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Review of Free Antivirus Software 2017

Date July 2017
Language English
Last Revision July 27th 2017

Release date 2017-07-27
Revision date 2017-07-27
Test Period July 2017
Online with cloud connectivity checkbox-unchecked
Update allowed checkbox-unchecked
False Alarm Test included checkbox-unchecked
Platform/OS Microsoft Windows

Introduction

These days, the increasing variety of malicious programs means that malware protection is more important than ever for computer users. However, anyone wanting to protect their PC does not have to face great expense to do so, as the choice of effective free antivirus programs is now better than ever before. The aim of this report is to make readers aware of some free antimalware programs available, and to consider the pros and cons of using a free program rather than paying for one.

Typical differences between paid and free programs

There are a number of ways in which a paid antivirus program can differ from its free counterpart. These include the absence of advertising, provision of technical support, a more sophisticated user interface, and additional features. We have considered the possible merits of all of these below.

The presence or absence of advertising in an antivirus program is very much a matter of personal tolerance. Some users will find advertising irritating and frustrating, while others will be able to ignore it. In this report, we have tried to give an indication of the advertising found in the free versions of each program. However, in many cases, advertising pop-ups may start appearing some time after the program has been installed, or only under specific circumstances, so this can only be a rough guide.

Even for expert users, good technical support for an antivirus program can be extremely helpful. It could mean the difference between quickly restoring a system and having to reinstall the operating system from scratch. Consequently, if you are wondering whether to pay for an antivirus program or use a free one, the additional technical support offered by the paid version is a factor worth considering. Bear in mind that support options vary not only from manufacturer to manufacturer, but also from country to country. In this respect, AV-Comparatives’ 2016 Support Test may be of value to users in the United Kingdom and Germany.

We note that with the Bitdefender, McAfee and Panda products reviewed here, the free and paid versions have different user interfaces. In all three cases, the free versions make essential features such as status and scans easy to find, but tend to be somewhat simpler than the paid versions; this might actually be an advantage for non-expert users. However, experienced users may well make use of more advanced configuration options found in the paid programs, such as the ability to set scan exclusions, or how to process detected malware.

With regard to additional features provided in paid versions of antivirus programs, we would not say that more features necessarily means a better program; they might bring no benefit to a particular user, and/or result in a slower or more complicated program. Thus we would suggest that users consider any extra functions on their individual merits. Some paid antivirus programs have additional antivirus components that assist with protection against malware. For example, email scanning – not always included in free programs – can detect malware whilst it is being downloaded, and delete/quarantine it before it condenses as an attachment on the user’s computer. This could prevent the user from inadvertently forwarding the malicious attachment to anyone else, even if real-time file protection would prevent the user’s own computer from being infected.

Features such as parental controls, backup, file encryption and secure deletion may or may not be of use to individual users, depending on their own circumstances and requirements. As a general rule, such functions require some configuration to work effectively, and so may not be of much value to non-expert users who do not understand how to use them. For example, spam filtering

A number of paid security programs will include the vendor’s own firewall, as a replacement for (or supplement to) the Windows Firewall. This is included in Windows 10, 8.1, 8 and 7 (as well as the now-unsupported Windows Vista and XP). We would NOT automatically assume that a third-party firewall will provide better protection than Windows Firewall, as our 2014 Firewall Test indicated that some third-party firewalls may provide less protection than Windows’ in public networks. We have also encountered security-suite firewalls that plague the user with questions about whether to allow access for particular processes, and even experts may struggle to answer these.

A final consideration is that some features found in paid security programs – for example, URL blockers and parental controls – can be found as standalone programs that could be installed in addition to a free antivirus program. Whilst some users may find it easier to access all security-related features from one interface, others may prefer to use a simple, free antivirus program and install additional programs from other manufacturers for added functionality.

The business of free antivirus

It might seem strange that many antivirus vendors – including over half those participating in our Main Test Series – produce a free product, which would appear not to have any business value. There are good reasons for doing this, however. Manufacturers can make money out of free products in the following ways. Firstly, advertising. A free antivirus product can be used to promote the same vendor’s own paid products, e.g. by showing greyed-out controls for features which are only available in a paid product. It could also be used to advertise third-party products. A second means of monetisation is the installation of third-party software such as toolbars and browsers, or changing the user’s current browser homepage and/or search service, in return for payment from the provider of the service. A third means of making money from free antivirus is the collection of data such as URLs visited and search queries made by the user, to be sold to a third party for advertising purposes.

