaspersky I have had ZERO problems Kaspersky stops it all and I will use them only from now on. But people can buy what ever they want but after they all fail then at least read about Kaspersky Internet Security and no I do not own any stock or get paid for anything I just believe they are great. Thank You


  91. Fuzzy

    My ISP TWC/Roadrunner provides a free perpetual
    license for CA’s Security Suite. I use their
    AV, Spybot S&D (for other malware),
    and Windows’ built in Firewall (+ a gateway / NAT router).

    Currently using Acronis’ Backup & Recovery 10 Workstation
    (more or less the same as True Image Home 2010)
    with image backups and ability to bare metal restore.

    I’ve been happy with Acronis’ software, it does what it says it will do.

  92. David

    I too have not been impressed with all-in-one security suites. Some were horrible and took up way too many resources. That is until now. I strongly recommend VIPRE Premium from Sunbelt Software. It’s the best all-in-one I have used (anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall). It doesn’t eat up resources, runs non-intrusively, is updated frequently and is easy to set up and use. The price is very reasonable and a home site license is within most people’s budgets. I don’t work for the company and of course the product might not work for everyone. Also I do cross check with other scanners and products now and then to make sure it is performing it’s job.
    No product finds every little thing. The free products are top quality these days, but I never found one quite as good as VIPRE and as far as I know there aren’t many free all-in-one products and few, if any, that do a comprehensive job. When you load several programs for security, you can run low on memory or resources. VIPRE can replace several things and use less memory and resources overall. It’s not as well known as some of the others, but Sunbelt is a large company with a lot of loyal users and just recently merged with another company. I mention it because it runs so well on all my PCs and because I seldom see it mentioned in review or recommendations. I have had less issues with it than any other security software. It really is that good.

  93. Foursticks

    I have read the above article and do take on board what Leo says but for the past 3 years I have used Norton for my protection and have NEVER had any problems… As far as I am concerned my PC is safe and secure… As always Leo your advice is most welcome and thank you for sharing your wealth of experience with me {and everyone else}… 4s..

  94. Kara

    I highly recommend PC Pitstop Optimize3 and Advanced System Care for general, day-to-day maintenance and to keep the cobwebs cleared out. I run the Pro version of ASC, so it does it automatically, but I run PC Pitstop once a week.

    Knock on wood… my machine runs very well under heavy use (8+ hours per day).

  95. thenudehamster

    I’ve used the paid versions of Zone Alarm for many years, largely on the recommendation of an IT manager at my late wife’s company. Katie was a programmer who could make a mainframe sit up and beg, but was clueless about Windows. She relied on advice from her IT guru at work, and he recommended ZA as stable, effective, efficient and safe – and reasonably priced. After a long chat with him during which he explained all his reasoning why it was better than the rest, I gave their trial a try, and paid my fee at the end. It does exactly what it says on the tin, and does not fill my machine with all kinds of spurious bits and pieces that make it impossible to uninstall as Norton does. I have had no problems with any kind of malware over the seven or eight years I have used it.
    As for free apps, ZA’s firewall is two-way, unlike the Windows one, while the latest AVG has both anti-virus and anti spyware included. I install these for any friends who don’t want to pay for their security. I’m sorry, but I don’t trust Microsoft to make a decent security application in view of the fact that most security holes are the result of the poor programming of their own applications.

  96. gus pedigo

    I personally had a bit of trouble with microsoft security essentials.
    I have been using the avast free home virsion,and its doing real well.

  97. Donald Cartin,Sr.

    I use AVAST on all my PCs. Over the years,I’ve found it to be steadfast & trustworthy (although sometimes (???) it tends to use slightly more resources than it should). In the more than three years I’ve been using it, I’ve only gotten a virus only once. (To a lot of folks, that would’ve probably been one too many times.) Before AVAST, AVG was the anti-virus of my choice. I haven’t had the opportunity to try MSSE yet (if I ever lose faith in AVAST, it’s second in line as the AV of choice). Thanks!

  98. Rolf

    I use since over a year now Norton Internet Security.In the past I used also freeware, like AVG,Spybot,Ad-Aware, Zone Alarm aso. But over the time I got tired to manage all this free ware, new versions and updates. My recommendation, get a software that fit’s your need and stick with it. Have a backup ready, in case of …… 😉

  99. Jim Moss

    The AVG update will not install if MSE is installed.

    Not surprising. Because having more than one AV program can cause conflicts of various sorts, more manufacturers are simply preventing installation if there’s already another installed.


  100. mister accurate

    I recently had a heinous infection on my main computer, which came simply from visiting an infected website. I was running avg, it did not stop it, and became disabled. Even MalwareBytes was helpless. Online scanning was disabled, as was system restore. The only thing that fixed it, was HitMan Pro. I downloaded a trial version on another computer, put it on a usb drive, and transferred it. Problem solved. Pretty scary to have something that MalwareBytes could not fix.

  101. narumanchianji

    norton system works 2003 had norton ghost as one of its included software. i feel happy to have purchased the nsw2003 for rs. 3000 plus. the norton ghost componant alone paid its full value, during these 7 years. i regularly take a ghost backup of my c drive weekly and on innumerable occassions it saved my skin during virus attacks, incompatible new software drivers etc. it works wonderfully even in winxp. i have not tried in win7 but i hope it works. norton ghost2003 has the ability to backup not only windows drives but can also comfortably backup and restore all variations of linux. i strongly feel leo can without hesitation recommend it. but the million dollor question is, where from new readers download/purchase nsw2003.

  102. Neal

    I agree exactly with Leo’s recommendations. On two occasions friends broght me their machines completely blocked, ie cont/alt/delete disabled, antivirus dead, malwarebytes would not run, and everything else marked as infected. I had to resort to Combifix which allowed me to run MBAM and remove the phony antivirus. By the way the last time I removed the Norton bloatware it took me three days to remove all the pieces. Thanks Leo for simple easily managed suggestions.

  103. John Bloomfield

    Thanks for the good advice Leo, especially regarding backups.
    I also use Acronis for these operations; however I think you should reword your recommendation to specify their 2010 version only.
    The 2011 version is a real dog at this stage.
    It has compatibility problems with earlier existing 2010 version backups, and the program “hangs” in many situations. The user interface is a triumph for “presentation designers” over practical functionality.
    One is forced to scroll for information that was previously all on the one screen in the earlier version- I have never seen so much wasted screenspace on what should be essentially a utility “function orientated” program.
    It’s a disaster- lets hope they can soon get it right.
    Keep up the good work.

  104. Davina

    Hi Leo, firstly I can’t thank you enough for such amazingly useful information.

    It’s so great that people in my situation with little computer knowledge have such a great resource which is what I found in your articles & I can’t thank you enough for this.

    So my situation is that recently bought a laptop computer which came with 60 days free Norton Protection. I’m nearing the end of my 60 days & I’m receiving alerts stating that I must buy the paid version. This is at a cost of about $70.

    Being a first year full time law student Iam unable to afford this & I’m really worried about that.

    I’m very interested in installing “Microsoft security essentials” or “Malwarebytes Anti-malware”

    I’m wondering, if I install these free versions will they come with the same complete level of protection as Norton?

    Also, I’m assuming I have to uninstall Norton before installing anything else. If so how do I go about doing uninstalling from my windows 7 laptop?

    Another question (& I hope you don’t mind so many) but since I bought my laptop I have been getting messages to “back-up” my computer. When I press on these icons I find them difficult to understand. I follow the steps & it always says “back-up not complete” or “back-up failed”.

    Is there an easy way to do a back up on my computer?

    Thanks so much once again, your time is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks, Davina… :0)

  105. Dyson Nicholson

    Leo I disagree with you in regard Microsoft Security Essenials. I had installed this product along with Avast and Zone Alarm and all were up to date. I was downloading from Brothersoft and Avast was the only software that picked up and threw out a massively dangerous Trojan.Also the m/s security essential software being run prior to, never picks up any of the spyware malware that SuperAntiSpyware does. Love reading you newsletter keep up the great work. Thanks

    Fair enough, but it’s also important to note that no anti-malware tool will catch every peice of malware. That’s the nature of malware.


  106. Roger H

    The current update for AVG Free wants Microsoft Security Essentials removed before it will install. Is that a good idea? Can Essentials be installed after AVG is updated?

