What price virus protection?

By Mir
August 19, 2008

The lovely Corey writes:

Lovely Mir,
My Norton Antivirus (For PC…not yet an Apple girl.) is about to expire. It feels like with all the kids going off to college there should be a deal out there for me. I prefer Norton Antivirus (for up to 3 computers) but am willing to try something new, if it is well reviewed and cheaper!

Can you help me find a deal?

I was headed off right from the first line there from suggesting that she simply get a Mac. Isn’t that the most logical solution? Oh, well. I guess I can help you find something else, if you insist on using a PC….

Okay. So. Here’s the thing: You can’t cut corners on virus protection. You can’t. It’s just one of those things you have to consider a necessary expense, end of story. Pick your product based upon performance, and then hope you can find it a few bucks off. Whatever you pay is going to be cheaper than buying a new machine because yours has been irrevocably horked up. (Yes, that’s the technical term.)

That said, I’m not a fan of Norton, and I’ll tell you why: Recently a bunch of my readers started contacting me to say that my site was infected! And I needed to fix it! Because Norton was informing them that my site was dangerous.

Yeah. Um. Guess what! There wasn’t anything wrong with my site. I had my hosting guys run diagnostics to be sure, and absolutely nothing was wrong—we had to file a “false positive” report with Semantec to get it taken care of, and it was a big pain in the rear, and this is not uncommon for that software. Now, yes, because you say it—obviously you’d rather have virus protection that’s too cautious rather than not cautious enough, but still. Annoying.

My hosting folks recommend AVG, which happens to be what I used to run before I switched over to a Mac. If you compare prices between their website and Semantec’s, a one-year license is comparable, but a two-year license is significantly cheaper, for AVG. So it’s already a better deal.

Then, of course, you can shop around, too. If you’re needing licenses for three computers, Corey, I’d recommend you buy through Amazon for the best deal.

Readers—other thoughts?


  1. Why would you pay when there are excellent free options? I use Clam-Win, myself, and it’s been perfect.

    Let’s hope my rusty and basic html skills came through.

  2. There’s an AVG Free edition as well, exclusively for noncommercial use on a single computer. See http://free.avg.com/ .

    Personally, though, I’m VERY partial to Trend Micro’s product. Why? Properly configured, it doesn’t slow the computer down noticeably. Norton, on the other hand, can make your hot machine feel like a 286 in no time.

    In general, I find user-conditioning to be a key component of an anti-virus scheme. That is, teaching people not to click on every attachment, configuring email programs to not show images/links until they’re confident it’s not a phishing scam, never (NEVER) running software from unverified sources (including a lot of things you can get from a torrent), configuring a browser like Firefox with Adblock Plus(**), etc.

    (**) Adblock Plus is an add-on for Firefox that blocks ads from known sources. When you visit a site, like http://wantnot.net, it’ll allow ads that originate with the site itself, but all the stuff hosted elsewhere is blocked. These ads are a security risk — most of them put tracking cookies on your machine (so they can follow the trail of sites you visit), and clicking on some of those links (and the subsequent nasty popups and whatnot) ends up installing adware and spyware on your machine. You can’t click (even advertently) what’s not there, thus a spyware/adware intrusion is averted entirely. Note that some sites, including links posted by our ever-so-pretty Mir, will not function with Adblock Plus, so you’ll have to disable it from time to time if you want to pursue a hot deal. (If a site just doesn’t seem to be working right, turn Adblock Plus off on the page and reload. It might just work now. A small inconvenience for the security improvement.)

    And, yeah, it cuts ad revenues to some sites. Sorry ’bout that, but so many sites have ads they they never dreamed would appear showing up alongside good content.

  3. I had Norton for a number of years. But I switched when they started allowing people to renew their subscription, then informing them that they no longer supported their version of Norton, and, if they wanted to be able to use the subscription they had just paid for, the subscriber would have to purchase the current version of Norton.

    I was using the Zone Alarm Security Suite, but I recently left the dark side and got a Mac. I’m loving it.

  4. Also, for free for as many computers as you want you can download Avast at http://www.avast.com It’s a great anti-virus and spyware program and is completely free–once every 18 months you will need to get a new registration code–also free from the website–to update it…it works better then Norton too!

  5. I *love* AVG and have been using it for years. In fact, I just made my mom switch over.

    Also? They are expanding their North America footprint — I suspect you’ll see more security products and features from them over the next couple of years.

  6. We’ve use AVG Free for years and been really happy with it. My husband is a free software/opensource buff. This is one of his favorites. And for a Cyber Security guy who’s super paranoid, it works well for us.

  7. another vote for AVG (free)
    we also use Adaware, another freebee, but have to remember to run that one every so often, its not a run and stay resident type thing like the AVG.

  8. My husband does computer network security for a living, and swears on AVG free for personal use. Also, one of his computer mags did a comparison which which shows AVG free to be just as good, if not better, than Norton. Definitely go with AVG free.

  9. We use the free AVG and haven’t had any problems in the 3 or so years we’ve been using it. Hubs says Avast is another good one. We stopped using AdAware at my request because I got tired of it asking me “Are you sure you want to do that?”

