The most straightforward approach to PC security is to use a security suite — such as Symantec's Norton Internet Security or Norton 360, McAfee's Internet Security or Total Protection, and Kaspersky's Internet Security — that protects your PC from viruses, Trojans, spam, and other malware. You benefit from having to install and maintain only one application, as opposed to the best-of-breed approach to security software that requires multiple installations and updates.
Many experienced PC users prefer to pick and choose their security programs so they get just the features and interfaces they prefer. Also, security suites have a reputation for being difficult to uninstall. Most importantly, many top-rated specialty apps are free. The suites cost from $30 to $70 a year for up to three PCs.
The benefit of a security suite for a home user is convenience. Only a single product needs to be purchased, configured, and updated.
Having achieved top or first-runner-up honors from the editors of PC World, PCMag, Maximum PC, and other reviewers, today's consensus security-suite selection is Symantec's Norton Internet Security 2009. The program pairs excellent malware detection with a good range of features. The latest release continues to be faster and less resource-hungry than previous versions, according to PCMag and other testers.
If you're one of the many people who've sworn never to install a Norton or McAfee security product again, however, there are a lot of other strong contenders for security-suite top dog:
- Maximum PC lists ESET Smart Security as its second choice; the program matched Symantec's score of 9 out of 10. (Read Maximum PC's most recent security-software reviews.)
- Norton Internet Security shares its PCMag Editors' Choice with ZoneAlarm Extreme Security. (Read recent PCMag security-software reviews.)
- PC World rates G-Data Internet Security 2010 as its first choice — just ahead of Norton Internet Security — and ranks BitDefender Internet Security 2009 just behind Norton. (Read the full BitDefender review and all PC World security-app reviews.)
For those who'd rather select their security program solely on the results of independent antivirus test labs, visit AV-Comparatives.org's list of recently tested antivirus apps, AV-Test.org's comparison of AV test results, or Virus Bulletin's summary of AV test results (free registration required). Many people rely on ICSA Labs' AV test reports, but ICSA's certification testing can be less stringent than the testing performed by the three antivirus test labs cited above.
If you choose a specialty antivirus program over a suite, you'll need to download and install a good software firewall as well. (This is in addition to the firewall built into your network hardware.) The free Comodo Internet Security combines a firewall and antivirus app; more information and a download link are on the vendor's site. An alternative is Agnitum's Outpost Firewall Free; Agnitum's site provides more information about the product.
One of the highest-rated free antivirus programs — by PC users and software reviewers alike — is Malwarebyte.org's AntiMalware, available for download from the company's site.