There's been a round of new anti-malware software updates coming out in the last couple of months, and as usual I've received a few evaluation copies oft he main titles.
I decided to try all of these and post my impressions - and nominate one that will stay on my laptop for at least the next 12 months (or until I find somehing more interesting). The machine I used to test those is my laptop (AMD 64 bit 2GHz with 2GB RAM running Windows Vista 64 bit).
So here is the list: Avast, McAfee Internet Security, NOD32, Norton AntiVirus, Windows Live OneCare. I just received a copy of AVG so I will try and include it in an upcoming update.
To start with they all offer similar functionality with some additiona features in some and variations of user interface.
I really liked the price we pay for Avast Home Edition and the AVG Limited edition: FREE. It's hard to beat this, and Avast have been doing a great work here so far.
In addition to the user interface, I also liked Norton's new Windows Vista Sidebar gadget that provides at glance the current protection status on your desktop:
Both Windows Live OneCare and McAfee Internet Security offer backup and restore features and include extra functionality I really didn't need on Windows Vista - the firewall software for example. If you are not aware, Windows Vista Firewall allows you to manage three zones (Public, Private, Domain) with separate incoming and outgoing rules for each zone. A much needed step forward from the weak Windows XP Firewall.
The biggest hit in terms of performance was Windows Live OneCare. Every program on my laptop would take afew seconds to start - sometimes up to 15 or 20 seconds! As soon as removed it everything was back to normal.
The McAfee Internet Security installation was a bit ofa mistery. It didn't ask me for the key, and I had to find through right-click on the system tray icon where to enter it. And even so only a reboot enabled the backup functionality after entering the key.
Norton Antivirus has a built-in firewall, not as complete as the one provided in its bigger Norton Internet Security suite, but it's something that will protect against worms spreading through internet connections.
Talking about network protection, both McAfee Internet Security and Norton Antivirus have a network map utility that shows all the devices in your LAN. Very handy and you can even manage the security software installed in remote PCs when running the McAfee software.
In terms of performance, Norton Antivirus and Avast seemed to be the fastest one for manual scans. And believe it or not, Norton Antivirus is using less memory than I remember - and I actually installed it on a virtual machine just to check this and sure enough it's less resource hungry in its 2008 edition.
If you are looking for something to run on a Virtual Machine, go for Avast. Norton Antivirus doesn't work on virtual environments, as confirmed by a knowledge base article and their support people.
NOD32 works really well, but it annoys me that you can't enter filemasks when excluding files from the background scan - either you enter a file name or a folder name or you exclude the whole file extension. Not very intuitive.
I also received a copy of Symantec Norton Antibot, but couldn't install it because they ship separate 32 and 64 bit installers, and I didn't have the correct one for my environment - the joys of running the latest technology...
So what's my verdict?
If you are using these tools at home and want free protection, Avast and AVG are great options. The server version of NOD32 is actually doing a good job on the Geekzone server, now running Windows Server 2008.
I decided to stick with Norton Antivirus this time. Even though most of the geeks in our forums have some reservations on this software due to its known past performance in terms of size and speed, I can say Norton Antivirus 2008 seems to be sleek and fast this time. And I even had a good experience with their support when I asked if the software would run on virtual machines. I received a knowledgeable response, with fast turnaround.