We consider five main factors when making recommendations: protection, speed, false alarms, ease of use, and telephone support.
Protection is the ability of the program to recognise and block/remove viruses and other dangerous programs from your computer. Clearly, this is the function of an antivirus program; if it can't do this well, the program is no use. To determine the protection abilities of different programs, we rely on tests by AV-Comparatives; to find out more about these, please click here.
Speed of the antivirus program, i.e. how much it affects the performance of the computer, is not a critical factor in protection. However, some antivirus programs take so much of the computer's resources that it will slow to a near standstill. As well as making working with the PC a very frustrating process, it may tempt some users to switch the antivirus program off, so that they can get something done, which is obviously very risky. We assess the speed of antivirus programs using both tests by AV-Comparatives, and other tests we conduct ourselves.
False alarms, also known as false positives, occur when an antivirus program wrongly identifies a harmless program or file as being malicious. A high rate of false positives by an antivirus program will make using the computer frustrating, possibly prevent the use of some legitimate programs, and cause worry and confusion. We use tests by AV-Comparatives to assess the rates of false positives produced by different programs.
Ease of use is also a very important consideration. No antivirus program works completely automatically; all require some input from the user, in order to keep the program working well, check the computer for infections, and take action when a dangerous program is found. If the program is to provide effective protection, it must be easy for the user to understand and operate.
Telephone support from the manufacturer of the antivirus program is invaluable. We know from experience that antivirus programs can suffer from various problems, such as not accepting the licence key, not installing, not updating, conflicting with other programs, failing to start or scan, and being unable to remove malicious programs that they have found. In such situations, good telephone support makes the difference between solving the problem quickly and easily, and having to buy a different program or completely reinstall the computer. For non-expert users, we strongly recommend buying an antivirus program with good telephone support.