6. G DATA Antivirus
£29.95 (1 PC, 1 year)
Many antivirus programs ask to remove incompatible software during installation. That's fine if it's a full security suite, but when G DATA Antivirus asked us to uninstall "Visual Studio 2010 x64 Redistributables" we thought that was going a little too far.
Fortunately there's at least the option to ignore these demands, and after a lengthy but otherwise straightforward installation the program console appears. It's bulky, a little awkward (program status is on one tab, you launch scans from another), but we still figured out the basics in about a minute flat.
The core strength of G DATA Antivirus is its accuracy. The program's use of two finely balanced engines really does catch significantly more malware. We've seen extremely impressive results ourselves, and they're regularly confirmed by independent VB100 testing and at AV-Test (G DATA received a maximum 6/6 protection score in its most recent tests).
Unfortunately G DATA Antivirus also has a measurable effect on your PC's performance, noticeably slowing it down in some situations. The program doesn't have any extras, either, beyond a relatively feeble boot optimiser. We'd rank G DATA Antivirus closer to the bottom of this list than the top, but its high detection rates mean the package may still be worth a look.
7. Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015
£29.99 (1 PC, 1 year)
Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015 is a capable security package which offers strong all-round protection from the very latest threats. Malicious links are highlighted and blocked, downloads and email attachments inspected, malware removed. If anything does manage to bypass your defences, a virtual keyboard allows you to enter personal data without it being intercepted.
The program keeps any operational hassles to a minimum. Anti-Virus 2015 handles most challenges entirely on its own, but if you do need to take manual control then a clear and straightforward interface makes life easy.
One welcome new feature offers some protection against CryptoLocker-type ransomware. If a suspect program tries to encrypt a document then Kaspersky automatically backs it up, restoring the file once the infection has been removed. (This isn't perfect – the threat has to be detected in the same session and before Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015 is closed down – but it could still save you from a real disaster.)
The testing labs vary a little in their Kaspersky ratings. AV-Test says the technology protected against 100% of threats in its most recent two tests, with minimal false positives; AV-Comparatives typically ranks it a little lower, although still in the top five. Either way, it's an impressive package, and on balance Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015 can easily justify its premium price.
8. Panda Free Antivirus
Using free antivirus software can be a smart choice, but there may be a few issues. Install Panda Free Antivirus, for example, and by default it'll change your browser home and search pages, although you can at least avoid this if you're paying attention.
The situation improves as soon as the program launches, though, its attractive Windows 8-style interface making it easy to access Panda's various features. It's not just visually impressive, either – you can also edit the layout, removing tiles you don't need and adding others.
Panda's scanning speeds were a fraction below average for us. Malware detection was impressive in our small-scale tests, but the verdicts from the major labs are a little more mixed. AV-Comparatives in particular gave the package stellar ratings for most of 2014, but protection ratings fell a little towards the end of the year.
There are plenty of other useful features here. URL filtering does an above average job of blocking malicious sites. Process Monitor acts like a smart Task Manager, displaying running processes and highlighting anything dubious. Also, USB Vaccine protects your USB keys from some infections, while the Rescue Kit builds a bootable recovery environment to help remove stubborn threats.
Panda Free Antivirus has its issues, then, but does offer above average protection and some genuinely useful extras. If you're looking for a free product which is also very easy to use then it's worth a look.