    Because anti-malware programs can sometimes interefere with each other, they often check to make sure that they’re the only one installed. This is a valid check, and you should choose which of the two you want, and only use the one.


  107. johnpro2

    I am also a Microsoft Security Essentials convert …I run Winpatrol free version as well because it has many good features and does not compete or conflict with MSSE because it performs other ‘guard duties’
    My PC has been clean for over a year now.

  108. Mike

    Here’s my problem with Avast, AVG, Avira, etc. It’s not often, very rare in fact, but there comes a time when I want to temporarily shut down the antivirus program, and there is no facility to do so. My only recourse is to completely uninstall the entire program, which is cumbersome. If that’s my choice, then I’ll just leave it uninstalled. Perhaps that’s changed now, but for too long it was the status quo and I’m not going to keep trying out a product to see if it’s improved at some point.

    It’s good to be validated that MSE and Malwarebytes (and a NAT router) are good choices, and that Spybot is still a good alternative. Ad-aware was good, but like the AV programs, it got bossy when it installed elements that couldn’t be turned off without uninstalling the entire thing.

  109. CHUCK


    I’ve not used it myself, but hear good things about it. I wouldn’t call it a mistake.


    • Thomas G.C.

      Several years ago I used Norton and Symantec but disliked the way they operated and their high subscription cost. I switched to Kaspersky Internet Security (KIS) in 2007 and have it on three home PCs and laptops. It is, of course, important to keep your subscription active, so you get the security updates (daily, typically). When renewing my subscription, I always go for the two or three-year option, as it works out cheaper.
      Pros: Very secure. Great features, including parental controls. Excellent value for money.
      Cons: Sometimes hogs CPU during background scan.
      Overall, I recommend KIS to anyone not sure which security bundle to choose.

  110. John Ellis

    Hi Leo! Most of the stuff you “put out” for the “general user” is OK, but that’s it. Nothing really great, and nothing to write home about! In regards to your Firewall/AV recommendations, I’d say that you’re a little “out-of-touch” M-S SE ain’t that swift, and M-S is VERY nosy about what is on people’s computers! Avira is one of the biggest P-o-S that you could EVER install on a machine! Where have you been of late??? BEST for 32 OR 64-bit machines is COMODO Internet Security FREE (Firewall & AV)! NOT nosy and even if a bit out-of-date, it’ll STILL run, which M-S SE won’t! And SPYBOT or Adaware???? You have got to be kidding me! They’re both so BLOATED, SLOW and out-of-date, that they couldn’t find a noodle in a wet paper bag!!! Use SUPERAntispyware FREE and MalwareBytes (FREE) and you’re good to go. Jesus H. Christ Leo, try and stay a bit up-to-date, even with normal users!!!! -J.Ellis

  111. David Wittkop

    Leo, I like what you report. I have use Malware to help clean up clients infected systems. MSE came on a new laptop I purchase and turned it off, just because of previous results from MS. I see you also mention AVG and Avira, but you haven’t mentioned Avast – free. I have used this for 8 years and it has never let me down. With its new interface it is even better. Like you say, nothing is 100% all the time. Are you toting MSE for a reason? Just wondering.

  112. Dan Norwood

    I just purchase a tower HP and will be turning it on soon. I’ve used Stop Sign Virus Protection since 2002 and have been really pleased. I’ll call them to add my 3rd computer. They scan continuously each day, update and repair – For the beginner they might be too much because there is always a window popping up asking you what you want to do next. But for my money Stop-sign is really good.

  113. Glenn P.

    MSE is well-touted as an excellent antivirus program, but what about anti-spyware? If MSE doesn’t do spyware, can you recommend a good anti-spyware program that “plays nicely” with MSE? And the same for a firewall program? Thanks…

    MSE is both anti-spyware and anti-virus. Use a router as your firewall, or turn on the built in Windows
    firewall when you’re not behind a router.


  114. Len Schaffner

    I’m running the following on 50 computers that I maintain.
    Superantispyware-free version.
    Extermintate_it Paid version

  115. Ann

    Please can you help. I am receiving unwanted emails that are sent from my email address to bulk recipients and then being returned unsent. Can you recommend a solution. I have Sky Broadband but am using AOL for emails only.

    I’ll start you here: Someone’s sending from my email address! How do I stop them?! – but read carefully the variations listed at the beginning of that article. It’s possible that your account has been hacked, I just can’t tell from the information you’ve provided. It’s also possible that this is nothing more than plain old spam that you can do nothing about.


  116. steven

    Trying to tell non comnputer people that Antivirus does not catch everything is hard to do. I use MSE, because I got sick of the buy popup from Avira. If I were to go with a paid program, what would I get that MSE would not give me?

  117. JAKE R.

    AVG Free and “built in”MS stuff! AVG slow if lines are busy but I have always run the backups first thing daily, and a full scan once a week. Learned my lesson long ago!

  118. Josh

    Len – Extermintate_it is a questionable program. Not a rogue but it does give lots of false positives and doesn’t offer a trial nor it’s free to remove. I’m wondering on how many legit files and legit reg entries that weren’t infected you’ve removed using Exterminate-it.

    Anyhow, I’m using KIS 2012 and paid MBAM as my security setup. Microsoft did really well there cracking a very difficult arena to crack. Not easy to put up a brand new antivirus against the well established paid and free security vendors and Microsoft managed it very well I thought with MSE.

  119. Robert Byrne

    I found that if I am using a current Vipre license
    (GFI/Sunbelt software) that the Vipre people will
    remove any malware I hapen to get for free.
    Sort of like antimalware insurance.I have not
    had the opportunity(thankfully) to utilize this service yet.
    Best regards
    Bob Byrne

  120. Michael

    Thanks to “Leo” and alot of you on this site I have learned alot about many new items and issues.Thank you All. Michka’el.

  121. David Hutchins

    Over the years I have tested and used various security products. Many of them were good (for a while), but always ended up eventually having some drawbacks (high cost, high overhead, clunky interface, too intrusive, etc). For quite a while now I have used nothing but Vipre (formerly owned by Sunbelt Software, now GFI). It has the best mix of cost, safety, flexibility, ease of use and performance. Support is really good and is U.S. based. They have “lifetime” licenses at a reasonable price and good pricing on licenses for all your home machines (unlimited). They update anti-virus signatures several times a day, usually. As Leo says, one size does not fit all, but I think once you try Vipre you will like it better than anything else you may have tried before. I was never a big fan of comprehensive security packages myself, preferring to buy separate “best in its’ class” items, but Vipre changed my mind.

  122. David Hutchins

    Just a comment about AVG Free, since Leo recommends it. A lot of people use and recommend it, but I have found that it slows my system down a lot. I have quite an old system. Perhaps on newer, faster systems, it’s not an issue. It’s also only an anti-virus I think and does not have a Firewall.

    • EloinaDiaz

      I have used ‘Avast’ ever since a geek friend of mine recommended, it is free and I With AVAST I have never had a virus in my computers. I have used it for almost 8 years. I never had to pay; although some times they try to introduced a new version that has a 30 days trial and then you have to purchased it. But I insist to stay with the older version for home edition that don’t need to put your credit card. At one time I purchase a Northon antivirus but had no patient to follow all the prompts, I went back to AVAST.

  123. Joon

    AVG now (without my permission) installs a search bar that slowed my computer a lot. AVG does not offer any info removing the Toolbar even though I did not check the box to include the Toolbar. It was so annoying I unintalled AVG. Now I still have the Toolbar on Google and I cannot remove it.

    So AVG is getting paid for hits when someone else uses my computer and this toolbar. Why would AVG offer to uninstall the toolbar. Pretty underhanded business dealings.

  124. Mark Jacobs

    When you installed AVG you probably didn’t uncheck the box that said install the toolbar, or you may have chosen the express install which automatically installs it as a default. Many freeware programs do this, as that’s how they make money. In order to remove the toolbar, some toolbars can be uninstalled through the add/remove programs function in the control panel, others can be removes through the install/remove add-ins from your browser.

  125. Ben M

    As a Computer Repair shop owner, I have seen products such as Avira and AVG (FREE) Fail on NUMEROUS occasions, ever since “Rootkits” (Super nasty infections, known to disable AV Programs, and admin tasks like task manager, and even internet connection via using bad proxy settings) came onto the scene. I have found several programs that DO work.

