Health care is on everyone's minds these days, and it's definitely a topic that makes a difference in the lives of millions. But have you thought about the health of your computers? They can contract viruses too, along with ransomware, spyware, adware, and many other kinds of malware. The best health care plan for your computer is an effective, up to date antivirus solution. Which one? We've reviewed dozens of products to help you choose the plan that's best for you.I did say antivirus, but in truth it's unlikely you'll get hit with an actual computer virus. Malware these days is about making money, and there's no easy way to cash in on spreading a virus. Ransomware and data-stealing Trojans are much more common, as are bots that let the bot-herder rent out your computer for nefarious purposes. Modern antivirus utilities handle Trojans, rootkits, spyware, adware, ransomware, and more. PCMag has reviewed more than 40 different commercial antivirus utilities, and that's not even counting the many free antivirus tools. Out of that extensive field we've named four Editors' Choice products.
Several other commercial antivirus utilities proved effective enough to earn an excellent four-star rating. I eliminated two special-purpose products that aren't really like the rest: Daily Safety Check Home Edition and VoodooSoft VoodooShield. And Check Point's ZoneAlarm PRO uses antivirus licensed from Kaspersky, with almost no lab test results for ZoneAlarm itself. That leaves the ten excellent products you see above.All of these products are traditional, full-scale, antivirus tools, with the ability to scan files for malware on access, on demand, or on schedule. As for just relying on the antivirus built into Windows 8.x or Windows 10, that may not be the best idea. In the past, Windows Defender has performed poorly both in our tests and independent lab tests It did score several wins last year, and it earned decent scores in several more recent tests. Even so, our latest evaluation indicates that you'd still be better off with a third-party solution.
Listen to the Labs
I take the results reported by independent antivirus testing labs very seriously. The simple fact that a particular vendor's product shows up in the results is a vote of confidence, of sorts. It means the lab considered the product significant, and the vendor felt the cost of testing was worthwhile. Of course, getting good scores in the tests is also important.I follow five labs that regularly release detailed reports: Virus Bulletin, Simon Edwards Labs (the successor to Dennis Technology Labs), AV-Test Institute, MRG-Effitas, and AV-Comparatives. I also note whether vendors have contracted with ICSA Labs and West Coast labs for certification. I've devised a system for aggregating their results to yield a rating from 0 to 10.
We Test Malware, Spyware, and Adware Defenses
I also subject every product to my own hands-on test of malware blocking, in part to get a feeling for how the product works. Depending on how thoroughly the product prevents malware installation, it can earn up to 10 points for malware blocking.My malware-blocking test necessarily uses the same set of samples for months. To check a product's handling of brand-new malware, I test each product using 100 extremely new malware-hosting URLs supplied by MRG-Effitas, noting what percentage of them it blocked. Products get equal credit for preventing all access to the malicious URL and for wiping out the malware during download.Some products earn absolutely stellar ratings from the independent labs, yet don't fare as well in my hands-on tests. In such cases, I defer to the labs, as they bring significantly greater resources to their testing. Want to know more? You can dig in for a detailed description of how we test security software.
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