Other benefits to vendors from providing free AV – which could indirectly lead to increased revenue – are brand awareness, and quality improvement due to increased collection of malware samples. The latter could lead to better protection (and thus test results) and consequently improved sales of paid products.

It might seem equally strange that users would want to pay for an antivirus product when a free version is available. However, as this report has noted, paid versions bring additional benefits, such as technical support, additional features, and freedom from advertising.

Tested Products

Adaware, Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, Comodo, Fortinet, Kaspersky Lab, McAfee, Microsoft, Panda, Qihoo, Sophos, Tencent and ZoneAlarm all make a free antivirus program, and we have reviewed these products here. Of these, Fortinet, Microsoft and Tencent do not make equivalent paid products. Fortinet provide the same antivirus client to paying business customers, but linked to a FortiGate security appliance, which improves protection relative to the standalone client software.

With the remaining manufacturers, we have compared the free program with its respective vendor’s cheapest paid antivirus software. Please note that manufacturers participating in our Main Test Series can submit any product from their consumer range for testing. In some cases, this is the free antivirus; other vendors may choose to submit a paid antivirus program, or a full Internet security suite.

Of the above-mentioned vendors, the following currently participate with their free product version in our public main-test series: Avast, AVG, Microsoft, Panda and Tencent.

Product Reviews

For each of the free programs in this review, we have briefly described the help and support features, available user-interface languages, operating system compatibility, any advertising encountered while testing the program, and the installation process. We have also provided screenshots of the setup dialog, main program window, settings dialog and a malware alert, to give an indication of what the user interface is like. For products which have a paid counterpart, we have compared the free version with the simplest/cheapest paid version with regard to the points above.

Summary

The table below shows the additional support services and features provided for the cheapest paid product, relative to the free product, for each vendor. As noted above, we recommend readers to decide for themselves whether they feel that any additional features in the paid products would be valuable to them, and whether they feel they can resolve any technical problems themselves, without technical support from the vendor. In some cases, free versions are only licensed for home/non-commercial/small-office use, so company use requires the purchase of a licence.

Vendor Cheapest Paid Product Additional features/support in cheapest paid product
Adaware Antivirus Pro Technical support; web protection, shopping and banking protection, firewall, email protection, advanced network monitors
Avast Pro Antivirus Technical support; sandbox, DNS protection
AVG Internet Security Phone and chat support; firewall, data encryption, payment protection
Avira Antivirus Pro Email and telephone support; web protection and mail protection
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus Mail, chat and phone support; secure browser, secure deletion, Wi-Fi security advisor, vulnerability scanner, ransomware protection
Comodo Internet Security Pro Technical support
Fortinet Licence for > 10 clients Technical support
Kaspersky Lab Anti-Virus Technical support; system watcher (stops malware by behaviour analysis and reverses malware changes)
McAfee AntiVirus Plus Technical support; firewall, digital shredder, vulnerability scanner, web advisor
Microsoft n/a n/a
Panda Antivirus Pro Technical support; firewall, Wi-Fi protection, safe browsing and application control
Qihoo Total Security Premium Skins, no-ads, special offers
Sophos Home Advanced Webcam protection, ransomware protection, banking protection. Additional support options may be provided when product is released.
Tencent n/a n/a
ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus + Firewall Chat support; http filter

Differences in features and services between free and paid versions

Feature differences according to vendor’s website

According to the adaware website, additional features in the pro version are technical support, web protection, shopping and banking protection, a replacement firewall, email protection, and advanced network monitors:

avc-free-2017-adaware
https://www.adaware.com/antivirus

Notes

adaware antivirus free, pro and total make use of Bitdefender protection components.

Feature differences shown in program

In the free version, the controls for Web Protection, Email Protection and Network Protection are shown, but greyed out (inactive).

Help

The online manual is the same for both products. It notes where certain features are not available in all versions.

Support

Users of the pro version are entitled to technical and customer support 24/7, according to the adaware website.

User-interface languages

Both versions have a choice of 22 different languages for the user interface; it is possible to switch between languages at any time, using the program’s settings.                  

Operating system compatibility

Both versions have the same OS requirements, namely Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7.             

