How Do I Compare Antivirus Software?

Sandi Johnson

Antivirus software and computer security suites vary in performance, usage of system resources, cost and protection types. Attempting to compare antivirus software can quickly become confusing, especially in light of the different features and benefits of each utility. To ensure accurate comparisons, be sure that the programs you compare are equivalent in type. For example, comparing a standalone computer security program to a computer protection suite will naturally result in the suite appearing to be more robust and feature-packed. Comparing also should include reviews from reliable sources, such as friends, colleagues and trusted trade publications, as well as cost comparisons.

The level of protection available in antivirus software is a factor in its price.
The level of protection available in antivirus software is a factor in its price.

Before you begin to compare antivirus software, the first step should be to categorize options into standalone programs and full protection suites. Computer protection suites typically offer additional features and programs, such as infection removal tools or extension applications for email programs and Internet browsers. Most protection suites typically seek to prevent your computer from becoming infected from the start. By blocking or alerting users to potential risks such as suspicious code, out-of-date security certificates or other warning signs, the thought is that users can avoid or deter infection.

Attempting to compare antivirus software can quickly become confusing.
Attempting to compare antivirus software can quickly become confusing.

Standalone programs, on the other hand, tend to address computer security from a response standpoint, rather than prevention. Such programs typically, although not always, scan for known malware, spyware, scareware and other malicious software. Often, these programs scan what is already residing in the computer's main hard drive or scan downloads for known threats. Independent programs, especially those programs from companies also offering full protection suites, might provide for the removal of viruses, Trojans or other malware once found.

Recommendations from peers, information technology (IT) professionals and trade publications are an excellent source of information for people who are seeking to compare antivirus software. Frequently, these sources have valuable information beyond what is published in marketing materials for various options. Information such as personal experience, use of system resources that can affect computer performance and reliability are generally available only from such sources. As such, when you compare antivirus software, reviews should play a prominent role. One negative review can change your perspective of two otherwise identical solutions.

Cost, as is the case with virtually any product or service, also is a factor when you compare antivirus software. Numerous free programs and utilities are available, in addition to purchased solutions, so cost is often a major factor in comparison results. Judging the perceived value and usefulness of a particular software is directly tied to its cost, in the eyes of the consumer. The issue of cost does not always relate to available features and reliability, so when all other features and benefits are equal, cost frequently becomes the deciding factor.

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