  10. nthing the recommendations for Avast and AVG. I’ve only tried the former, but have heard very good things about AVG Free.

  11. Hmmm, my comment didn’t come through. Maybe because it had two links?

    Anyhoo, ClamWin is another good free option. AVG is good. I liked the thoroughness of Avast, but it was kind of a resource hog. ClamWin is much lighter, yet highly effective. Lifehacker has done some nice comparisons of free antivirus software.

    I’m with BB on AdBlockPlus and user conditioning, though. I wish I could just buy a Mac, but I can’t afford them!

  12. I also use adaware and spybot as backup to the antivirus.

  13. Another recommendation for avast! We use the commercial version on the office computers and the free version at home. It was recommended by our computer tech when one of our employees was dealing with a nasty infection on her home computer. Plus it’s fun to say….avast!

  14. As a PC tech, my only advice to you is this – ONLY RUN 1 ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE! If you have multiple antivirus software running at the same time they can step on each other. So if you’re using AVG, remove Norton completely. (START>CTRL PANEL>ADD OR REMOVE)and then install AVG. Also, please remember the antivirus software is only as good as the virus update file – so make sure you update it regularly. Most have a feature to auto update but you should eyeball it occasionally to make sure it has a recent date. Without the antivirus update file, the software doesn’t know what to be on the lookout for. I run a complete scan once a week. Ad aware is also good to clean up any questionable cookies or tracking cookies. That works in conjunction with antivirus and I believe is also free.

  15. I always recommend AVG to users who don’t want to (or can’t afford to) buy other AV software. That said, a lot of people don’t know that they can get McAfee total protection for free — if you’re a Comcast subscriber, it is included in your monthly fee. You just have to log into your account and download it. It’s a fantastic product…I run it at home and also use McAfee on my network at the office.

  16. AVG is wonderful! Works great and doesn’t slow your computer to a crawl.

  17. How timely! My McAfee subscription that came with my computer is about to expire. I will definitely be checking out AVG! Thanks for the info.

  18. I’ve been a Mac user since the Apple II (good lord!), and I run antivirus software at all times (Norton currently). Don’t let the Mac make you complacent. Can’t count how many times a client has emailed me a virus-infected document (usually a Word doc). While it probably won’t affect my Mac, the virus may harm the computer of the next person I email it to (if I can email it at all with a virus). Macs can be Typhoid Marys if you aren’t careful!

  19. Yet another vote for Avast. It was the only anti-virus program that properly diagnosed an issue on my son’s old computer. I’d been using McAfee for a few years, but I got sick of them bombarding me with emails trying to sell new products. Particularly when many of those products seemed to be rather ineffective.

  20. I use AVG on 2 computers, and also installed it on my mother’s computer. It’s is more efficient than Norton and McAfee, and free which is super.

  21. Just another chiming in for Avira… http://www.free-av.com My DH is a computer guy in network and security, and this is his choice for all our computers. I like it much better than McAfee and Norton!

  22. My husband uses the AVG free version and loves it. I love my Mac. 🙂

  23. Mir, have all of Corey’s kids check their college bookstore. I attend a state university that has made deals with Microsoft and other companies which means that I am able to purchase ALOT of programs for hubby’s PC and my MAC at discounted prices. I just purchased Symantec Antivirus for $5 from my bookstore. My university’s IT department even has links on their webpage for students to download them for free (we just have to log in our university ID and password). I know not all colleges and universities have this, but it’s worth checking out!

  24. Another vote for AVG – it works, it’s easy to install and use, and it’s free! Been using it for years!

  25. I’m using avast, it’s great!

  26. I’ve used the free version of Avast for five years and never had any problems. My sister uses AVG and likes that one. I don’t really see any reason to pay for virus protection.

  27. I’m not part of the piracy police (aka the Business Software Alliance), but do note that the license terms for AVG Free allow for personal use on ONE computer. More than that, and you’re not playing by their rules.

    My primary machine is a Mac. At present, I don’t run anti-virus software on it, but I’m still particular about what I click and download. The Mac is a growing target, especially as it increases market share and has a user base that’s not used to thinking about vulnerabilities. I’m sure the bad guys will find and exploit them soon. So…heads up.

  28. Nobody has mentioned AntiVir! It’s a great freebie, highly rated.

    And before you buy any software, go look at Pricelessware: http://www.pricelessware.org

    Pricelessware is the website maintained by the good folks at alt.comp.freeware. It’s the best of the freeware, rated by a few dozen expert users. Nothing is allowed on Pricelessware if it’s not completely free and competitive in quality with the paid software.

  29. Chalk up two more votes for AVG Free and Spybot Search & Destroy. We’ve been using them for years, and the only time we have ever gotten any kind of infection is when the kids turn off the programs.

    To those who posted links to other free alternatives, thank you! It’s always nice to have other options.

  30. Another thing to keep in mind is that ISPs give this stuff away free all the time these days. I’m using Comcast and they give away free access to MacAfee to subscribers. Granted, MacAfee isn’t the best these days, but I am not a high risk user and have a firewall and use another bit of free software that blocks malicious sites if I accidentally mistype a URL and end up somewhere I shouldn’t (completely blanking on the name right now).

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