Comodo Antivirus for Windows 10 review

Feature-packed antivirus for expert users

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Image Credit: Comodo

Our Verdict

Some powerful protection tools, but you'll need time, knowledge and experience to set them up.

For

  • Loads of features
  • Effective sandbox
  • Highly configurable

Against

  • No web filtering
  • Not checked by most testing labs
  • Some features require expert knowledge

Comodo Antivirus for Windows 10 is an unusually powerful antivirus tool which uses multiple security layers to keep you safe from harm.  

The package offers real-time protection to detect and block known malware before it can do any harm.  

If you run into an unknown or untrusted application, Comodo can run it in a sandbox to prevent it infecting your PC.  

You're able to run browsers or other legitimate applications in the sandbox, or even an entire virtual desktop, again making it very difficult for any threats to modify your PC or monitor what you're doing online.  

Knowledgeable users can enable and tweak a Host Intrusion Protection System, giving them a great deal of fine-grained control over what apps can do on your system. 

There is a notable omission in the lack of web filtering, which means the system doesn't block malicious URLs. But Comodo's auto-sandboxing should ensure that even the very latest, undiscovered threats are blocked, and there's a vast array of bonus features to fill any other security holes.

What you don't get in this release (officially known as Comodo Antivirus 11) are any significant new features, as the Release Notes page spells out. But the company promises 'major changes' for version 12.

Still, it's a measure of how capable Comodo Antivirus for Windows 10 is, that upgrading to its baseline commercial product, Comodo Advanced Antivirus 11, adds little more than shopping and banking protection and unlimited support. But it is at least cheap, at just $19.99 for a one device, one-year license.

Setup

Comodo Antivirus for Windows 10's installation process (Image Credit: Comodo)

Setup

Comodo's free antivirus is easy to find on the website, and we were able to download and launch the installer in a very few seconds.  

The package got off to a bad start, immediately offering to 'enhance' our browser experience by setting Yahoo! as our browser home and new tab pages, as well as making it our default search engine. This option is checked by default, too, so if you rush through installers, clicking Next without paying attention, you're likely to be affected. It's easy to avoid this - just clear the checkbox - but we would prefer Comodo didn't try to modify browser settings in the first place, especially as this has precisely nothing to do with security. 

Fortunately, the installer also offers more relevant options, including the ability to install Comodo's secure Dragon Browser and set up your system to use Comodo Secure DNS.

If you do decide to install Comodo Dragon, it can also import all your Chrome settings (bookmarks, cookies, history and so on) to ensure it's immediately ready for browsing. That's good news, although we'd like to see support for other browsers, too (Avast can import both Firefox and Chrome settings to set up its Secure Browser.)

The setup process took a little longer than usual, and the post-installation scan was also far from speedy (updating the virus database took two minutes all on its own), but eventually Comodo Antivirus for Windows 10 was up and running and we were ready to explore. 

Features 1

You can perform a number of system scans using Comodo Antivirus for Windows 10 (Image Credit: Comodo)

Features

Comodo Free Antivirus stands out immediately for its versatile and flexible interface. You can view your security status and launch scans from a tiny desktop widget, a more conventional antivirus console, or switch to an Advanced View which gives speedy access to Comodo's expert-level functions and features.  

You don't have to get involved in the complicated stuff, of course. Newbies can use the program much like any other antivirus - click Scan, choose a Quick or Full Scan and wait for the results - but life does get more interesting if you explore Comodo's other options.  

A Rating Scan, for instance, scans running processes and commonly infected areas and reports on the reputation of all the files it finds. This is interesting as it can show you files which aren't clearly malicious, but are considered untrusted (both executables and certificates), as well as files that Comodo hasn't seen before. If you suspect you've been infected by something nasty, but can't prove it, the Rating Scan may be able to point you in the right direction. 

Comodo can also scan specified files and folders, or you can set up multiple custom scans to carry out your choice of actions. These include the option to scan particular files and folders, the trusted root certification authorities store, the contents of RAM, commonly infected areas or the entire computer. 

You're able to customize key settings for individual scans - the sensitivity of any heuristics checks, whether the scanner can connect to the cloud to query file ratings - and there's an unusually configurable scheduler. Comodo doesn't just enable running the scan daily or weekly at 4:30pm, for instance: it's just as easy to have your scan launch on Monday to Friday only, but only if the computer is idle and not running on battery.  