    KASPERSKY is probably #1 due to price and protection. #2 is ESET. #3 is Norton but ONLY the 360 PREMIER edition, which is VERY expensive in comparision, as well as a system hog, etc. Back in “The Good Ol’ Days”, I could give customers AVG, Spybot Search and Destroy, and Adaware, and call it good. Unfortunately those times are gone, and I have yet to find a SINGLE free AV program that protects against serious viruses or rootkits. If anyone DOES know of one out there, I’d greatly appreciate the heads-up!

    Some known bad AV programs are-AVG Free ( my old roommate used paid, and STILL had crap found by MALWAREBYTES after ) , Avira, Avast, Webroot, Mcafee, Microsoft Security Essentials, Win Defender, -pretty much everything free, and unfortunately even most of the pricey ones too.

    These of course, are just from my experience as a computer technician and then business owner.I am posting this hoping to save some people the trouble of trying to find good ones, or googling it. Unfortunately like everything else, AV programs are about politics-they pay for reviews, and fake top 100 lists, etc.

    BTW Leo, thanks SO much for the great site, I send MANY customers here to find easy answers!

  126. Dave Glick

    Hey Leo,

    As a professional computer tech, I am not a fan of link scanners either, mainly for a different reason than you stated (although MS Phishing Filter REALLY slows down the browser!) – my reason is that nothing is 100%, and if a user trusts a link scanner 100% then they could still get infected by trusting it.

    Here is a procedure that I recommend to my customers to help stay away from the bad guys – use Mozilla Firefox and install AdBlockPlus (available at adblockplus.org). Since many spyware infections are coming in on otherwise benign web pages (especially on XP with IE 8 or less) removing the ads will be a huge advantage in the fight against malware. Sure, Simple Ad Block (adblockplus’s cousin) IS available for IE, but its $30 – why pay that when its free for FF?


  127. iceyone

    I would recommend microsoft security essentials as well (I never though I would recommend a microsoft avs!).

    AVG used to be good (but is now bloated). Then again, if you are careful about what you view/download/install you shouldn’t need antivirus.

  128. Christopher Burke

    Dear Anyone.

    For starters – what WOULD you call Malwarebytes Anti Malware if not an antivirus scanner? I notice Leo says it doesn’t count as one but I can’t see WHY it doesn’t count as one. Silly.

    And secondly – as far as scanning everything you download goes, that’s only as good as the scanner you use. I have Avast Free which happily tells me my system is secure. But my system was getting slower and slower and repeated full scans with Avast were coming up empty.

    So I did a 10-Bit full scan – found 10 nasties. Killed those. Then I did a Malwarebytes scan – and found 97. That’s not a mistype – 97! And I’d scanned EVERYTHING I’d ever downloaded with Avast Free!

    So I’ve got Avast Free still, and 10-Bit, but I do a full system scan once a week with Malwarebytes to be on the safes side – for something that isn’t an antivirus scanner – according to Leo – it’s very good at finding nasties!

    Yours respectfully

    Christopher Burke

  129. Mike Castro - Multilink Security UK

    I have used Norton for about 15 years. I currently use Norton 360 and I have found it to be 100% reliable. My only observation is that you must keep the auto updates running and setup. I use CCleaner to get rid of the junk and Norton Ultilities to tidy up. It all works well together.

  130. gregwashere2

    After many years of trying everything, I’m down to using everything Leo recommends excet AVG & Avira. All I can add is TDSSKiller rootkit removing tool by Kaspersky, (it’s free), and maybe Cookienator, for tracking cookies. Ad-Aware has come a long way. Most all of them update every day. Here’s to staying “clean”.

  131. Michael W. Moseley Sr.

    I used AVG for quite awhile but was attacked several times and had trojans, etc. on several occasions. I lost control of my desktop and had to reinstall Windows. I went to MSE when it came out and haven’t had any problems since.

  132. Rick S

    I have been using Avira for many years now. Both the free and the paid for versions with good results.

    My ISP recommended Malwarebytes just to make sure nothing was missed. It’s been doing a fine job for me for a few years too.

    Kind of makes me feel good that Leo recommends the same tools that I have been using for years. I just don’t have any problems with any of my computers. It’s nice.

  133. aresilva

    What about Windows Defender?

    Microsoft Security Essentials superscedes Windows Defender. (i.e. it does what Defender did).

  134. Ed Haney

    I noticed you did not recommend AVAST free. I have been using it on every computer I have built which is a lot. I also use it on all 7 of my home computers 3 desktops 3 laptops and one netbook. I don’t mind having to register it every year for the benefits it provides. I rely on Ask Leo thanks for a great service

    • paul

      eset is great. google it up and find the free 30 day trial. its the full version you will get. I did it and have been using nod32 for years with no problems and its found every thing that tried to get by it. its worth every cent and I wont be changing for anything. hope it helps you mate. give it a try anyhow and make up your own mind. cya, paul

  135. Allen

    I’d definitely recommend Avast over AVG. The 2 times I’ve had AVG, it ended up destroying my system and causing me to have to reformat, thus losing all my data.

    I couldn’t even boot into safe mode! The first time it happened…well it just sort of happened, I went to restart my computer and right when it got to the windows splash screen, it blue screened. The 2nd time, I actually installed AVG by accident some how (I meant to download and install Avast). So I went to uninstall AVG, it prompted me to restart and guess what…destroyed my system again, wasn’t able to boot into safe mode or anything.

    So on that note, I highly recommend staying away from AVG as from my experience it’s almost as bad as McAffee is at causing more problems than fixing. If you cherish the integrity of your system, don’t install AVG. I’ve never had any issues with Avast and it never pops up advertisements asking me to buy their full version. It’s always up to date and I haven’t had a virus on my system in years (I do scans with Spyboy search and destroy, as well as, malwarebytes monthly along side it).

  136. Mark Jacobs

    Millions of people have been using AVG without any problems. So I’d suspect the problems you are having may be caused by malware or some other problem, not AVG software.

  137. Josh

    All things considered, I recommend Avast over AVG any day. I’ve had huge system problems with AVG. To blame “some other problem” for it, is not fair. I have never had such problems with Avast and I’ve never had any infections since using Avast, MBAM and SS&D. It’s less resource hungry and it does not irritate me with constant tugging to buy their products.

  138. Bill

    I used Ad-aware for many years but last week succumbed to blandishments to upgrade to Ver.10. Big mistake – for the 1st time ever I got BSOD every time I awoke the computer from sleep. I also got some bizarre effects like empty emails. Big trouble removing program. I finally tried a system restore and wonder of wonders – it worked. Note that they have added AV to spyware detection ie exactly what Leo warned against.

    I installed Spybot which I have used previously. Lo and behold. the 1st run found W3i.IQ5.FRAUD! Is it a false positive?

    I have no symptoms of anything wrong. I’m very careful where I go and what I download. Security Essentials did not find this, nor did Ad-aware 9.6 nor did Malwarebytes Antimalware.

    Is it real? How dangerous is it? Opinions welcome.

    Using W7 and a router plus a commodo firewall

  139. Bill

    P.S. to above comment.
    I am using AVG and it, and all other security ware mentioned, is up to date.

    So if I’ve got malware – How could I have gotten it?

  140. Beverly

    I recently had a problem with my desktop computer and the tech recommended Webroot. So far so good, it doesn’t take up a lot of disk space which is good for me. I was using Microsoft Essentials.

  141. rocketmouse

    In the “Short-Short Version” you (once again) emphasized MSE. In the article you also mentioned you don’t answer Mac-related questions very often. I’m hoping this one will be an exception, or at least be among the “not-very-often.” I have now tried to install MSE *several* times on my Windows XP Pro installation in BootCamp on my MacBook Pro. (Also when that installation resided on an old (original) 13″ MacBook.) It has failed every time! This last time Microsoft suggested a scanner (to be sure I removed *all* previous anti-malware programs,) which I used. Among the ones found (in addition to my ZoneAlarm Firewall and Anti-Virus) were Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware and Spybot Search & Destroy… and a few others. I virtually reamed my system of security programs, also using several cleaners and registry-fixers (in sequence, not simultaneously) to be sure all of it was gone. Of course I worried about running “naked” while MSE installed…, BUT it still wouldn’t install. I also had a failed backup to contend with–*very* long story short, the not-up-to-date Windows from my original MacBook is now on the Pro.
    Could these problems with installing MSE have something to do with hardware issues of running Windows in BootCamp (Apple drivers) on a Mac? OR, what could I have done wrong? I did run chkdsk /f on (each) restart, but (ahem) had neglected to restart twice after the one prior to the backup which is why the restore errored out. Perhaps I needed to do that prior to the MSE install as well?
    You are not the only one to recommend MSE. I would prefer to have it in my Windows (which I need as the “go-to” person, still, after semi-retirement.) I would appreciate any ideas you have as to why the installation of MSE keeps on failing! And possibly what I can do about it.