In-app advertising in the free version

During the course of our test, adaware antivirus free displayed a notification of a “Welcome Gift”, which is an offer to upgrade to the pro version for a reduced price. The free version also displays controls for features only available in the pro version (Web Protection, Email Protection, Network Protection); these are greyed out (inactive), and an Upgrade button is displayed:

adaware-antivirus-free

Installation

There is one installer for all products in the adaware antivirus range. When the setup wizard has completed and the computer has been restarted, the program prompts the user to register for the free version, or enter an activation key for the pro (or total) version:

adaware-antivirus-free

User interface

The interface is identical for both programs, though as noted above, some controls are greyed out in the free version. There is an apparent difference in the user interface with regard to the alerts displayed when the EICAR test file is downloaded. However, this is not really a difference in the interface of the programs; rather, the pro version’s web-protection component detects the file while it is being downloaded, whereas the free version (which lacks the web protection) detects it as a file once it has condensed on the local computer.

Screenshots

Additional Products in the range

There is a third product in the adaware antivirus range, adaware antivirus total. In addition to the features found in the pro version, it includes file encryption, secure deletion, and parental controls.

Differences in features and services between free and paid versions

Feature differences according to vendor’s website

The comparison chart on the Avast website shows that in addition to the Free Antivirus’s features, Pro Antivirus includes “Avoid fake sites for safer shopping” and “safely run suspicious apps”.

avast-free-antivirus
https://www.avast.com/en-eu/compare-antivirus

Notes

Avast and AVG products use the same technology (they operate as a single company), but maintain separate user-interface designs for the benefit of existing users.

Feature differences shown in program

The list of components shown in Settings (and the custom installation dialog in the setup wizard) shows the additional components Real Site (DNS protection, described as Avoid fake sites on the website) and Sandbox (described as Safely run suspicious apps on the website):

avast-free-antivirus

Help

The help file is identical in both programs (and indeed for all 4 programs in the range); the text notes where a feature is only found in some programs.

Support

Avast’s support webpage shows that online help and a forum are available for users of free products, whereas users of premium [paid] products can contact Avast directly for support:

avast-free-antivirus

User-interface languages

Both programs have exactly the same options for installing additional interface languages. There is a wide range of European and Asian languages, plus – we were pleased to see – Avast’s amusing Pirate Talk. This renders e.g. the malware detection audio alert as “Thar be a scarvy man o’war off yer starboard bow”.                   

Operating system compatibility

Both programs have the same OS compatibility, namely Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 (with the exceptions of Windows 10 IoT, Windows RT, and Starter editions).

In-app advertising in the free version

A strip along the bottom of the main program window of Avast Free Antivirus promises a “welcome gift”:

avast-free-antivirus

Clicking Unwrap it opens a page from which Avast Pro or Avast Internet Security can be purchased at a discount. We note that the trial version of Avast Pro Antivirus uses exactly the same technique to encourage users to upgrade to one of the more expensive paid programs in the range.

avast-free-antivirus

Additionally, the Protection menu in the Free version shows three features – Secure DNS, Sandbox, and Firewall – that can only be used if the product is upgraded. These are shown with faded icons and a padlock symbol:

avast-free-antivirus

We note that the Avast Firewall is not included in the Pro Antivirus either, and uses exactly the same principle to suggest upgrading to Avast Internet Security or Avast Premier, which do include the firewall:

avast-pro-antivirus

Installation

The setup wizard is identical for both programs, although the custom setup dialog for the Pro version includes additional checkboxes for the extra features included in the product.      

User interface

An identical user interface is used for both products. Apart from the advertising strip in the Free version, the only visible difference between the two is the additional settings/controls for the features in the Pro version that are not included in the Free version.

Screenshots

Additional Products in the range

There are two further products in the Avast range for Windows home users, namely Internet Security and Premier. Both use the same interface as Avast Free Antivirus and Avast Pro Antivirus. In addition to the features found in the Pro Antivirus, Avast Internet Security includes Avast’s own firewall and an antispam feature. Avast Premier has both of these, plus an automatic software updater and a secure deletion feature. Due to the firewall feature in Avast Internet Security and Premier, their respective setup wizards display a firewall configuration dialog box at the end of the setup wizard:

Notes regarding the products   

With other vendors in this report, we have compared the free antivirus with a paid antivirus, rather than with an Internet security suite. However, AVG no longer produce a paid antivirus, so we are using Internet Security for the comparison, as it is the cheapest paid consumer security product for Windows that AVG make.

Since 2016, AVG has been operating as a single company with Avast. Whilst the products maintain separate interfaces for existing users, the technology behind the two product ranges is the same.

