How to Evaluate Anti-Virus Programs

The security software industry is a billion-dollar industry. According to a 2009 article published in The New York Times, the leading security software company, Symantec, made approximately $1.8 billion in 2008 alone. With such a massive market, many software companies are developing antivirus programs. Consequently, choosing an antivirus program can be a confusing task. Fortunately, there are several simple questions that you can ask yourself in order to make the task more manageable.


Write the names of several antivirus programs that you are considering across the top of a sheet of paper or spreadsheet. Consult the various manufacturer homepages and free trials of the software in order to gather the following information.

Determine the cost of the programs. Several antivirus programs, such as Windows Defender, AVG Free Anti-virus and BitDefender Free Edition, are free. The advantage of a free antivirus program is obviously the cost. The main disadvantage is a lack of technical support and often reduced functionality. The price of an antivirus program may or may not be important to you. However, you should note the price of each antivirus program so that you can clearly see the differences.

Use free trials or demos of each program to find out which programs are easy to use. The importance of this depends on your level of computer knowledge. Mark on your paper or spreadsheet which antivirus program is easiest to use.

Investigate each antivirus program's technical support. Most antivirus programs will offer some level of technical support. However, the kind of technical support offered is important. For example, does the antivirus program supply a telephone number that you can call or just an e-mail address? If it supplies a telephone number, can you use it 24 hours per day? Mark which antivirus program offers the best technical support.

Check out the antivirus program's detection rate. In order to be effective, an antivirus program needs to detect a large majority of the viruses that it is confronted with. Antivirus programs that have a good detection rate have received the Checkmark Certification. Visit the Westcoast Labs homepage (see Resources) to see whether the antivirus program you are considering has received the Checkmark Certification. Mark on your chart which antivirus program has received this certification.

Try out the program's update features. An antivirus program that is not up to date is useless against new threats. Most antivirus programs can be updated manually. Some antivirus programs update themselves automatically every day. Place a mark under the antivirus program that offers the best update features.

Add up all of the marks to determine which antivirus program received the most check marks. If there is a tie between two antivirus programs, consider reading a review about each program from a reputable technical website, such as CNET or PC World.

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