3. Avira Free Antivirus
If you're used to the flashy Windows 8-like interfaces of many modern security tools, Avira Free Antivirusmay look a little dated. There are no flat buttons here, no colourful tiles, and the program makes no attempt to hide its complexities: you'll need to explore an array of menus, tabs and dialog boxes to find out exactly what it can do.
Get past the basic looks, though, and Avira Free Antivirus isn't difficult to use. The package protects you from most threats entirely automatically, and if you do need to run a manual scan then clicking the "Scan System" button will get the job done.
Choosing Avira Free doesn't mean you're compromising on security, either. The company's engine is highly rated by the independent testing labs, and regularly outperforms the bulk of the commercial competition.
The package is also extremely configurable. To take a single example, if you're worried about others using your PC then you can password-protect individual Avira functions, perhaps ensuring only you have the right to restore quarantined threats.
Unsurprisingly for a free package, you don't get any extras (even basic web protection requires installing a separate browser extension), and there's minimal technical support.
Still, Avira Free Antivirus does offer good protection at no cost at all, and if you're an experienced PC user then it could be a great choice.
4. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2015
£29.95 (1 PC, 1 year)
If you typically look at free antivirus products, then Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2015's £29.95 per year probably looks expensive. But don't automatically move on – you do get a great deal for your money.
Bitdefender's engine is one of the most accurate and reliable around, for instance, and it's been that way for a very long time (AV-Test has ranked Bitdefender as number one for protection for the last three years).
The package also scores well for performance, and it won't hog your system's resources. A new Activity Profiles feature takes this even further by automatically optimising its settings, for example disabling non-critical services to speed up your system when you launch a game.
Bitdefender's Wallet is an impressive extra, a password manager which not only remembers user names and passwords, but can optionally fill in your credit card details with web forms. There's also a very secure browser, an excellent pre-boot Rescue Mode, custom protection for your USB keys, and more.
The package isn't perfect, of course. It insisted we remove another password manager before it would install, annoyingly, and browsing protection is only average. But Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2015's rock-solid engine and excellent bonus features mean it's one of the best antivirus packages around.
5. F-Secure Anti-Virus
£29.95 (3 PCs, 1 year)
While most antivirus tools try to win you over with the length of their feature list, F-Secure Anti-Virustakes a much more stripped-back approach. There are no software update checkers here, no USB immunisers, no system cleaners, not even any significant browsing protection. Instead the program just focuses on its core tasks of blocking known malware, and detecting brand new threats before they can do any harm.
This simplicity brings some immediate benefits. The interface is very straightforward, with no complications or hassles. Its lightweight nature means there's barely any effect on your PC performance. Scan speeds are another highlight, with the program completing its checks almost twice as quickly as some of the competition.
These rapid scans don't compromise accuracy, either, with a recent AV-Test report finding F-Secure was one of only five packages to protect against 100% of the test threats. Not every lab is so positive, but from our own experience we think it deserves the higher rating.
F-Secure Anti-Virus isn't going to be for everyone, especially when competitors like Kaspersky and Bitdefender offer better protection and more features. Still, the package is more accurate than most, less likely to conflict with other software, and much faster, and that's worth a lot. If you need to protect three systems then it's reasonable value, too.