Differences in features and services between free and paid versions

Feature differences according to vendor’s website

The AVG website shows Internet Security’s additional features as extended ransomware protection, an enhanced firewall, and fake website protection. Unlimited AntiVirus PRO for Android is also included in the package.

Feature differences shown in program

The tiles on the main program window of AVG Internet Security show the extra features as Hacker Attacks protection (this is the AVG Firewall); Private Data (data encryption); and Payments protection (this is the fake website protection).

Notes

AVG AntiVirus Free detects the AMTSO Phishing Test Page:

avg-antivirus-free-phishing-detection

Help

The same help file is used for both programs; it notes where features are only available in Internet Security.

Support

There is an online forum for both products. AVG Internet Security additionally includes telephone and chat support, according to the AVG website.

User-interface languages

Although both AVG AntiVirus Free and Internet Security are available in multiple languages, the installers downloaded from the English-language website are both monolingual.         

Operating system compatibility

Both programs are compatible with Windows XP SP3, Vista, 7, 8 and 10

In-app advertising in the free version

The installer wizard of AntiVirus Free provides the option of installing a trial version of Internet Security:

avg-antivirus-free-protection-comparision

Once installed, AVG AntiVirus Free advertises AVG Internet Security by showing three of the protection components as Not protected. Moving the mouse pointer over a component indicates that it can be activated by upgrading the product:

Installation

The setup wizard is essentially identical for both programs.    

User interface

The user interface of the two products is identical, except for the extra features of Internet Security being shown greyed out.

Screenshots

Additional Products in the range

AVG Ultimate is also available; however, this is a package which includes the additional products AVG Tune Up (device optimisation) for Windows, and AVG Cleaner Pro for Android. The Internet Security for Windows contained in the package is identical to the standalone version.

Differences in features and services between free and paid versions

Feature differences according to vendor’s website

We could not find a comparison of the features in the Free and Pro versions on the Avira website.

Feature differences shown in program

The list of components in the left-hand menu panel, along with the settings dialog box, indicates that the Web Protection and Mail Protection components are not included in the Free version.

Please note that an Avira browser plugin, Browser Safety, is available for free, and can be installed by users of Avira Free Antivirus. This provides URL filtering, but is not identical to the Web Protection component in Avira Antivirus Pro.

Help

With regard to the help files, these are almost identical. The Free version’s helpfile does not include the Mail Protection pages found in the Pro version, but does include the Web Protection page, despite the apparent absence of the feature from the free program. Avira informed us that their in-product help is changing to an online version, which will be identical for both programs but will not have any features that differ between the versions.

Support

The support pages of the Avira website indicate that individual support services such as email and telephone support are not available to users of the Free version:

User-interface languages

Although both versions are available in different languages, the installers for both the Free and Pro versions are monolingual; that is to say, if you install the English-language version, there is no option to change the interface language without uninstalling the program and installing a version in a different language.        

Operating system compatibility

This is identical for both programs: Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10, all 32 and 64-bit.

In-app advertising in the free version

The Free version provides a very subtle hint that additional features are available in another version: the Web Protection and Mail Protection links in the left-hand menu panel are greyed out.

Installation

In practical terms, the setup process is the same for both programs. The initial dialog box is identical, and in both cases the user only needs to click Accept and Install:

During the installation process, Avira Free displays a number of screens with information about other Avira products, whereas the Pro version shows a single static screen. In neither case is any user interaction required, however.

User interface

The main program window is identical in both versions, except that in the Free version, the links for Web protection­ and Mail Protection are greyed out, as the features are not included. The settings dialog in the Pro version includes additional configuration items for the same two features.

Screenshots

Additional Products in the range

Other products in Avira’s home-user range are the Free Security Suite and Internet Security Suite, which includes a firewall manager; the Optimization Suite, which has tune-up tools in addition to the malware protection; and the Total Security Suite, which includes the firewall manager, tune-up tools, and a VPN feature as well. Avira have also introduced a monthly subscription service, Avira Prime.

Differences in features and services between free and paid versions

Feature differences according to vendor’s website

The Bitdefender website shows that Antivirus Plus includes ransomware protection, free online support, WiFi Security Advisor, Online Banking Protection, Password Manager, Search Advisor, Vulnerability Scan, File Shredder,  and Safe Files.

Feature differences shown in program

Antivirus Plus includes controls for Safepay (a secure browser), File Shredder (secure deletion), Wi-Fi Security Advisor, Vulnerability Scan, and Ransomware Protection.