  142. Pete Hepple

    I’m amazed. After years of juggling with Avast,AVG,SpyBot etc. with their large footprint, it was recommended that I use MSE and MalWareBytes plus the router Firewall. I did and have had no more problems with sluggish performance or malware.
    Excellent article. Will visit more often!

  143. Russell

    I have a Northgate PC with 35G HDD (5GB “free”). I’m currently use the FREE AVG anti-virus software, Super Anti-Spyware Professional (pay version), and CYBER DEFENDER (pay version), yet my XP PC is VERY sluggish. I know HDD probably needs to be much larger, but what can I do to maximize the speed on this machine? As to the internet, I have a 40MB down/5MB cable broadband setup connecting thru an SMC cable broadband modem/router (N-protocol). Thanks.

  144. Hemachandra

    I haave 256 mb ram on my system and I have tried almost all antivirus softwares. They tend to slow down the systyem cosiderably. If someone knows any antivirus compatible to 256 mb ram kindly let me know.


    It really depends more on the operating system, but these days 256mb isn’t enough to support current OS’s, and likely anti-virus products aren’t going to be compatible with older ones.

  145. Jeanie

    I would like to know what you think about “VIPRE ANTI-VIRUS”??? I currently have it & I sometimes think it is too protective!! Can that be so?? Thanks!

  146. Rhudi

    Thank you for this article. I would like to link my friends to it. I’ve followed nearly the exact path in my own AV software history.

  147. Bill Jones

    I use Advanced System Care ,and it seems to do all that is required to keep your computer running in tip top condition. Gets rid of malware and the junk along with many other things that affect your computer and Excellent program.
    Check it out !!!

  148. Michael

    “Different strokes for different folks!” I use Comodo Personal Firewall (free version) for my firewall, Avast for my “active” anti-virus, and have MalwareBytes (MBAM) installed but inactive to use as a “second opinion”. I also have Kaspersky TDSSKiller Rootkit Remover to be used when deemed necessary. I did have Spybot S&D but just recently I dumped it. I also had Secunia PSI but got rid of it after their (I feel) lousy attempt to “modernize” (for lack of a better word) their application. The older version of PSI provided me much more information that does the current version of PSI. Same goes for Spybot. So far, I have had no problems, infestations, etc., with my current set-up.

  149. Avast

    I like Avast because it automatically updates it’s virus definitions all by itself every day, and I have the free version. I have had no problems with virus’ or malware since I installed it. It will run interference for you and stop a virus from getting on your machine. I really like it!!

  150. Philip M

    I actually agree with Leo on this as Micro Security Essentials as first choice my reasons are so simple ,I repair computers for friends and have Windows Based Computers in my home and also one Imac the pcs have never had a virus in at least 4 years and I use a VPN on these repaired friends computers which on request I can check them remotely when a problem arises with no problem up to now as far as Trojans viruses or unwanted nasties so Microsoft Security gets my vote, remember also its free,,,,,,,,,,

  151. Joseph

    I used to use AVG never had problems until I installed K9. I tried reinstalling with the settings the support gave me but never really worked together kept blocking my whole internet etc. I unistalled AVG and now use MS security essentials.

  152. Barry Stinson

    I.ve been using avast! Internet Security for a couple of years now, and although it’s not free, it’s certainly reasonable, and I have had NO problems whatsoever. I also use CCleaner, Boost (http://www.boostbyreason.com/), Malwarebytes anti-malware, and WinPatrol. All seem to be highly recommended and highly effective.

  153. Don Taber

    I, too, use Avast! — free, not Internet Security. Prior to that, I had been using Avira, but it suddenly stopped updating and even a reinstall didn’t fix that. Avira tech support had no answer for why. So I switched to Avast! Have had no problems with it for 5 years. I also have SpywareBlaster, Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware, all free versions. I use the latter 2 very rarely because I haven’t had more than a couple of nasties in the last half-dozen years. Desktop connects to the Internet thru my router via a Belkin adapter, so none of my computers are even visible on the Internet. Hence, never get anything. I provide tech support to a dozen families and non-profit organizations, and set their computers up the same way. They, too, never have malware problems.

  154. Paul

    I use Malwarebytes along with Webroot’s Spysweeper and have no problems. Had Norton, tried AVG and a couple of freebies. I will stick with this combo.

  155. Stan

    Over the years I have used a variety of these systems (Norton’s, AVG, McAfee and others with varying degrees of success) but 2 years ago my Tech put me on to Trend Titanium and I can’t fault it. It’s fast unobtrusive and extremely vigilant. It’s great value and peace of mind for money you pay.

  156. James D.

    Best antivirus, malware, all around security on-line? Simple: as Leo says, first of all, always use a decent router even for just one computer; other than that Viper will do it all and has great, responsive support, not to mention very reasonable renewals with frequent annual ‘bargain renewals’ Leave my computer on all day, most days, never get infected. Vipre is fast, lean, and user friendly interface. Not to mention their wonderful,free, weekly newsletter via email, with updates on security risks and other useful info.

  157. Reg

    I’ve had a “decent router” for ages and had to upgrade recently so I could move to n band as well as WPA2-PSK. I have to assume it’s Firewall offers some protection because I’m an old guy of computer level 3/10. As well as various phones my router links to an iPad and three Windows computers.

    My main computer runs Win7 with ESET protection since ages ago when Nortons just about paralyzed my computer, I trust things are better these days. The second is a laptop that came with Norton’s pre-installed and which I purchased out of fear of what may happen if I tried to uninstall Nortons. Now I find I can use it on three computers. What a waste! My third computer runs XP and was protected by free AVG. That is, until it crashed miserably due to virus intrusion. One angry woman and she was pointing at me! Why?

    It was after clearing all the problems in the XP installation that I decided that free virus programs were inviting failure. If I was starting again I would choose ESET for all, but I quake at the prospect of declining Norton’s and there is an upgrade from that XP on the horizon with all the pitfalls that threatens. The point is that all three virus programs are now paid because I’ve had failures from the free version of AVG, dreadful problems with running and removing old Nortons and only one rude contact with ESET. The odds favour ESET.

  158. Ken Clarke

    I recently bought a new desk-top with Wndows 8. It had a trial version of Kapersky (now expired) but the built in anti-virus etc. is Windows Defender. If Microsoft Security Essentials is better than Defender why didn`t Microsoft make that the factory-installed virus protection?. Should I switch to MSE.

    • This is another case of Microsoft’s bad naming choices. I should clarify this in the article, but in Windows 8 the program called Windows Defender is, basically, Security Essentials. So there’s no need to grab MSE – you effectively already have it.

  159. Bonita

    If you are using the free versions of AVG or Avast, and are getting prompted to get the newest version, users are reporting various problems with these, you may want to check this out, there are various reports online about it…

  160. Brad

    Let’s say I’m on vacation but want to keep an eye on stocks I am trading…I’d want to make sure my laptop is secure if I’m checking in on my stock portfolio or bank account…would it be a good idea to bring a router with me for extra protection?…or is it even possible to hook up a router onto my laptop while in a motel…thanks.

  161. Cal

    Security? My Dollar three ninty-eight. Compare to the home with the doors locked/bolted so the thieves can’t get in. Keeps the locals and the drive-bys out. Not the ones that really want in. And, Once in the locks are useless to keep them leaving with the goodies.

    (Most? vrii are let in by the user via email and Browser views. Yes?)

