Picking the right anti-virus security software suite for you
Anti-virus protection for your computer is indispensable and there is certainly no shortage of anti-virus programs available.
The problem is choosing one, so we have rounded up 16 different products to see exactly what they all offer. We have included both paid-for and free products, as many people prefer the full technical support and extra add-ons that come with some paid-for software.
Others are perfectly comfortable with free protection, perhaps as part of a DIY security toolbox that allows them to mix and match products.
• We have found that there are great products available, whether you want to spend any money or not. We found the main differences (apart from price) to be in the usability and the range of extras provided – some may have great protection, but a confusing menu system means users might not get the best out of them.
• Anti-virus protection may be essential but it should stay out the way while you use your computer for your everyday needs. We tested how long it took for each program to finish a scan as well as how much memory the program consumed while doing so. Memory may be cheap and plentiful, but that is no excuse to be hoggish – especially on laptops working off battery power as well as older, slower computers.
• It is worth remembering that free security software often has ads, reminders or other notices encouraging you to upgrade to a paid-for version. If you are easily annoyed by such advertising, then it is something to watch out for.
• The paid-for suites can often be installed on more than one computer without buying extra copies – useful for a household with multiple computers. The exact number varies from suite to suite – see our table for specifics. You will need to renew after one year for the software to continue receiving up-to-date information about the latest threats.
• If you do not want all the extra features available in a particular suite, it is worth remembering that there are often cheaper versions available with fewer frills.
• Extra features in the paid-for programs range from online storage through to anti-theft features for smartphones. Some are more suitable for families, with parental controls and social networking protection, whereas others will attract more advanced users who like to control exactly how their PC is protected.
• All the commercial products have Windows 8 support – some with extra apps or Live Tiles designed for the new Start screen. However, the free products lagged behind in this area at the time of writing. We expect to see most of these updated to take advantage of Windows 8 in the coming months.
• It's worth noting that all the anti-virus programs here only run on Windows 8 and not Windows RT. The latter is designed specifically for tablets equipped with ARM rather than Intel processors.
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