Help

The Free version has a userguide in PDF format, while Antivirus Plus has a similar manual and a searchable online knowledge base.

Support

Support is not provided for the free version. Mail, chat, forum and phone support options are available for Antivirus Plus.

User-interface languages

We were not able to find Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition in any language other than English. The setup wizard of Antivirus Plus allows the user to choose from 14 (mainly European) languages.       

Operating system compatibility

This is the same for both programs, namely Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10.

In-app advertising in the free version

Whilst we did not encounter any ads when testing the program, we note that in the Account Info page of the settings, it is possible to deactivate notifications with special offers (implying that they would otherwise be used for advertising):

bitdefender-antivirus-free-notifications

Installation

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition has a one-click setup wizard, which allows the user to opt out of sending anonymous usage reports. Antivirus Plus could also be installed with a single click, and also lets user opt out of sending anonymous reports; additionally, it allows a choice of interface language, and the Custom Installation option lets users change the installation folder and configure proxy server settings.

User interface

Free and Paid use different interfaces.

Screenshots

Additional Products in the range

As well as Antivirus Free Edition and Antivirus Plus, Bitdefender’s consumer range for Windows includes Internet Security and Total Security. Internet Security features antispam, a firewall, file encryption, parental controls, and Continuous Updates (accelerate the introduction of new features and simplify installing, updating, and upgrading Bitdefender security), in addition to the features found in Antivirus Plus. Total Security additionally includes antitheft and device optimisation features.

Differences in features and services between free and paid versions

Feature differences according to vendor’s website

The feature table on the Comodo website shows that Comodo Internet Security Pro includes technical support options, but no additional functionality.

Feature differences shown in program

There are none.

Help

In either version, clicking the ? icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the main program window allows the user to open the Online Help or Quick User Guide (also online).

Support

As noted above, support services are the difference between the Free and Pro products.

User-interface languages

A wide range of European and Asian languages is available for both Free and Pro versions.

Operating system compatibility

This is identical for Free and Pro versions: Windows XP 32-bit only; Windows Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10, all 32 and 64-bit.

In-app advertising in the free version

When the user logs on to the PC, a “Quick Start Guide” window is shown (this can be supressed), which displays an Upgrade Now button:

comodo-internet-security-premium

When the computer is restarted after installation, a Comodo GeekBuddy window opens, inviting the user to Start Smart ScanGeekBuddy is a separate, paid Comodo product (www.geekbuddy.com)

comodo-geek-buddy

When we ran this on our newly installed test PC, the program found 25,857 “Junk Files” and 303 “Junk Registries”, and stated “There are some issues that you need to take actions” [sic]:

comodo-geek-buddy

After this, a Comodo GeekBuddy pop-up is shown in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen every time the computer is restarted. This warns the user of a “Critical issue”:

comodo-geek-buddy

Installation

This is identical for both products.

User interface

This is identical for both products.

Screenshots

Additional Products in the range

In addition to Internet Security Free and Pro, the Comodo consumer range for Windows also includes the paid Antivirus Advanced (all features of Internet Security except the firewall), and Internet Security Complete (including online storage and backup, and TrustConnect WiFi Security).

About the product

FortiClient is an endpoint security client designed for use in business networks, which may be registered to a FortiGate security appliance and/or managed by a FortiClient EMS server. However, it is available to everyone as a free download, and could be used as a standalone antivirus program for home users or small businesses. Businesses that own a FortiGate may register up to 10 FortiClient endpoints to it for free. Companies that wish to register more than 10 endpoints to the FortiGate may purchase a license for additional seats. If a customer only wishes to manage endpoints and doesn’t require any of the additional protection provided by the FortiGate, then they may deploy the Enterprise Management Server (EMS) on a Windows Server and manage up to 10 endpoints for free. Companies that wish to manage more than 10 endpoints using the EMS may purchase a license for additional seats. Endpoints that are registered to a FortiGate or are managed by EMS benefit from the additional protection afforded by cloud detection and behavioural analysis.

Help

Online documentation is provided. This is oriented more to use in business networks, but does include a section on standalone use as well.

Support

There is a free-to-use forum for all FortiClient users: https://forum.fortinet.com/

User-interface languages

The FortiClient language setting defaults to the regional language setting configured on the client workstation, unless this is configured differently in an XML configuration file.