    Having a good firewall, that prevents all those OEM freebies and downloaded hypes from calling home, is a must. The big boys are guilty of attempting those calls also. Adobe, Picasa, And on and on. A firewall that offers a report of same would surprise most if read. Who and how many attempts on each usage.

    I hear they call only call home to assure you have the latest update. Right!

    With that in mind I prefer to allow updates within a time frame that doesn’t disrupt any activity currently running. And/or waiting till the release is out for a while with an ear to the ground for any problems that may need fixes.

    Also have NoScript and AdBlock plus with Mozillas Firefox browser to reduce ‘unauthorized’ activity.

    The firewall? ZoneAlarm (free). Originally from Steve Gibson. Now by?? The only virii I now find are the hooks in the Registry left after uninstalling the OEM freebees.

    I keep aware of the new as it comes across the screen. But don’t have time to change horses based on other users (readers) recommends.

    Norton OEM was the hardest to remove. Had to call and threaten them to get their tool to completely erase it!

    Finally. Didn’t mention any of the other anti-vrii as I don’t use any of them. They were causing more problems with their latest and greatest (added bloat) including the time consuming management of them with each ‘upgrade’.

  162. John Neeting

    I just instaled a copy of ‘webroot secure anywhere” and to say I’m impressed is an understatement.
    I can’t believe the low overhead, the checking of every keystroke, every port and thread and the speed increase with their tools is outa-sight. In five minutes on line the log has checked 4 million bits of data and commands to and from every open port on my PC. Why haven’t I seen this shield before. It works hand in hand with all other resident virus checkers because it’s more of a guard and shield to suspicious activity on the PC.

  163. Cal

    John, I did an Internet search of ‘webroot secure anywhere’ (WCA) and PC Magazine had an article (Oct 29,1012) indicating 5 different WCA suites were available. Which did you use?

  164. Randy

    Download any Linux based FREE operating system at distrowatch dot com. Mint is user friendly as is Ubuntu. Very, very few virus attack Linux based systems. Instructions for creating a ISO image are posted on their respective web sites. You may also use the portable version (USB stick) or load and try the system without installing it. Give it a try, it’s the wave of the future!

    • James

      And the more people do what you say, the sooner viruses for Linux will proliferate to the level that they do with Windows, just as Mac users are beginning to find out.

  165. John Witmer

    Can you recommend a VPN? From time to time, I need to use a WIFI connection for online banking.
    What would be a good VPN for that purpose?

  166. rosshi

    I have heard advice like this before; RUBBISH
    MS Security Essentials is at best average, it is far from satisfactory. Good free anti-virus;
    1. Avast
    2. Avira
    3. AVG (not as good as 1. or 2.)

    Anti-malware Free editions;
    1. Super Anti-spyware
    2. Malwarebytes
    3. Emsisoft Anti-malware
    4. Spyware Blaster (immunising anti-malware)
    I recommend at least two of these anti-malware programs, only ever use one anti-virus program.
    Windows defender is useless and finds nothing

    If you want to be free to not have to use any of the above, use;
    Returnil http://www.returnilvirtualsystem.com/
    Sandbox style technology, once you reboot all that invaded your system when you were surfing is completely gone…

    The guy who wrote this article does not know much; remember a little knowledge can be dangerous

  167. Glenda Oakley

    Sorry to ask a silly question..I use MSE, so, do I still need windows firewall turned on? I also run a couple of other things that Leo has talked about. By the way Leo, ALWAYS glad to get you emails, so informative and I learn heaps! Thank you, I willnever unsubscribe.

  168. Bruce M

    I am currently using ESET. Do you recommend Windows Security Essentials over ESET? Can
    both be run simultaneously?

    • Mark Jacobs

      ESET is a very good AV program. If you’ve already paid for it and aren’t having any issues with it, you don’t need to change.

      • star

        except avira and avg free both at same time ???

        Leo 26 May 2013 Reply
        What Mark said. In general it’s NOT a good idea to run two anti-virus programs at the same time.

  169. Arie

    Hey Leo,

    At the end of the article you write “Keep your computer up-to-date.” Problem is that most computers postpone updates they need to do, or ignore them. When these are Adobe or JAVA updates, they are leaving themselves at risk to security breaches. That’s why our IT management solution (http://www.fixico.com) includes a patch scanner that makes sure all OS and core software is always updated, becuase as we say here – Antivirus is just not enough.

  170. inalorzaliev

    This wasn’t clear enough for me. Should I get all of these, Only 1 of these, or 1 from each of the categories that was listed?

    • Mark Jacobs

      The short version of the article at the beginning sums it up and pretty much tells you all you need to do.
      * Get a router even if you have only one computer; it will be your firewall.
      * Install the free Microsoft Security Essentials as your anti-virus, anti-spyware and malware scanner.
      * Turn on Windows Automatic Update.
      * Turn on the Windows Firewall when you travel.

      In addition you might want to get a standalone Malware Scanner, a Spyware scanner, and MalWareBytes, but you can also download these when the need arises.

  171. Frank

    My secret Recipe for computer Security at low cost. Okay my gaming computer , I do not want to waste resources on virus software . So you install mse and set it up to run quick scan everyday. then you purchase the pro version of Malware bytes for addition real- time protection ( life time license for 25 bucks is a steal ) . Remember must visit vendor site to add file exceptions to mse to make the two work happy together. Set Malware bytes to update about every 2 hours and run flash scan ( that runs in about 20 seconds ). So the above is automatic and carefree unless you get alert . Next about every couple of weeks you go est 32 website and run the online scanner. Just turn over windows firewall and you now have easy low cost security package.

  172. erwin

    I’ve been using ASC Ultimate 6 (Advance System Care Ultimate 6). It’s like the combination of tuneup utilities and internet security AV and game booster. Try it for those who have a problem in registry, junks files, malware, and shortcuts. It can improve also your internet and can defrag your disks.

  173. (unknown)

    avast is way better than MSE… my computer came with mse and got viruses, avast stopped them dead, and if you go to a website with a viruse on it avast will say “virus detected” and wont allow access to the webpage…… no more viruses

  174. Yeppers

    Leo, do you currently use only free PC security software? Or, are do you also utilize paid-for security software? If any are paid for, which ones are they? Thanks…

    • Mark Jacobs

      Leo only recommends software he actually uses. In the article What software do you use? Leo says, “Microsoft Security Essentials is one of the first things that I install on my machines to scan for viruses and spyware.” Since you can only use one live at a time, it’s safe to assume Leo runs only Microsoft Security Essentials as his live antimalware program.

      • Yeppers

        Thanks, Mark. Do you know if it is possible to install and turn off a “live” anti-malware software, and later turn it back on to run the scanner manually on demand – without it conflicting with the primary live anti-malware software that is always running? (I would then turn the secondary anti-malware back off again when the on-demand scan is completed.) Or am I asking for trouble if I try this? My reason for asking: I would like to install and get the benefit of the recommended free AVG or free Avira — without needing to remove my primary anti-malware software (Norton Internet Security). As I understand it, both AVG and Avira, although free, do provide real-time protection; therefore, as you know, they should not be running at the same time as Norton.

  175. pedruid

    A very interesting article. I use and have done for about 5 years F-Secure Security Suite and have no complaints. It can be used on 3 machines and has great support here in South Africa.

    • Since Ask Leo! is ad supported I choose not to recommend ad blockers. Ads are what keep so much of the internet free. If a particular site has annoying ads, don’t visit that site.

      • Cat Tilley

        Thanks for alerting me to this, Leo. I’ve been running AdBlock Plus (in addition to NoScript on Firefox), on all of my Windows & Linux browsers. Mainly as part of my security strategy, but also the content that I want to see loads much faster. Critical on someone with a cell based ISP with a 5GB cap/month.

        Yes, there are certainly legit sites that doesn’t “ad” one to death. This is one of the few left. I’ll add “AskLeo” to my whitelist. As much as I’ve learned from you, a few ads won’t harm me.


  176. star

    wel; its not about block all ads altogether but to block anything explicit nature ,internet free “is part of our life “the other part is life itself !! = preserve our nature of adhere what’s right and proper and good

  177. David

    I Use MSE anti virus running along side a Real-time, Cloud-based antivirus by Immunet, (free version) which is compatible with MSE and some other anti viruses. Also I Use Windows own firewall with a firewall helper called Windows 7 Firewall control free version 32 Bit or 64bit, works with XP and in my case Vista. Great helper because when you click on a program it will ask you permission to let the program access the internet. Both still available on the net but as with most software read carfully as you dont want to end up with an unwanted toolbar installed.

