Best Antivirus Programs for 2014

Category: Anti-Virus

The uber-geeks at AV-Comparatives have once again settled the burning question, “What’s the best antivirus software?” Their year-end summary report, which runs over 40 pages, tells us which popular antivirus programs scored best on lab tests for detection, eradication, and blocking of malware. There are a few surprises in the results.

And The Winner Is...

The testing done by AV-Comparatives compared 22 Windows security products in their ability to detect both real-world malware threats (viruses and other cybernasties), as well as phishing, and previously unknown threats. The ability to remove malware infections and the extent to which each program impacted system performance were also taken into account.

The top honor, AV-Comparatives' Product of the Year, goes to Kaspersky Internet Security. It was the only product this year to score “Advanced+” on every single test. In the “real-world dynamic protection” test series, for instance, Kaspersky blocked over 99.9 per cent of attacks with very few false positives. That's impressive!

Best AntiVirus 2014

Products that scored very highly on the year’s series of tests are deemed “Top Rated.” The honorees for 2013 include Avast; AVIRA; Bitdefender; BullGuard; ESET; Fortinet; and F-Secure. In the critical “real-world dynamic protection” category the top performers were Emisoft (99.2 per cent); Avast; and ESET (both 98.9 per cent).

Detecting malware-infected files is a crucial function that AV-Comparatives tests thoroughly. A high rate of malware detection is not enough; a program’s “false positive” rate must also be low. Anti-malware programs have this task down pat; all of the Top Rated products scored over 99 per cent. The winners include F-Secure, Bitdefender, Bullguard, Kaspersky and Qihoo (Chinese version). The lowest rates of false positives were found in Fortinet, ESET, and Kaspersky.

Excellent protection from malware attacks is important, but nobody wants a computer that's constantly bogged down by the task of analyzing and blocking potential threats. Anti-virus software runs in the background, constantly scanning all files that are opened or downloaded, and monitoring other attack vectors such as suspicious program behavior, changes to system files and intrusion from the Internet.

The goal is to do all that without hogging your computer's memory, or using too much CPU power. Products with the lowest impact on computer system performance include Sophos, Avast, F-Secure, Kaspersky, and Bitdefender. AV-Comparatives mentions in the performance testing section of their report that running modern security software on an older, slower PC will not yield good results. They recommend that users move away from Windows XP or Vista, to a system with Windows 7 or 8, equipped with a minimum of 4GB or RAM memory.

“Proactive Heuristic/Behavioral Protection” means how well a program does at guessing whether another program that’s doing something unexpected is good or malicious. Bitdefender led this category, being correct in its guesses over 97 per cent of the time. Kaspersky (94 per cent) and Bullguard (89 per cent) also earned honorable mentions.

Malware removal is “a very useful” feature of an antimalware program, according to the AV-Comparatives experts. Seven programs out of 22 tested achieved the highest “Advanced+” rating in this category; the very best of them are Kaspersky, Bitdefender, and AVIRA.

Protection For Windows 8 Computers

Windows 8 is a whole new ball game for anti-malware software as well as end users. AV-TEST, another independent antivirus testing company, just released its test results on various protections for Windows 8.1 machines.

In the overall Protection category the top performers were the 2014 versions of Avira, BitDefender, F-Secure, G-Data, Kaspersky, Symantec Norton and Trend Micro. All of these products detected 100% of both prevalent and zero-day malware attacks.

In the Performance (minimal system impact) category, top marks went to Bitdefender and Kaspersky, both of which received a perfect score of 6. Just behind those two were Avast, AVG and Avira, with scores of 5.5

Finally, in the Usability (user-friendliness) category ESET, Kingsoft, Norton, and Trend Micro proved to be easiest to configure and least troublesome to use.

What About Microsoft's AntiVirus Offerings?

Interestingly, Microsoft Windows Defender, (the renamed version of Microsoft Security Essentials) which is included with Windows 8, received the absolute worst scores from AV-TEST. Defender scored a big fat ZERO in the Protection category. If it's any consolation, it got good marks for performance and usability. Likewise in the latest AV-TEST results for the Windows 7 version of Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), the product scored a miserable 0.5 out of 6.

In the AV-Comparatives report, it says that "Microsoft asked to be included in the tests, but to be regarded as a baseline and not as competition to the other products." This tells me that Microsoft doesn't even intend for Defender or MSE to offer the best protection. I wrote at length about MSE in my article Microsoft Security Essentials: EPIC FAIL, but here's my bottom line: with so many other excellent free alternatives, my advice is to avoid it or replace it.

What Security Software Should I Use?

The testing done by AV-Comparatives is unclear in many cases as to whether the free or paid version of a product was used. The only one they mentioned as free was Avast Free Antivirus. AV-TEST mentions testing free versions of Avast and AVG. But I think it's fair to assume that most (if not all) of the freebies use the same anti-malware detection engines as their paid counterparts.

Use the information in this article as guidance, and see my related article Free Anti-Virus Programs to find one that best meets your needs. If you can't decide, it seems clear that Kaspersky, BitDefender and F-Secure are all superb paid products. Of the freebies, Avast and Avira scored the highest in this round of tests. I've used them both and found that they offer excellent protection.

Your thoughts on Internet security software, and specifically the results of these testing labs, are most welcome! Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Best Antivirus Programs for 2014"

(See all 24 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

28 Jan 2014

while i agree that kaspersky is the best anti-virus, their off-shore service agents are the absolute pits. at any hint of trouble they want to remotely take control of your computer to "have a look around"! for this reason alone, kaspersky fails!

(btw, they terminated my service in the middle of the night with over fifteen months left on my coverage. and then the bitter "you must be quiet and allow us to have access" hassle began...)

never again!