Operating system compatibility

Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10, all 32 and 64-bit

Windows Server 2008 R2 or newer (with GUI; Server Core is not supported)

In-app advertising in the free version

There is no advertising in FortiClient.

Installation

The installation wizard is short and simple. There is the option of installing just the VPN component, and the user can change the installation folder. A malware scan is run as part of the setup process:

Differences in features and services between free and paid versions

Feature differences according to vendor’s website

The Bitdefender website shows that Antivirus Plus includes ransomware protection, free online support, WiFi Security Advisor, Online Banking Protection, Password Manager, Search Advisor, Vulnerability Scan, File Shredder,  and Safe Files.

Feature differences shown in program

Antivirus Plus includes controls for Safepay (a secure browser), File Shredder (secure deletion), Wi-Fi Security Advisor, Vulnerability Scan, and Ransomware Protection.

Help

The Free version has a userguide in PDF format, while Antivirus Plus has a similar manual and a searchable online knowledge base.

Support

Support is not provided for the free version. Mail, chat, forum and phone support options are available for Antivirus Plus.

User-interface languages

We were not able to find Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition in any language other than English. The setup wizard of Antivirus Plus allows the user to choose from 14 (mainly European) languages.       

Operating system compatibility

This is the same for both programs, namely Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10.

In-app advertising in the free version

Whilst we did not encounter any ads when testing the program, we note that in the Account Info page of the settings, it is possible to deactivate notifications with special offers (implying that they would otherwise be used for advertising):

bitdefender-antivirus-free-notifications

Installation

Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition has a one-click setup wizard, which allows the user to opt out of sending anonymous usage reports. Antivirus Plus could also be installed with a single click, and also lets user opt out of sending anonymous reports; additionally, it allows a choice of interface language, and the Custom Installation option lets users change the installation folder and configure proxy server settings.

User interface

Free and Paid use different interfaces.

Screenshots

Differences in features and services between free and paid versions

Feature differences according to vendor’s website

We could not find a feature comparison of the two programs on the Kaspersky Lab website (only a comparison of Kaspersky Free vs Kaspersky Internet Security).

Feature differences shown in program

Controls for the System Watcher component, which is intended to monitor and undo changes caused by malware, are not shown in Kaspersky Free.

Help & Support

The help pages are virtually identical. Kaspersky Lab provide a range of support options for Kaspersky Anti-Virus, including telephone support in some countries. A knowledge base and forum are provided for Kaspersky Free.

User-interface languages

Kaspersky Anti-Virus is available in a wide variety of languages (there are monolingual installers for each version). Kaspersky Free is already available in a few languages (such as Russian, Chinese, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and recently also in English) and is to be released in German and other languages as well later this year.

Operating system compatibility

This is identical for both programs: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10

In-app advertising in the free version

The main program window of Kaspersky Free shows greyed-out controls for the Safe Money, Privacy Protection, Parental Control, and Protection for all devices features, which are only available in the (paid) Internet Security suite.

Installation

This is identical for both programs.

User interface

The respective interfaces of Kaspersky Free and Kaspersky Anti-Virus are identical except for the icons shown in the lower half of the main program window.

Screenshots

Additional Products in the range

There are two more products in the Kaspersky Lab consumer range for Windows, namely Internet Security, and Total Security. Both use the same interface as Kaspersky Free/Kaspersky Anti-Virus. Internet Security includes Safe Money, Privacy Protection, Protection for all devices and Parental Control in addition to the features found in Kaspersky Anti-Virus. Total Security additionally includes Password Manager and Backup and Restore.

Differences in features and services between free and paid versions

Feature differences according to vendor’s website

We could not find a feature comparison of Cloud AV and AntiVirus Plus on the McAfee website.

Feature differences shown in program

The custom setup dialogs of the respective programs indicate that additional features found in AntiVirus Plus are the McAfee firewall, digital shredder, and vulnerability scanner.

Help

Both products have web-based help services provided.

Support

The McAfee website indicates that telephone and chat support are available for Cloud AV.

mcafee-support

User-interface languages

We could not find McAfee Cloud AV in any language other than English. McAfee AntiVirus Plus is available in a number of different languages, although the installer file we tested was monolingual (i.e. English only).

Operating system compatibility

Operating system requirements are the same for both Cloud AV and Antivirus Pro: Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, all 32 and 64-bit

In-app advertising in the free version

The two feature tiles in the bottom right-hand corner of the main program window, entitled Premium Protection and Mobile Protection open the respective pages of the McAfee website for Windows paid security and mobile phone security products:

Installation

McAfee Cloud AV’s installer allows the user to opt out of sending anonymous usage data, and provides the option of installing the WebAdvisor URL blocker.

