Microsoft Security Essentials
I would like to try Microsoft’s new free Security Essentials. I’m in New Zealand and locked out of the official download site. Yes, I know there are ways around the lock-out. I’m aiming to stay ethical. If you know how I can get hold of a legitimate copy please leave a comment or use the contact page.
When I installed Windows 7 RC on my computers I loaded Norton Internet Security 2010 beta on the desktop and a free desktop security application from Avast on my Thinkpad. We also tried AVG’s free anti-virus software on a Thinkpad.
Both free anti-virus programs are functional and handle everyday security. We’re behind a NAT firewall and keep our machines clean, so our security needs are basic. The features not included in the free versions of the programs are of no interest to me. I would like to schedule Avast to scan my laptop at regular intervals.
Avast appears to do a better job at hunting down problems, but AVG has a better user interface. We’ve now standardised on Avast on our laptops because the software appears easier to deal with and, when it comes to this kind of work, a good brain trumps a pretty face.
Both programs slow the computer down less than Symantec‘s Norton Internet Security 2010 beta – that wouldn’t be hard. Their overhead is barely noticeable.
Free anti-virus negatives
Both free anti-virus programs are difficult to find and download. They are hidden behind paid-for products from the same companies. And both nag about updating – in ways that send you off to pay for versions of the software.
Of course, developers have to eat. I’m not complaining, the price of free security software is a small annoyance. Or to put it another way, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. On a point by point basis Avast seems less of a problem than AVG – but this could be perception and not reality.
One downside of the free software asking for updates and not automatically scanning is it feels as if the PC lacks proper protection.
Update: I took a later look at an updated version of AVG and hated it in AVG Anti-Virus Free 9.0: far too much trouble
Panda Cloud Anti-virus
For now I’m sticking with Avast on my Thinkpad and we’ve switched from AVG to Avast on my wife’s Thinkpad. But Avast didn’t feel satisfactory on my main desktop, so I searched for an alternative and discovered Panda Cloud Anti-virus.
Panda Cloud Anti-virus looks and feels very different from all other security software. Panda is a software-as-a-service application that sends data about dangerous looking files to its own servers for closer inspection. This means no noticeable performance overhead. It also means the checking database is always bang up-to-date.
Panda is still a work in progress. Or more to the point, a beta. But unlike Symantec’s beta, it seems fully functional. I’ve run Panda Cloud Anti-virus for roughly one month without any problems. My biggest fear is I never hear from the program, so I need to check to see it is running – which it always is.
Given the ease at which Panda slips into the background, to the point where it is unnoticeable, I’d have to say this is the most promising security tool I have found so far.