Can I Have Multiple Antivirus Programs?
A reader asks: 'I have Norton Security on my PC, but I still got a virus. Is it a good idea to run more than one anti-virus program? If not, which anti-virus has the best protection against viruses, spyware, and other online threats?'
Is It Okay to Have Multiple Antivirus Programs?
Often when you buy a new computer, it comes with a trial version of Norton, McAfee or some other commercial antivirus software. When that free trial is about to expire, the program starts to nag you about upgrading to a paid version, which can be expensive. That's when some users start looking for a free antivirus alternative. There are some excellent free antivirus programs, but a common mistake is to install that freebie without removing the old one. Some users also think they'll be more secure if they install a second antivirus package.
In most cases, having more than one antivirus program running on your computer is bad news. Antivirus programs consume memory and processing power, as they scan the stream of data, emails, web pages and downloads that enter your computer. So it makes sense that having more than one antivirus scanner will slow down your computer.
But there's another potential problem... Sometimes antivirus programs can fight with each other, since they both want to be the final arbiter of good and evil on your computer. One might even think the other *is* a virus, and attempt to quarantine it. You may see slowdowns, lockups or experience random restarts. I actually tested this recently, installing AVG, Avast and Avira on my laptop. The result was a computer that slowed to a crawl. You could watch paint dry between keystrokes, and the process of uninstalling them took hours.
My advice is to pick ONE antivirus tool and stick with it, at least until you decide to replace it with another. I've compiled a list of some excellent Free Antivirus Programs, which I use and recommend over the paid-for security suites on the market. If you want to study them further, check out the reports in my article Lab Tests Reveal Top AntiVirus Programs to see how various antivirus programs compare in terms of effectiveness.
Exceptions to the Rule
That said, let me introduce just a bit of tech talk, and explain the exceptions to my single anti-virus rule. There are three types of anti-virus protection: real-time, on-demand and offline. Here's a quick description of each:
The real-time variety we've been discussing so far protects against viruses and other threats as they arise. Your real-time anti-virus software is constantly scanning everything that enters your computer, as well as every program that runs. Examples are Norton, McAfee, AVG, BitDefender, Kaspersky and many others.
On-demand virus scanners are only active when you specifically launch them, to scan your hard drive for malware. Two of the most popular are MalwareBytes Anti-Malware (MBAM) and Spybot Search and Destroy. These are designed to co-exist with your real-time anti-virus software, and can sometimes catch things that have slipped through your first line of defense.
Offline anti-virus tools run from a bootable CD or flash drive, and will do a deep scan of your computer. While the offline scanner is running, both Windows and your primary anti-virus program are inactive. See Extra Security: Windows Defender Offline for more info on offline security tools.
So to be clear, YES, I recommend just one REAL-TIME security tool. Supplementing that with an on-demand scanner such as MBAM is fine, and is a practice I recommend. And for those situations where you can't start up your computer due to a virus infection, an offline scanner is what you need.
Which Antivirus Programs Do I Have?
If you're not terribly tech savvy, you might not even know which antivirus program is installed on your computer, if you have more than one, or none at all. To find out if you have antivirus protection, open Control Panel and click on Security Center. If there is a red light next to Virus Protection, you have no antivirus protection, and fixing that should be Job One. If you see a green light, you're good, probably.
Now let's find out if you have one or multiple antivirus programs installed. First, check out the little icons in the taskbar on the bottom right of your screen:
Click on the little white arrow to expand the list if needed, then run the mouse pointer over each one without clicking. As you do so, the name of each program will appear in a little popup as shown above. Real-time anti-virus programs should clearly identify themselves. Look for names such as AVG, Avira, Avast, BitDefender, Eset, F-Secure, G Data, Kaspersky, McAfee, Norton, Panda, or Trend Micro. There could be others, but those are the most common and popular ones at present.
If you find more than one, go to Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs, and uninstall the anti-virus program(s) you don't want to keep. (Bear in mind what I mentioned about real-time and on-demand scanners above.) You'll need to restart your computer to finish the removal process. When you're done, make sure your remaining antivirus protection is up to date and run a complete scan to check for nasties.
Do you have something to say about anti-virus protection? Post your comment or question below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 23 Apr 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Can I Have Multiple Antivirus Programs? (Posted: 23 Apr 2013)
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