  178. Jake

    Thanks for posting this article. I am a newcomer to your site and newsletters, and I’m finding a lot of great stuff here. I use Microsoft Security Essentials and am a screen reader user. I have found this program to work great with both of my screen readers, and that is also the opinion of other experienced screen reader users with whom I’ve communicated over the years. In addition, a former coworker of mine recommended Security Essentials highly and he wasn’t a screen reader user. Thanks again and keep up the great work!

  179. Andy

    I was running Microsoft Essentials and picked up infections which I had suspected. Couldn’t install Avast probably blocked. But with Avira I had no problem and then I found 6 infections which were duly removed. Avira gets my vote any day!

  180. MichkaEL

    Hello Leo and Hi to all others! Happy and blessed Chanukah my friend. Also Happy Hanukkah and Christmas to all others here! You have all given tons of input and response thank you. Leo, Sir. I met you as I started with computers in 2009 after online training with Metrex/Skillport online training and since then I’ve learned and listened to everything Leo teaches us all. To me Norton 360 slows everything down.AVG gets Trojans attached to parts of it somehow humm? Microsoft Security Essentials is Top Notch and finds “everything!” Since Leo told me and all of us about it and I installed it and highly recommend it! SpyBot S&D is also very good and the only-protection I could get onto my other computer which is a HP Pavilion 305n running Windows XP Home Edition. Leo, My sister bought me this computer second hand and I took ownership of it as the owner and administrator and am setting everything up all over but…I can’t uninstall the MSE I partially installed or get it to fully update and complete installation! I installed Sp3 and that just Really slowed everything-up! So I uninstalled it and installed SpyBot S&D. My MSE is still in it but no-matter what I do I can’t seem to be able to uninstall it and reinstall it. Any idea’s? Thank you again Sir and all of you for your many ideas also.MichkaEL.

    • I’m going to write a new article about this, but if you just accepted the copy of Windows that was installed on this second hand computer – well, that’s a problem for a number of reasons. The correct solution is to wipe the machine and reinstall Windows from scratch. You don’t know whether the previous owner had good security habits or not, and you could have gotten a machine full of malware – even if scans indicate otherwise. The machine is basically not trustworthy. (It’s also possible that getting Windows second-hand like this might not be legal.)

      • Cameron Parrish

        I wonder if this is why refurbished machines come with a newer version of Windows than the OEM one; with a new OEM COA and the old one covered up with a transparent piece of paper that reads “Microsoft old COA” with the bottom half of the sticker crossed out.

  181. 31428571J

    Am rather surprised to see that no mention of ‘Kaspersky’ (2014?) was given.
    You know, the one that the professionals use:-)

    • There are dozens of different anti-malware packages that “professionals” use – Kaspersky is just one. My recommendation is another. Different professionals all have different tastes & opinions.

    • Cat Tilley

      You mean the one that slows my gaming notebook to a crawl :-(

      Yes, I’m speaking of KIS 2014.

      Windows Defender/MBAM Pro is much more compatible.


  182. David

    Leo just a quick hello to you and luck for this year.
    Have been using Microsoft Security Essentials since it was first offered as One Care.
    Have not been infected since that time.
    Of course everyone uses the internet differently, that’s why we need you.
    Thanks again.

  183. Lyle Allen

    Good article but the writing needs work:

    I believe that the user actually had to explicitly ignore warnings presented by MSE and explicitly allow malicious software to be run.

    The above is UNCLEAR. Are you suggesting that this was a bad review? –that they didn’t do their due diligence or didn’t understand how to make best use of MSE?? What do you really mean?


    • I mean that they failed to mention that it apparently requires the user explicitly ignoring warnings for the malicious software to be run. Whether that makes it a bad review is up to you.

  184. Cameron Parrish

    When I looked at the screenshot, something seemed off: I then realized that the tab icons have been removed somewhere down the road since I started using it in 2010.

    One time it even had a background, which was also later removed.

  185. symon bhandari

    Well I bought new toshiba laptop. It has windows defender and norton. I removed norton and defender is workind well. Is defender enough? Can I use defender along with antimalwarebytes?? Please suggest me….

  186. john

    I subscribe to Bob Rankin and as a result I was referred to AskLeo. Bob recently railed against MSE in no uncertain terms. Now you are telling us it is fine. And from the same study I might add. How on earth are we to get onside when you advisors are at odds. Surely if one thinks it is fine the other ought to agree not to knock it. At least that way it is left to us to decide. Saying “well you are left to decide” is not a fair answer in this case, to me. Best regards. john.

    • Connie Delaney

      What you need to do is actually read both of their arguments. You’ll find you agree with one or the other.

    • Welcome to the world of technology. Much like religion and politics different people have different values, beliefs, assumptions and priorities … with the net result being that they end up with different opinions. You will find this kind of inconsistency across the spectrum when it comes to computers. There are rarely any truly black-and-white answers that absolutely everyone agrees on.

  187. softwaregold.net

    You have provided great information on antivirus software. I was looking for the right information about the top antivirus tools, and having gone through your article, I came to some of the best available options.

  188. dihall96

    I read the article. I have a combination modem/router, I think (it’s what my ISP gave me when I signed on to a package thing that has DSL high speed Internet andTelephone service combined. They gave me a “Comtrend AR-5381u Wireless ADSL2+ Router”. What does NAT mean? Is my router an NAT router? How do I find out?

  189. Cat Tilley

    I’ve found MSE/Windows Defender combined with MBAM Pro a great 1-2 punch. In active (Pro) more, MBAM will block many known nasty websites, some that looks legit.

    A well configured hardware Firewall, as Leo has mentioned, also helps a lot by keeping the bad guys out. Wireless routers for this purpose doesn’t have to be expensive, just a reliable brand. Which is better than being behind a cable modem & Windows/3rd party Firewall on a 1 PC setup.

    I still leave Windows Firewall on, though.


  190. Janet

    I have a new computer and I was downloading the ms windows updates. I noticed quite a number of updates had an incorrect download date. I downloaded them on 19May2014, but the download date shows a future date of 26May2014. I don’t recall this happening before. Should I be concerned?

  191. Sylvia

    Hi, Leo, greetings from Sydney Australia, I am using Windows XP PRO SP3 32 bit.
    As you recommended, I am trying to download Avira free, but keep on getting a message that says that I may not have permission….I am logged in as ‘Owner’….is there a way I can make myself Administrator & toggle between the two? This is really causing me problems, I am a non-techie, just an old age pensioner trying to read articles on the Net, & doing the usual things, emails, card games, You Tube & Facebook, & saving pics etc….I had Avira, but it got quite clunky to use so deleted it, it was not easy to programme it to my own specs, & I eventually gave up, but Malwarebytes isn’t protecting me & MSE I’ve heard isn’t going to be around much more & I need anti-virus protection.
    Thanks so much Leo, you are the person who keeps me sane when I am frustrated with the computer…. I am saving up for an external hard drive as you also recommend….

  192. c.p sharma

    Hi, Leo, greetings from India, I am using Windows XP SP3
    As you recommended, I am trying to download Avira free, but keep on getting a message that says that I may not have permission….I am logged in as ‘Owner’….is there a way I can make myself Administrator & toggle between the two? This is really causing me problems, I am a non-techie, just an old age pensioner trying to read articles on the Net, & doing the usual things, emails, card games, You Tube & Facebook, & saving pics etc….I had Avira, but it got quite clunky to use so deleted it, it was not easy to programme it to my own specs, & I eventually gave up, but Malwarebytes isn’t protecting me & MSE I’ve heard isn’t going to be around much more & I need anti-virus protection.
    Thanks so much Leo, you are the person who keeps me sane when I am frustrated with the computer…. I am saving up for an external hard drive as you also recommend….Thenkyou

  193. alex

    Dear Leo!