User interface

Different interfaces are used for Cloud AV and AntiVirus Plus.

Screenshots

Additional Products in the range

In addition to Cloud AV and Antivirus Plus, the McAfee range of consumer products for Windows includes Internet Security and McAfee Total Protection. In addition to the features of AntiVirus Plus, Internet Security includes parental controls, antispam and a password manager. On top of these, Total Security also includes file encryption.

About the product

Microsoft’s own antivirus software comes in integrated and standalone forms, for different versions of the Windows operating system. In Windows 10 and 8.1 it is called Windows Defender, and is integrated into the operating system. It provides default malware protection, unless replaced by a third-party antivirus program.

With Windows 7 and Vista, the software is called Microsoft Security Essentials. It is not integrated into the system, but is available as an optional Windows Update, if no other antivirus software is installed.  Alternatively, it can be downloaded as an installer from the Microsoft website. Please note that there is a program called Windows Defender integrated into Windows 7/Vista, but this is NOT a full antivirus program, and only protects against adware and spyware.

Help & Support

Clicking the Help link in Microsoft Security Essentials opens a page of the Microsoft website entitled “What is Microsoft Security Essentials?”. This provides information on system requirements and how to install the program, but otherwise no instructions on how to use it. In Windows Defender for Windows 10 Creators Update, the settings dialog includes the entry Community, which opens the relevant Microsoft web forum. There is also the Microsoft Virtual Agent, the Safety and Security Center, and the Malware Protection Center.

User-interface languages

The user interface language of Windows Defender in Windows 10/8.1 is identical to the language of the operating system itself. Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows 7 / Vista is available in a wide variety of languages.

Operating system compatibility

Operating system requirements are the same for both Cloud AV and Antivirus Pro: Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, all 32 and 64-bit

In-app advertising in the free version

There is no advertising in Microsoft Security Essentials or Windows 8.1/10’s Windows Defender.

Installation

To install Microsoft Security Essentials on Windows 7 / Vista, the user can download and run the installer from the Microsoft website. The setup wizard is short and simple, but provides options for turning on Windows Firewall and automatically submitting malware samples:

User interface

The program interface is largely identical for Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows 8.1/10’s Windows Defender in versions prior to the Creators Update (Version 1703, Build 15063). The only significant difference is the Settings dialog; this is integrated into the program window in Microsoft Security Essentials, but found in the general Settings window for Windows 10 with Windows Defender. There are also minor cosmetic differences in e.g. window frames and buttons, due to the different styles of the two Windows versions. In the Creators Update version of Windows 10, the user interface changes to the “Modern” design.

Screenshots

About the product

Qihoo 360 Total Security is a free consumer antivirus product. While there is no paid version of the product as such, Qihoo offer “Premium Membership”, which removes advertising, provides special offers, and provides additional skins for the user interface. However, the functionality and support are the same, so we have not considered this to be a separate product.

Please note that whilst Qihoo 360 Total Security can use both Avira and Bitdefender engines, both are disabled by default, with the program using just Qihoo’s own engine.

Help & Support

There is a brief “how-to” guide on the manufacturer’s website.

User-interface languages

The setup wizard allows the user to install one of 11 different European and Asian languages

Operating system compatibility

Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10

In-app advertising in the free version

When the user logs on after starting the computer, the following advertising pop-up is shown:

Installation

Options available include installation folder, language, installation of the Opera browser, and joining the 360 User Experience Improvement Program.

Screenshots

Additional Products in the range

In addition to Cloud AV and Antivirus Plus, the McAfee range of consumer products for Windows includes Internet Security and McAfee Total Protection. In addition to the features of AntiVirus Plus, Internet Security includes parental controls, antispam and a password manager. On top of these, Total Security also includes file encryption.

Note regarding Sophos Home Advanced

Sophos Home Advanced is currently in beta stage, so features and interface might change when the product is released.

Differences in features and services between free and paid versions

Feature differences according to vendor’s website

The web page of the Sophos Home Advanced Beta indicates that Ransomware Protection and Upgraded Privacy are included.

Feature differences shown in program

The components included in each product can be seen on its configuration page in the cloud console. In addition to the antivirus and web-filtering components found in the free version, the paid version includes CryptoGuard (intended to prevent ransomware encrypting files), Web Cam Protection and Safe Online Banking.

