Best Free Anti Virus Software and Anti Spyware Program
Published 9/25/09 (Modified 3/8/11)
For the last week or so, I've been battling a particularly feisty spyware/virus infection on my home personal computer. I was using my desktop computer to browse the Internet like any other day when my PC's performance suddenly started acting strange. One minute I was browsing the web, and the next minute my web browser was redirecting my Google search engine queries to a series of shady looking websites. Even my attempts to visit well known sites such as CNN.com or NYTimes.com by typing in the URL addresses directly into the web browser were mysteriously being redirected to adult themed websites or other advertisement filled home pages. Very soon after, a cleverly designed but obviously fake Windows Firewall alert message started popping up to warn that my computer had been infected by a Trojan virus - advising me to click on the provided link to access a supposed anti virus/anti spyware program that could get rid of it. Unfortunately, it wasn't until days after it all started that I finally realized that my computer had been maliciously hijacked and infected with either a worm or malware virus of some sort.
Dismay and concern immediately set in as I bemoaned the shear number of times I had used the compromised computer during the span of the last few days to check my Yahoo, Gmail, and business email accounts, and used the workstation to log into my confidential online bank and brokerage accounts. Who knows the number of confidential user login names and passwords I had unwittingly submitted using my infected computer that could very well now be in the hands of unknown criminals and evil-doers.
For those never infected by a computer worm, Trojan virus, or spyware download before and aren't familiar with the telltale signs, you know your computer's been infected when - strange things start happening when you're simply doing routine work, files you originally had suddenly start disappearing, the operating system starts acting slow, or unfamiliar applications start installing themselves or strange alert messages start appearing on your screen. As a big fan and frequent user of music and movie P2P file sharing programs like LimeWire and Bit Torrent, I came to the conclusion that one of the files I had downloaded in recent days must have been infected and must've somehow bypassed my firewall filters and punched through my existing spyware programs and installed itself onto my computer as a parasite. While I had Trend Micro installed on my computer for some time now, I realized that I had neglected to renew my subscription and had not updated my virus definitions for some time, which may have been a contributory factor as to how the virus/spyware managed to infiltrate my computer's defenses.
Scan Your Computer Regularly With Free Anti Spyware and Virus Software
When reality finally set in that my computer had been hacked, the first thing I did was grab my spare laptop computer (presumably clean and spyware-free), and log into all of my various email, bank, and brokerage accounts to change the passwords. Fortunately, none of my important online accounts appeared to be compromised, and no strange identity theft activities had taken place without my authorization - at least according to MyFICO ScoreWatch, the program I use to monitor and track changes to my personal credit reports. Next, I went about the task of figuring out which of the free anti virus and anti spyware software packages out there would do the best job of cleaning up the infection and ensure that such an occurrence would never happen again.
While in general, the very best online security programs such as Norton, McAfee, and TrendMicro usually require members to pay a subscription fee to gain access to their virus and spyware prevention products, there are quite a few comparably high quality alternatives out there that are available for free. Because each of the following tools utilize its own different and unique detection algorithm to scan for viruses and spywares, I recommend downloading a combination of two or three to get the maximum benefit. After spending a day or so of downloading and trying out most of the best programs, here are my recommended selections that I felt did the best job of completely ridding my computer of���� pesky spyware bugs and viruses:
Best Free Anti Virus Scanning Software
- AVG Anti Virus Free Edition: Strangely and rather interestingly, I've noticed that the free AVG virus/spyware algorithm frequently provides for a more thorough scan than that offered by paid software programs like Trend Micro. Go figure. AVG AntiVirus catches quite a few viruses that the others miss.
- Avast! Home Edition: Highly recommended. Avast! Home Edition is not only light on system resources, but it also provides excellent real time scans for free.
- Avira Anti Vir Personal: Great free application that automatically scans for and removes both viruses and spywares that lurk on your computer.
Best Free Spyware Detection and Removal Software
- AVG Anti Spyware Free Edition: Scans for both viruses and your run of the mill malwares. Easy to use and does a very nice job of keeping your computer clean.
- SUPER Anti Spyware: The aptly named SuperAntiSpyware program is truly super and highly recommended. The free edition is 100% free and will detect and remove thousands of spyware, adware, malware, trojans, key loggers, dialers, hi-jackers, and worms. The only downside is that the free version does not provide real time blocking or scheduled scans.
- MalwareBytes AntiMalware: I recommend running both MalwareBytes along with Super Anti Spyware. Each is likely to pick up spyware not readily detected by the other due to differences in their detection algorithms.
- AdAware Free: AdAware by Lavasoft is one of the oldest free anti-spyware programs available on the Internet and much of it remains the same. For no cost, the program offers a pretty decent, albeit stripped down, manual spyware detection option for your computer.
Free Online Virus Scanners
The following services offer premium virus scanning from popular brands via online interfaces. They're all very easy to use and generally offer high detection rates. The major downside is that some require you to pay a membership fee to initiate a virus removal after one's been detected. But nevertheless, it's still a good idea to run a full computer scan on occasion using each of the following services to ensure a clean computer.
- Panda Security Free AntiVirus Online
- Kaspersky Lab Free Virus Scan
- Trend Micro HouseCall
- Eset Online Anti Virus Scanner
- BitDefender Online Scanner
- Symantec Security Scan
- McAfee FreeScan
- CA Online Threat Scanner
If you want maximum protection, I recommend using Norton or Trend Micro, along with at least one or two of the free anti virus and anti spyware programs listed above. When it comes to your precious computer files like personal photos, important Word documents, and applications you have saved in your hard drive, it's always better to be safe than sorry.