Anti-Virus: Don't Leave 'Home' Without It!
Let's face it, whether you are physically at home sitting in front of your computer or out and about with your laptop; accessing and surfing the internet can be like leaving your house with no clothes on. It does not take much imagination to think of the dangers and unpleasantness that would bring! What's that? You would not do that, you say? Well, I am glad to hear it! But what about your internet surfing? Do you 'leave' the safety of your computer without the 'wrapped' protection that comes from having a good anti-virus program installed?

What's that you say? Oh, you don't have lots of money to spend on that sort of thing, right now? Well, rest easy, because I am going to tell you about a great little program that you can get for free! Now, there are many anti-virus programs available for free, but they are not all created equal. Some are better than others because they are easier to use and have more options. Over the past decade, I have used three freeware anti-virus programs, extensively. These are Comodo Internet Security, Avast Anti-Virus, and Panda Anti-Virus.

Comodo's program is, by far, the most complex -offering many options and parameter settings that the non-technical user may be intimidated or confused by. Comodo's security suite incorporates real-time sensitivity to your online activities and will catch malware in its tracks before it can reach your machine.  Using heuristics, it will also watch the behavior of the programs on your computer for suspicious activity and alert you immediately to any found. Sensitivity settings exist for this feature, as well as its scanning functionality. Downloading virus definitions is a time-consuming process, however, which can take up to twenty minutes! It is also a total resource hog, running heavy on my machine and slowing everything else down.

Avast Anti-Virus used to be a nice little program with a clean graphical interface and ease of use even though it offered a lot of options. Avast can be set up to integrate with your email client to scan all incoming and outgoing email. You can choose to have a notice appended to all outgoing emails alerting the recipient that it was scanned with Avast and found safe. Avast will also allow you to set heuristic sensitivity levels. You have more choices for types of scans than with Comodo, yet it has much trouble finding and scanning removable drives. As of this article, the current freeware version is bloated with adware and constantly tries to trick you into upgrading to the paid version. Very sneaky. I want my anti-virus program to be sneaky in its ability to catch all the sneaky malware out there - not trying to manipulate me into something I don't want!

And now we come to the gem of the three: Panda anti-virus. Panda uses the latest cloud-scanning technology. It has been consistently rated well over the years by PC World and other tech-savvy sites and just seems to get better and better. Panda is extremely easy to use with a simple, clear interface which makes it a great choice for the novice. The intuitive interface utilizes the simplicity of the flat graphic design of Windows 8. It is extremely fast and can thoroughly scan my system in less than a third of the time that Comodo's scanner took. It has a light footprint on the machine and does not slow it down at all. Panda is a good choice if you are using an older machine, although it is well-suited and geared for all Windows OS beginning with 2000 to 8.1 It only requires a miniscule 128 bytes of RAM and needs a minimum 300 Mhz Pentium processing power. I highly recommend this essential tool. You can download Panda here.

I know some of you are wondering just how good a freeware anti-virus program could be, and may feel more comfortable purchasing a subscription for a paid version. Rest assured, each of the software programs above do come in a paid version and offer more bells and whistles. These come in several forms from the casual home user to heavy duty business platforms. Panda Anti-virus Pro, the paid version, is a completely different program than its free cloud based cousin. It has been rated in tests to be slightly better in regard to catching malware in 'real time', but otherwise really does not rate better than the freeware version, according to a recent article in PC World. However, for the current annual price of $31.99, it is still an excellent bargain!

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