Help

At the time of writing, the same help pages appear to be used for both the Free and Advanced versions of Sophos Home.

Support

A forum is provided for Sophos Home Free users. Currently it is not clear what additional support options will be provided for the Advanced version.

User-interface languages

Sophos Home free version is available in other languages, but installers are monolingual. At the time of writing (June 2017), the Advanced version was only available in English, as far as we are aware.

Operating system compatibility

Sophos Home Free is compatible with Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10. Requirements for Sophos Home Advanced were not known at the time of writing, although we would not expect them to be different.

In-app advertising in the free version

We did not encounter any form of advertising in the free version.

Installation

This is equally simple for both programs; the installation wizard has no choices to make and can be completed in a couple of clicks.

User interface

Each program has its own user interface, both in terms of the program window and the configuration web page.

Screenshots

Additional Products in the range

There are currently no additional products in the Sophos consumer range for Windows.

About the product

Tencent PC Manager International Version is a PC security and optimisation program provided free by the manufacturer; there is no paid version. Please note that unlike the international English version has third-party components (e.g. from Bitdefender) already enabled. In the Chinese domestic version, these are included, but have to be activated by the user.

Help & Support

We could not find any help or support features or services in the program interface or on the manufacturer’s website.

User-interface languages

The international version of the program is available in English only.

Operating system compatibility

Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10, all 32 and 64-bit.

In-app advertising in the free version

We did not encounter any form of advertising in the product.

Installation

Installing Tencent PC Manager only requires the user to run the installer file and click Install Now.

Screenshots

About the product

ZoneAlarm uses some third-party components (e.g. from Kaspersky Lab).

Differences in features and services between free and paid versions

Feature differences according to vendor’s website

We could not find any information on the ZoneAlarm website regarding feature differences between the Free and Pro versions.

Feature differences shown in program

If the EICAR test file is downloaded, the Free version shows a file-protection alert, whereas the Pro version shows a web-protection alert, from which we deduce that the Pro version includes an http filter, but the Free version does not.

Help

The Help menus in both programs appear to be identical, and indeed they largely are. However, when we clicked on the Help… item in ZoneAlarm Free, it opened the online User Guide, whereas in the Pro version it inexplicably opened ZoneAlarm’s privacy statement instead. We were unable to find an equivalent online user guide for ZoneAlarm Pro.

Support

ZoneAlarm provide a chat support service for the Pro product. Support for the free version is limited to an online forum.

User-interface languages

The setup wizard of both versions allows the user to select French, German, Spanish or Italian instead of English as the interface language.

Operating system compatibility

This is the same for both versions: Windows 8, 8.1, 10

In-app advertising in the free version

Zone Alarm Free includes an Upgrade Now button in the top right-hand corner of the window; this opens a page of the ZoneAlarm website, where it is possible to purchase the Pro version. It is actually the Pro version that contains the most advertising, for features only available in ZoneAlarm Extreme Security.

Installation

This is exactly the same for both programs.

User interface

The user interface of the two products is very similar. However, the Antivirus and Firewall tiles of the Free version have been combined into one tile in the Pro version. The “spare” tile thus created is essentially used for advertising features that are not included in the Pro version, but can be obtained by purchasing ZoneAlarm Extreme Security. As a result, the Free version provides a less cluttered, more easily accessible interface than the Pro version.

Screenshots

Additional Products in the range

There is a third product in the ZoneAlarm antivirus range, ZoneAlarm Extreme Security. This includes the additional components Threat Emulation, PC Tune-Up, Anti-Keylogger, Parental Controls, and Find my laptop.

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This publication is Copyright © 2017 by AV-Comparatives ®. Any use of the results, etc. in whole or in part, is ONLY permitted after the explicit written agreement of the management board of AV-Comparatives prior to any publication. AV-Comparatives and its testers cannot be held liable for any damage or loss, which might occur as result of, or in connection with, the use of the information provided in this paper. We take every possible care to ensure the correctness of the basic data, but a liability for the correctness of the test results cannot be taken by any representative of AV-Comparatives. We do not give any guarantee of the correctness, completeness, or suitability for a specific purpose of any of the information/content provided at any given time. No one else involved in creating, producing or delivering test results shall be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damage, or loss of profits, arising out of, or related to, the use or inability to use, the services provided by the website, test documents or any related data.

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AV-Comparatives
(July 2017)