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What’s the Best Anti-virus?

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What’s the best anti-virus program? There’s been so much talk on just how each one works and which has the best protection; it’s really hard to decide which one to choose. One day you might read a review that says one thing and the next day says another, so it really gets quite confusing.

This question comes up all the time. The problem is that it’s both trivial to answer and it’s impossible to answer. There’s a strong argument that says there’s no objective answer at all.

It’s all about opinion, so let me tell you mine: there is no best anti-virus tool. There are several good ones, but none are perfect. And in fact, one that works well for your friend may not work at all for you.

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In search of perfection

There are several problems at play here that make this an almost impossible question to answer.

For one thing, as I said, there is no perfect anti-virus tool. There just isn’t. There is no tool that will catch absolutely every virus. The best you can hope for is one that will catch most – and even “most” is kind of up for debate.

Second, different anti-virus tools are written in different ways and actually impact different systems differently. One, for example, might use a lot of memory. If you have a lot of RAM, it might be an awesome anti-virus tool. If you don’t have a lot of RAM, perhaps it will slow your system to a crawl.

And of course, what it means to have a lot RAM will vary from computer to computer, since different machines will have different amounts of software installed on them. It will also vary from anti-virus tool to anti-virus tool.

Virus Detected!And of course the issue may not be RAM. Perhaps there’s some other aspect of your system that different tools exercise differently: for instance the disk, the CPU or perhaps even the network connection. As a result, different people with different machines will have different experiences even with the exact same anti-virus tool.

And it actually gets even weirder.

What is a virus, anyway?

There’s no agreement on what is and is not a virus. Sure, the big, hairy obvious ones are … well, obvious. But how about Foistware? Spyware? Toolbars? Some of these things you perhaps even asked for, whether you were aware of it or not.

Different anti-virus programs will make different choices; choices that some people think are better than others, and other people think are absolute nonsense. Choices that make labeling one program “the best” almost impossible.

So, knowing that there is no best anti-virus, what’s a user to do?

Anti-virus tools are only part of the solution

The single most important thing you can do is just realize that your anti-virus tool cannot protect you from everything; even if it were this so-called mythical “best”.

Anti-virus tools are, and have always been, a part of a much larger picture. That picture includes a good anti-virus tool; a good anti-spyware tool; a firewall; keeping your software (all of it) as up to date as possible; securing your router and other hardware, and above all, behaving safely. There is no security tool that will save you from actions that you are determined to take.

And lastly, I will refer you to my article, “What security software do you recommend?” for some specific programs to consider.

5 comments on “What’s the Best Anti-virus?”

  1. I’ve had a very good experience with Avast! Free. I’ve used AVG and Microsoft’s AV software and found Avast! to be easiest on RAM usage.

  2. Ultimately it’s agreed, it is up to the user to minimize the risk !! I would not view Obscure websites from my “Home personal (general business) computer” ,, the one I use to do banking or shopping !! (or my employers) .. I would like to add a “Guest” computer in my home, or one for Entertainment Media (music downloads etc.) !!

    I chose my Virus Protection from a system impact point of view ,, I tried 4 notable A/V softwares (trial versions) and 1 freeware for registered users ,, This is what I found: 4 let my computer run freely, 1 loaded my comp up with updates, 3 did not seem to do anything as far as real time monitering, although 1 gave me a notice it did prevent an attempt (I wrote it off as an attempt to gain my confidence). 1 was to far advanced for my OS or I did not configure it properly (to complicated). 2 ran well and had diagnostic programs ,, although real time scanning on 1 was noticeable to a point it distracted me.. all of them seemed to have a similar Virus Data base !!

    I chose the 1 (well known) with good graphics ( I like status bars), additional scan features that run automatically and updated with little System Impact..

  3. Hi Leo,

    Maybe it sounds ridiculous, but is there a possibility of a virus scanner to very slightly alter image, video, or sound quality throughout scanning those files many times? I know it sounds dumb because a scan is just that, but since it interacts with files, I wanted to be sure.

    Thanks.

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