    Before I could copy from your letters immerges and texts in the word [Office XP] but now only text – way

    I use windows xp pro


  194. Bill

    Mr. Notenboom. In our world of “Pay for the 1st Search Result”, it’s nearly impossible to believe anyone. E.G. I run a really tightened down computer. Never the less, I somehow was infected with AV Security Essentials on another windows 7 computer. It now boots up in only safemode with no internet ability. A few pro’s looked at it and told me it has changed some of my DLL files. In trying to get rid of it, I have tried many known trial versions of ESET down to AVG, Avast etc etc. None of them checked and cleaned my other computer before they downloaded “Their Version” of safety. My only option is to now rescue, but that deletes over 15,000 high res photos, and many hundreds of documents. Every search I do has their own recommendations as to what Suite is best, but I can’t find one that will fix my computer, which is the intent of AV Security Essentials Virus or what ever it is, so the question is, can you help?

    • From what you describe I would:

      a) BACK UP THAT COMPUTER. The fact that you might lose anything means you haven’t been backing up. Back it up. Now. That way you’ll not. And then start backing up regularly after everything has been fixed again.

      b) The system sounds compromised enough that after backing it up you should probably just reinstall Windows, reinstall your applications, and recover your data from backups.

      Best of luck….

  195. David

    Hi Leo,

    I just discovered your site and have been reading through many of your articles — all very helpful.

    What do you think of Norton anti-virus software? I see that you advised against all-in-one “suites” — which I assume includes Norton — but that it what I have right now. Per your suggestion to use Microsoft Security Essentials, it occurred to me that maybe I just use that, but I have to disable Norton first to do so (which actually may not be that easy; my experience with Norton is that it is almost like a virus itself in that they really nag you to come back. That’s why I still have it; I just couldn’t take it anymore and eventually gave in!). Would you recommend I do this?

    • “Norton is that it is almost like a virus itself in that they really nag you to come back.” – I think you may have stumbled onto one reason I don’t mention Norton much. It’s had its ups and downs as a product over the years, but seems OK these days. If it’s running and working for you I don’t see a need to change.

    • Robert

      Hi David,

      I know you want to hear the expert’s opinion. I’ll share mine, too. I respect and understand Leo’s comment – I’ll address it further below.

      Regarding removal, simply google “Norton Removal Tool” and be careful to download it directly from a Norton.com website. It will remove most any recent Norton program after which your PC will need to be rebooted. As Leo and most other techies recommend, do NOT run multiple real-time anti-malware programs on the same PC as they will at a minimum fight for resources and can conflict with each other to cause operational problems.

      Note that Comcast offers to its Internet customers for free the rebranded Norton Security Suite which is essentially the Norton 360 program. Each year since Comcast has upgraded the program at some point after the retail version has been released. They currently offer the 2014 version (as of today, You don’t have to install the Comcast ConstantGuard package. The Norton offering has been available as a standalone ever since Comcast switched from giving away McAfee.

      I currently await to see what Comcast offers going into 2015, as Symantec has revamped and simplified its Norton product line greatly. I did run the Norton 2015 beta on a test PC for a handful of weeks but the beta is no longer available. Comcast has announced recently that they are doing away with the ConstantGuard – I describe it as umbrella code – that really does not do anything new but hides the Norton name behind the ConstantGuard user interface. In other words, crapware.

      My History with Norton
      I have been a fan of Norton since the 1990s, not that I have always been happy with it in the past, but I believe it offers the best protection. The Norton Anti-Virus engine has consistently been at the top of the reputable head-to-head comparisons of anti-malware software for years. My recollection is that, in the early days of anti-virus software, IBM had a great team with a superior program. Norton bought it and rebranded it as their own.

      In time, the program became more complex as it adapted and grew to fight more challenging attacks and malware. At one point, it was clear to me that anti-spyware and anti-malware vendors would cross over and attempt to cover “both” of those bases with one program – so that there was only one real-time engine running in the background – and that made sense to me.

      While I cannot and will not attempt to speak for Leo, I can share some issues I found while working with Norton.

      During those years, Norton became quite buggy when it came time to move to a newer version, switch product lines, or simply reinstall or uninstall. But the protection was IMHO still first-rate, scoring higher than most other well-known programs.

      In 2009, the Norton product (based on Norton Anti-Virus and found in Internet Security, 360 and now just Security) was redesigned and rewritten. It was much faster to install, it added less time to bootup, the updates were less impactful on other foreground applications.

      I still found, though, with the Comcast branded Norton Security Suite that their version would be released in the fall of a year and that that installation version was never updated. So after installing a fresh copy of that year’s version, Norton would have to be updated and often those updates were serial in nature. The worst I recall was about eight updates and six of them required rebooting.

      I also favored the bundled Norton when they included a backup utility when Windows Home Editions did not offer that utility.

      I wonder about Microsoft Security Essentials – they state that it cannot be installed now on a Windows XP PC, but it seems to still run scans and grab updated definitions, despite the doom & gloom warnings when run on XP. I recommend it as it seems to have a smaller impact while it provides real-time protection. As well, Microsoft is not trying to up-sell anyone to a fuller version.

      It seems that Windows Defender now encompasses MSE, but Defender can also be run standalone.

      Note that I have seen Defender root out a virus that even Norton missed. In other words, I do not believe that any anti-malware program can catch all problems, even if they are fully up-to-date. And some may catch problems sooner than others. But for the performance and reliability, I’m still a Norton fan.

      • I’ve never been a big fan of Norton, but that’s mostly because of the reputation it garnered about being nearly impossible to uninstall. That one would need to search for and download a separate tool to do so still bothers me a lot. It also suffers from feature-itis – as many of the name brand security suites have – trying to do more and more that has less and less to do with actual security. I realize it’s a competitive feature race, but I would prefer a tool that does one thing and does that one thing really well. Speaking in generalities now (not specifically Norton) all those additional features and options and such, turned on by default no less, frequently serve to slow machines down, interfere with other operations, and just generally confuse the user.

        I just recently uninstalled a different major package from the machine of a friend because the anti-spam portion of the tool was apparently impacting the performance of her email program quite seriously. I don’t want my anti-malware tool to also try to be an anti-spam tool. In my mind those are two different things, and best served by two different utilities and even two different approaches.

        I hope that Norton’s simplified 2015 interface will reduce some of that confusion and remove some of the attempts to be a one-stop solution for everything under the sun. I’m sure that their anti-malware utility is just fine – but that’s typically not what I have issues with.

        • lynn

          I have found that the times I am using Norton (years ago, norton 360 and now norton antivirus provided by my isp) that I cannot use restore points. When I had a hard drive failure while using 360, I was told nothing could be salvaged because of Norton goback. I think I’m ready to stay away from Norton. I also use CC Cleaner and smart defrag, but haven’t seen any issues with norton regarding those.

          • Joyce D.

            I’ve been using Norton Internet Security on a pc running Windows 7 for about 4 years now and I haven’t experienced any problems using System Restore the few times that I’ve used it. Before then I used Norton on a pc running Windows XP. Even though I’m very happy with Norton Internet Security, I would stop using it in a heart beat if it prevented me from using System Restore.

          • Connie Delaney

            You may want to explore some other options besides System Restore. Although it does work well sometimes – it will often fail when you really need it. It’s a good idea to also have an image backup that you can restore your computer to. If something goes wrong, that will get you back, 100%, to a time when your computer worked. More in this article: http://askleo.com/why_i_dont_like_system_restore/

  196. Debbie

    I am having a situation in Google. I have Windows 8, actually I think it is 8.1. When I open Internet Explorer and Google appears (Not Google Chrome), I enter what ever in the search box that I am interested in searching i.e recipe for pasta. It will open all kinds of recipes. no problem. But for some reason, when I use the left arrow to go back to the previous page t here is a + sign after every word I typed. i.e. recipe+for+pasta+… Sometimes there is a % mark, sometimes the letter B, etc. This is so annoying. And I continue to receive the message … is not responding, them that has to be recovered. For instance, if I want to open my email, or bank account, what ever, it always says … is not responding. I have performed a system restore, but van only go back to October 3. I can’t go back any further. All my temporary files have been deleted. This is driving me crazy. Thank you for your time.

  197. Debbie

    Hi Leo,

    I know you are very busy and I appreciate you being there for everyone. Haven’t heard back from you. My internet explorer Windows 8.1 continues to give me problems. Every time I access something from Google on Internet Explorer, it locks up saying the program is not responding. This is a fairly new computer. Has actually acted like this almost from day one of my purchasing it brand new from the store. Hope you can help. Also, I could not find window defender in the control panel as you mentioned in one of your articles. I use Webroot, should I also have Microsoft Security Essential? Thank you for your assistance and hope to hear back from you soon.