Posted by:

28 Jan 2014

Many of the users and Admin in PC Tech room in Paltalk use and recommend Avast 2014 free as well as some of us who have been using Bit Defender Free since it came out about a year ago. What I like about Bit Defender is that is a totally set it and forget it.

Posted by:

28 Jan 2014

Bob. I just finished re-reading your "Why I changed from AVG to Avast" and the problems you encountered. I never would even consider "upgrade" unless I was expecting the paid version. Since I know this, then I know you know this. So why were you surprised when you saw the paid version of AVG was pre-selected? What am I missing here?

EDITOR'S NOTE: An upgrade means moving from the current version to a newer one. It doesn't necessarily imply moving from a free version to a paid version.

Posted by:

Mac Eld
28 Jan 2014

I wonder why Norton Internet Security isn't in the ratings for 2012 and 2013. I thought about getting Kaspersky for our church computers but read comments about problems running on Win 8.

Posted by:

David White
28 Jan 2014

I didn't see an entry for Norton Anti-virs.
At one time, Norton was truly stellar software.

Also, the last installation of Zone Alarm (free) had an anti-virus option. However, I didn't see the Zone Alarm product either. Do they use another company's AV engine?

Posted by:

28 Jan 2014

I think if there really was a "best" product, everybody in the world would be using it and other companies would be out of business overnight. What AV-Comparatives should be saying is Kaspersky scored highest for this test. Next time it will probably be some other company.

Posted by:

29 Jan 2014

Kasparsky is a great anti-virus if you can actually use your computer after installing it. I have seen so many cases where we had to physically rip it out in safe mode just to be able to get the computer to run again. Avast does a great job for both protection and performance.

Posted by:

29 Jan 2014

Well, for my bit, I have nothing but raves for Comodo Internet Security. I have been using the free version for over 5 years and have yet to have a false-positive or anything like that. Just me, but I'll stick with what works for me.

Posted by:

29 Jan 2014

Must agree with Tony regarding Malwarebytes Careful study of one's machine with very comprehensive reports which are easier to understand than most.
Some years ago I had a persistent trojan which NONE of the major names could remove. I had to come to Bali to be introduced to SuperAntiSpyware (which the locals love)to find the trojan's nemisis since when it has faithfully protected me.

Posted by:

29 Jan 2014

I don't see ZoneAlarm on the list. Was it tested with the others?

Posted by:

S karsh
29 Jan 2014

Why didn't they test Norton products? They are widely used, and it would have been useful to see how they perform relative to others.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Only the companies that agree to be evaluated will appear in the AV-Comparatives reports. Apparently Norton/Symantec did not want to participate. The product DOES appear, though, in the AV-TEST reports.

Posted by:

Motown Man
29 Jan 2014

I haven't seen Webroot mentioned here? I recall it recently was rated highest by several PC columnists?

Posted by:

29 Jan 2014

I'm with Motown Man. What about Webroot? I have used it for years with no problems. These AV guys can't seem to agree.

Posted by:

29 Jan 2014

Bob, I am a nurse by trade, but I also serve pretend to be the IT person at our small home health agency. We've used Symantec Endpoint Protection for our server because it was what the real IT professional installed a few years ago. AV-Comparatives site for business/server products. It compares features of several business products, but does not rank them in the same way that the article you discussed above. So, if a company's stand-alone product is ranked high, can I assume that the server product by the same company will have similar success/failures?

Posted by:

29 Jan 2014

Bob, I'm a bit surprised by your note in reply to John about upgrades.

I would say that "moving from the current version to a newer one" is updating; and that upgrading means changing to a concurrent version with more features or capabilities.

I update my AV software (Avast free) whenever they release a new version but I don't intend to upgrade to the paid version until my business depends on it (if that ever comes about).

Posted by:

30 Jan 2014

Many thanks for you unbiased informative articles. I am currently using the free versions of Avast and Online Armor. At times I feel guilty receiving this protection for free. What is the business model of these companies who offer free versions? I receive upgrade offers but so far have resisted. Should I show my appreciation and buy their paid versions?

Posted by:

02 Feb 2014

After reading this article I gave Avast a try. It was okay except that it slowed Firefox down to a crawl. Everything else seemed okay though. Including Chrome (I hate Explorer). Unfortunately this is unacceptable to me because Firefox is my browser of choice. I installed Avast with the default settings. Any advice on how to solve this problem? I'm using Windows 7 on a duel core with 4 Gigs of RAM.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Did you remove your previous antivirus? Having two can cause this problem.

Posted by:

28 Feb 2014

Win 7 - Opera - Microsoft Security Essentials - no issues whatsoever........

Posted by:

09 May 2014

I have used the free Avast antivirus software for years and it has always worked well, stopping many viruses before they harmed my PC. I also use Avast on my tablet as well. Recently Avast offered the Pro version for 9.99 a year with a two year option and I immediately signed up because that is a bargain price since the Pro version offers many other features not found in the free version. Would recommend Avast to anyone who is considering better antivirus software.

Posted by:

10 May 2014

Thanks Bob for all the great advise!!!I haven't been a subscriber for very long.So,what I would really like to say to your some of your subscribers is.Some of you are asking questions that can be answered by simply clicking on the links provided by Bob.Do you really think that he can provide all these great articles and advice.And answer all your questions too!Example:Why wasn't my product included in the AV-Comparatives Test.If you just took the time to click on the link to that site that Bob took the time to provide for you.You would read at the top of the page on that site.Next to the picture of the three computer monitors.They limit their tests products to 16- 20.So we sould all try to help Bob out.And click on the links he provides.For our own benefit and not to just provide us with information that we can't use.Do a little reseach on your own.If you really appreciate what Bob does for us.You will learn and educate yourselves more by using the links Bob provides us!Thanks again Bob!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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