Best Free Antivirus Programs - 2009 Edition

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And the Winners Are…

Antivirus programs – they’ve permeated through the internet, with every scam-site claiming that they offer the definitive antivirus experience. However, what about the truly free antivirus programs that so many of us use on a daily basis – where do they fit into the scheme of things? That’s why I’m proud to give you, the definitive Best Free Antivirus Program list of 2009.

  1. AVG Antivirus

AVG is still the winner, year after year, simply because in terms of results, it delivers like few others in the class can. AVG performs at a level that’s only slightly lower than most commercially available antivirus programs, making it the top contender again for this year’s coveted top spot.

A clean user interface and an easy to configure setup make AVG a winner simply by being both more powerful and easier to use than the competition. Combine these features with the fact that it takes up a smaller portion of your RAM than the other three in this list, and you shouldn’t wait to download this if your computer is not protected.

The only issue I had with AVG during my extended time using it was the fact that the program sometimes has issues trying to update. If this is the case, there is usually an easy solution and you have to manually go in and do it on your own. But other than that, it’s a small complaint for something that is otherwise such a fully-featured package.

  1. AVAST! Antivirus

AVAST! offers a slightly different experience from AVG, because it requires a core antivirus program and an updater (much like the old F-Secure builds). This causes some problems with the program in that it requires too much from your RAM and hard drive, unlike AVG.

However, the database function is perfect and the antivirus successfully scanned my PC to find and clean any and all problems I was having. The one main issue I have with the database updater is that it makes a HUGE noise when it’s done updating your definitions – not an issue when things are muted, but beware when you forget to click the button.

AVAST! is a direct competitor to AVG, but yet again, it’s not so much about extra protection, but just personal preference. From experience, I can tell you that some can’t stand AVG and others can’t stand AVAST!. The choice is all up to you really – I would recommend starting with AVG though.

  1. Rising Antivirus

Rising Antivirus is a third, but a distant third at that. It’s not a particularly refined program at this point in time. Where AVG and AVAST both have great user interfaces that are easy to use and give you complete control of the software, RAV is not that kind of program.

The prompts are difficult to decipher and buttons will occasionally not work. The added RAM footprint isn’t particularly different from AVG, but the scanner itself can occasionally underperform. Checking over the results with NOD32, I discovered that it left several stones unturned in its attempts to clean my PC.

Overall, because all three programs are free, I wouldn’t recommend RAV at this point in time – while you’re waiting for it to upgrade to a better version that’s more user-friendly, use AVG or AVAST.

Disqualified: Comodo Internet Security (CIS)

Oh Comodo, you had such promise as a complete security package. Comodo is the manufacturer behind the Comodo Firewall, long considered the best free firewall out there since Symantec went out of business and stopped producing their firewall juggernaut.

This internet security package includes the firewall, which is excellent and in its own right should be something that you have installed on your PC regardless of which antivirus you use. Also along the ride in the package is Defense+ a Trojan and rootkit protector that does its job admirably.

The final crux of the security package is the Comodo Antivirus. This is where things start to break apart. The scanner takes forever and a day to complete a simple scan of a pen drive or even the smallest of hard drives – to make matters worse, no amount of reboots could remove the problematic viruses it was encountering. Add to this the fact that NOD32 detected 10 different virus infected programs that CIS didn’t and it had to be disqualified.

Get your hands on the firewall when you can, but stay far, far away from this mess of an antivirus program – it’s just not up to the usual Comodo standards we know and love.

Note from Managing Editor: What do you think? Is Dan right to place AVG in the number one position? Should AntiVir - which, according to Donna Buenaventura, MVP, is better than either AVG or Avast! - feature somewhere on the list? Or is there some other product which deserves a mention? Post to the Security Forums and let us know what you think!

What’s the Best Paid Antivirus Software?

Wondering which is the best paid antivirus software? Check out our article The Best AntiVirus Software of 2009.