  198. Brian Gale

    I pay for Norton 360 and they say my machine is clean and tuned up; I ran a scan by Spyhunter and it says I have 2195 pieces of malware. I’m confused. Who is right? – or more precisely how can I find out who is right?

    • Without knowing what’s being reported it’s impossible to say. Many spyware programs report benign cookies as “threats”. Make sure it’s REALLY SAYING MALWARE and not some other term that you’re interpreting as malware. Not all anti-malware tools catch all malware, but some will over-report as well.

      • Brian Gale

        Thank you, Leo; it certainly did say malware but I guess that is a catch-all term. When I spoke to Norton, they simply stated Spyhunter was plain wrong, that my PC was clean and tuned-up and then uninstalled (with my permission) Spyhunter (along with CCleaner and Smart Defrag) on the grounds that they would interfere with their software. I guess that could be true. I am no expert (and don’t want to be!) and feel so not in control – I guess I must pay my susbscription and hope – or maybe follow your advice and use MSE – and still hope!!.

        • Mark Jacobs

          It’s possible that those programs do interfere with Norton. If it’s true, then that would be enough reason for me to stay away from software that’s so finicky. I personally am comfortable with Avast. The free version comes with a cost: an occasional up-sell popup commercial. That actually gives me confidence that a lot of people probably take the bait and help finance a good product. And if you do pay for it, you even get rid of the commercials.

        • Joyce D.

          Hi Brian,
          I used Norton 360 quite some time ago but I’ve been using Norton Internet Security for about 4 or more years. I’ve been using the free version CCleaner and Malwarebytes and I haven’t had any issues so far. I just updated CCleaner to v 4.19.4867 (64 bit) and noticed that it added a startup which I hate, so I went to Norton’s Start Up manager and turned it to Off. Or you can use winpatrol to change it and monitor it. You can prevent also prevent this version of CCleaner from performing automatic cleaning by opening CCleaner and clicking on Options and then Monitoring, and unchecking the boxes for Enable System Monitoring and Enable Active Monitoring.

          • Joyce D.

            I also wanted to add that since I’ve been using Norton Internet Security, Malwarebytes comes up clean every time I run it, with not even a cookie to report.

  199. Lester

    I recently recovered a friends computer from a Cryptowall infection. It was the worst infection I have ever seen. I think that it counted up over 20 viruses and trojans. Like usual, I used Malwarebytes and it took care of most of it, but not all. So I ran Windows Defender (which the malware had shut down) and got several that Malwarebytes had missed. But it still wasn’t clean, so I ended up running the Eset trial version to finish the job. The point is that no software is guaranteed to fix it all. After an infection like this one, your computer may never be totally the same as before. I am going to wipe this particular computer and reinstall it from scratch. I have already educated my friend in the intricacies of keeping image backups as a way to avoid this kind of scenario. And by the way, incase you’re wondering, he did lose some data, but we managed to shut down the system before Cryptowall was finished, so we rescued some that way. Some was on a backup, and some had been copied to OneDrive. But the family pictures that he really, really, badly wanted are gone forever.

    • Lester

      I wanted to add one thought. Both Malwarebytes and Eset offer free 30 day trials with completely working software. This allows using it without needing to pay for it. But let me add – in order to encourage this kind of responsible behavior on the part of vendors, make sure that you encourage it by buying a product from them if you are going to buy something. They deserve it. And this isn’t spam because I don’t get a penny from either of them. It just makes sense to encourage a business plan like this.

    • David R

      Reading this horror story about family pictures lost forever, I wonder, does a virus (e.g. Cryptowall as that is the subject here) actually delete things or overwrite them – in which case, are they retrievable through some Undelete program? – (People who make viruses should have their heads banged together or something more unmentionable.)

      • Sometimes file recovery software can be used, but it REALLY depends on the specific virus. Some go so far as to wipe free space, delete file history, shadow copies and the like. So the answer is both yes and no, depending on the malware variant you’re looking at.

        • Lester

          Cryptowall is very professional. The shadow copies were gone. And by the time you mess around getting it shut down and all the associated malware looked after, you’ve probably destroyed most of what was possibly left from the assault. They wanted $500 in bit coins in the first three days, and a thousand dollars after that, to recover the data. I don’t believe in financing crooks if there is any possible way around it.

      • Lester

        Cryptowall encrypts a file, then deletes it and wipes it. Actually, it seems to do it in batches. In this case it was interrupted and had a bunch of files that were encrypted but the originals were still there. You could tell how far it had gotten. Interestingly, it was smart enough to do the newest files first – the ones you were most likely to really miss because you probably hadn’t printed them, which was the case here. It takes a long time to encrypt a big batch of files. He actually made a back up of his accounting data while this was happening and it survived because he shut down his computer. It was a really odd situation, to say the least. Cryptowall apparently shut down his Windows Defender then loaded up the computer with malware. Never saw such a mess.

  200. ted

    Very interesting post.I myself use MSE along with MBAM free and hitman pro and herdprotect.Spybot was good in early days,but not any good now.It has gone downhill,and the latest version adds some bloat like shredder etc.MVPS.Org is not recommending it now.And Ad-Aware has become a full fledged antivirus now.Though it is not good av at all.I think leo should have a look on where do spybot and Ad-Aware stand now.

  201. Mahmoud

    i bought an assus laptop last week . it had macafee antivirus. but it was expired so i want to know what shoud i do defending my windows8.1 please tell me shoud i remove macafee how coud i active windows defender. when i click the windows defender bottom in CP says my defender is not on what shoud i do and when i go action center for turning on or of my firwall its look like its been locked no action is working . thanks for so many help. help me on this too. leo

  202. Roger Hass

    G’day Folks,

    I use BitDefender Total Security on all my workstations, always the latest version, current is 2015 for all BD products.

    Why BD, well it is the best and out ranks Norton AVG etc., i.e. it is Ranked No 1.

    Why use anything else when you can use the best !!

    pcbugfixer / Sydney / Australia

  203. AJ North

    Three free Windows applications (XP onward) that will greatly help protect against ransomware are:

    Microsoft’s Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) — https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=43714 (also see http://www.securityweek.com/microsoft-emet-51-brings-improved-security-and-compatibility). Though MS does not list XP as a supported OS, it will run (SP3 with .NET 4.0).

    CryptoPrevent — https://www.foolishit.com/vb6-projects/cryptoprevent/ (for what it may be worth, the Premium Edition, with automatic daily updates of definitions, is currently on sale for $15; the lifetime license covers all of one’s machines), and,

    SurfRight’s HitmanPro.Alert, with CryptoGuard — http://www.surfright.nl/en/cryptoguard .

    I have these applications running on more than a dozen Windows boxes, from XP through 8.1.1, with zero adverse issues (though on some systems, EMET may need to be tweaked; do a web search for specific issues, should any be encountered).

  204. Poppy Blodgett

    Has any one of you tried ” Vipre” It’s rated number one I used it for Six years.
    I have a life time subscription to it. Look it over, You will like it, I’m sure !!

  205. ALSW

    Following these recommendations, I have one question: I have installed MSE as my real-time antimalware software, and for stand-alone scans I have installed AVG free, spybot and malwarebytes to be run weekly or every two weeks and to have them on hand if needed. Is it enough to update these stand-alone scanners before my scheduled scan (every week or every two weeks) or should I have them update daily?

  206. Nelson

    I have been using Norton Anti-virus and Norton Internet Security for over 10 years now. I started with Noron Anti-Virus and I remember getting only one virus.. I no longer the specifics and can’t remember if I was using NAV or Avast at the time. Later I moved up to Norton Internet security and have had no problems since. I beiefly tried Norton 360 and didn’t like it for some reason an soon reverted back to NIS. On a scan it een finds riska embedded in .zip files. If for some reason I cannot use Norton {I have a desktop, 2 laptops, and 3 tablets} I will use Avast {my very first choice for AV way back when). Lastly I last received “The Best of Ask Leo” on Feb 9 and am wondered if you have stopped it of is something wrong? I checked my trash and spam folders an nothing there.

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