If all else fails, an option to create a bootable CD or USB flash drive should help you clean up even the most heavily infected PCs. 

Comodo's sandbox is an unusual highlight. In a click or two you're able to run suspect programs in a secure environment where they can't make permanent changes to your PC. Alternatively, run a browser in the sandbox and it will protect you from some web-based malware, while also limiting the ability of any malware which might be on your PC to monitor what you're doing. 

An option to install a complete virtual desktop gives you a complete isolated environment for maximum security. It's a welcome addition to the package, although the need to install Microsoft Silverlight to make it work seems a little, well, bizarre. Microsoft hasn't been developing Silverlight (other than adding security patches) since 2013, and Google Chrome hasn't supported the technology for years.  

Comodo Dragon

Comodo Dragon is the company's free browser that comes with its free antivirus software (Image Credit: Comodo)

Comodo Dragon is a Chromium-based browser which comes bundled with Free Antivirus. This protects your privacy by cutting out the telemetry Chrome normally sends to Google, as well as blocking cookies, forcing HTTPS connections, looking out for dubious SSL certificates, and more.

While Dragon does its job, Comodo quickly annoyed us with its constant efforts to push the browser on us, and set Yahoo! as our default home, new and search pages in all browsers. After spotting this during setup, we found the program displayed two further pop-ups at random times, both effectively asking us to change our browser defaults, and one in particular could easily trick users into doing this by accident. 

Host Intrusion

Control how applications access your system with Comodo's Host Intrusion Prevention System (Image Credit: Comodo)

Comodo Free Antivirus regained some lost credit with its Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS), a hugely powerful security layer which gives you vast control over what applications can do on your system. At a minimum it alerts you to potentially dangerous actions by untrusted programs - running an executable, for instance - and allows you to decide whether each of these should be allowed. 

Experts can go beyond this to define custom HIPS behavior rules, although these can require a lot of low-level knowledge. Would you know the consequences of preventing a process setting Windows event hooks, or what might happen if you block interprocess memory accesses? Still, the HIPS is turned off by default, so newbies don't need to worry, and if you do know what you're doing, there's huge scope here for improving and fine-tuning your system security.

Other geek-friendly features include convenient integration with Comodo KillSwitch, a souped-up Task Manager with so many extras that it deserves a review all on its own. A single example: the KillSwitch Repair option makes it easy to see if malware has messed with your HOSTS file, DNS settings, Explorer policies and more, and can restore the defaults with a click.  

Comodo's Settings dialog rounds off the program with something for everyone. Beginners can choose a new theme for the interface, or disable update checking when the system is running on batteries. But more experienced types can customize how scans work, create new scan types, tweak the HIPS, and generally get involved in most of Comodo's low-level operations. 

Protection

An example of Comodo Antivirus for Windows 10 detecting and stopping malware (Image Credit: Comodo)

Protection

Comodo Free Antivirus isn't assessed by most of the independent testing labs, but AV-Test has checked Comodo's Internet Security Premium, and the results are interesting.

The December 2018 Windows Home User Report saw the package achieve a maximum 100% protection rate in both months, very good news.

The Performance element of the test showed website and application launches were slower than average when Comodo was installed. So slow, in fact, that Comodo ranked 19th out of 20 for Performance. But how much this means in real life is open to question.

For instance, the tests suggest that if one of your favorite websites took six seconds to load without an antivirus, this might slow down to seven seconds with an average antivirus product, and you'd be waiting seven and three quarter seconds with Comodo. That could be an issue, but we suspect it's not going to be a deal breaker for most people.

What's much more important is the protection you get, and we decided to check that further by matching Comodo against our own custom ransomware simulator. As we've developed it ourselves, Comodo Free Antivirus wouldn't be able to detect it from its file signature alone, making this a more interesting test of the product.

We launched the simulator, and accepted Comodo's default option to run the program partly isolated, with limited rights to our system. The simulator ran to completion, but because it was mostly sandboxed, not one of our test files had been touched.

That was impressive, especially as the same approach will block most other threats, well-known or brand new. But keep in mind that it does still rely on human intervention, and the user correctly deciding which applications are safe, and which need sandboxing. That's fine for experts, not so much for security novices, or anyone who wants the antivirus to decide everything for itself.

Final verdict

A powerful antivirus tool with some unusual and advanced features. The interface can be complex, though, and you'll need real technical expertise to get the most from the program.