The best protection for a non corporate, personal computer is good antivirus software and a discerning user. Although the former is critical, never underestimate the later.
When a user is working with a stand alone personal computer they nearly always have permissions to install software. As such they are ultimately responsible for the security of the computer. There isn’t a program in the world that you could install that would protect you against all threats. You are part of the computer security. No Internet Firewall or anti-spyware program will ever protect you as well as you can protect yourself. I will take some heat for this from other so-called experts, but my experience has demonstrated that the most prevalent threats get installed on computers no matter what major security suite you have installed.
Discerning User defined – A user who is aware of the antivirus program, it’s protection status indicator, and whether a message they see on screen is coming from such a product or from a Website, as well as the ability to discern where and when it is safe to supply personal information or download files over the Internet of from an external disk.
The best thing you can do for a personal computer is have good antivirus software that stays up to date automatically and does scheduled scans of the file system at least weekly. The very next priority is to be a discerning user.
Before listing antivirus programs I like, let me steer you away from one of the worst – Norton AntiVirus. I no longer trust Symantec products on my computer. I know, it is often the leading antivirus product, and just five years ago I used it on all of my computers and recommended it to all of my clients. I was wrong. One day I will write about the story and replace this sentence with a link to it.
The second thing I would like to warn you about is the latest trend towards security suites. One stop protection software that keeps you free of viruses, spyware, root kits, spam, firewall, etc… Just skip it, save $10 bucks and buy only the antivirus product.
Remember – good antivirus + discerning user is the best protection you can get for a personal computer. Every security suite is only as good as the resident antivirus and in many cases the antivirus is inhibited by the rest of the features in the suite. Keep it simple – just use antivirus.
AVG Free is my personal favorite. First, it is free and this seems to always fit in the budget. I am a little less happy that they use the constant nag to get you to buy the product now, but honestly even if you purchase the standard version you are getting one of the best quality antivirus products for half the cost of most of the others. Consider purchasing the standard version. Of course stay away from the “Internet Security” suite. During the installation of AVG I always uncheck the “Security Toolbar for Internet Explorer” as I am not a fan of IE toolbars. I find they too often make IE less stable.
McAfee VirusScan Plus. I like the McAfee product, but I usually do not install the Security Toolbar or the Personal Firewall, but I bet you guessed that by now.
Kapersky AntiVirus is what I am using on my laptop right now. I did pick up an infection while trying to clean a client PC and this caused me to investigate what the best antivirus product on the market was. It was very close between Kapersky and McAfee, but Kapersky edged out slightly ahead and since I am constantly exposing my laptop to infected machines while doing on-site support I wanted the best.
So why did I head the list with AVG? Simply because I feel that for most users AVG Free is more than enough protection. AVG has been able to remove infections that McAfee could only identify for me in the field. It is light, the interface is simple and it ranks very high on the same independent testing that lead me to use Kapersky. McAfee did very well also, but for most users the AVG interface is easier to grasp and since the user is such an intricate part of the security of a personal computer I find that user interface is one of the most important features.