General Question

FutureMemory's avatar

Experienced PC security enthusiasts: What AV/Firewall/Spyware combo have you found to offer the best protection?

Asked by FutureMemory (24743points) June 18th, 2009

I’ve tested dozens of programs, free and paid versions, and have settled on Nod32/Outpost/Malwarebyte’s. Nod32 has the best track record according to AVB100, has an easy to use interface without a lot of confusing, extraneous clutter, and has a relatively light footprint. I’ve never had a problem while using this AV. For firewalls, I’ve settled on Outpost because it seems very comprehensive yet easy to use, with well-written, easy to understand instructions. I also like the way it offers you a recommendation on what to do when it requires you to choose a course of action. You always know what’s going on with this firewall. As for anti-spyware I’ve settled on Malwarebyte’s mostly due to reputation. I’ve never heard anything bad about this program, infact everyone seems to rave about it, including moderators of many message boards dedicated to internet security. It also doesn’t seem too agressive, with very few ‘false positives’ being reported. On a sidenote I also use Trojan Remover, an excellent AV program that has found malware the others missed, with the only downside being its lack of real-time protection.

I am still an amateur with regards to internet security (and software in general), so would love to hear feedback from anyone that has handpicked their lines of defense (rather than the “hey, it was free!” or “i just use what the salesman at Bestbuy suggested” types).

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14 Answers

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I use PCTools Firewall and AntiVirus, as well as ThreatFire and Ad-Aware. So far so good. I’ve been through dozens of FW and AV programs, and I could easily tell you which ones DON’T work. Anything made/sold/offered by Symantec

ragingloli's avatar

I use the Comodo Internet Security suite. it is free and the firewall component is better than most commercial competitors. Not sure about the AV component, but since the FW contains a module called Defense+, which watches for suspicious behaviour, not signatures, it should detect any attempt at infection.

sweetteaindahouse's avatar

I use AVG Anti-Virus Free. I have been using it for 5 years and I have yet to have a problem. Knock on wood.

Joe_Freeman's avatar

These days I use Avira’s antivirus – AVG until it messed up my machine one time too many – the Windows Firewall (in XP), and both Ad-Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy for spyware. It’s all free stuff and I have never had a security problem in about ten years. Of course, I also keep Windows and the apps up to date at all times. Although these security measures don’t take much time, they seem to do the job. I am also very vigilant about keeping multiple backups, in case something does goes awry.

I have had nothing but bad experiences with Norton security software and remove it from any new computer I buy. It’s not easy getting rid of that crap!

bonus's avatar

I like ZoneAlarms for my firewall, antivirus and spyware protection. Simple, solid, customizable.

I use Crap Cleaner (CCleaner) to free up temporary memory. It’s free.

Check out the Hive Five over at for other recommendations.

bonus's avatar

Hey, @sweetteaindahouse, does AVG offer decent spyware protection? I love that it is free.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I’ve used AVG, Comodo, Zone Alarm and had some problems with them. Zone Alarm was awesome until it was bought out by SecurePoint. CrapCleaner is a great program, though. Very thorough. The Windows firewall is a temporary measure until you can get something better, I would never rely on it. This site is one of my favorites for discovering which Windows programs to avoid, and which ones to fix. Takes some getting used to navigating the site, but I have been recommending to people for years. Mr. Gibson has never steered me wrong.

bonus's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra I am curious. I have heard others mention their dislike for Zone Alarm. Since I have been using it without a hitch for the past three years, can you describe what to look for, what might become a problem down the road for me?


sweetteaindahouse's avatar

@bonus, The one I have has anti-spyware included. I’m sure that it comes with every version.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@bonus, I used Zone Alarm when it first came out, and it was the best one available. Unfortunately, like McAfee (which used to be a great piece of software) it was picked up by a larger company that decided to add a bunch of unneeded junk to it. Whenever software has the words Security Suite added to the name, I have found out that there will be problems down the road. The original ZA was a compact little program, and it was a foolproof firewall. In tests, it beat everything on the market, including the expensive ones.

The last version of ZA I used was a memory hog, it would not remember my changes, and I fought with it tooth and nail whenever I tried to tweak the settings. I finally gave up on it and found other programs to use, like Trend Micro, Comodo and now PC Tools.

I have no loyalty with any AV or FW software, simply because they are obsolete after a few months. My COMODO software finally ended up corrupted and I could not repair it or reinstall it to fix the problem without reformatting the HD. I only reformat in extreme circumstances. It’s easier to go to CNET or some other review site and find something new to use.

bonus's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra Thanks for the info. Good to know. I have experienced some of that bloat, too.

Joe_Freeman's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra I agree that Zone Alarm was excellent in the beginning, but have not used it since Windows now has a firewall. Whether or not that firewall is any good I cannot say, but I’ve had no overt problems, just as Defender causes no obvious problems but may not actually be doing much. As for security suites, I too avoid that stuff. Ideally, having one solid security package that handles everything is a very appealing idea, but in practice they suck, especially Norton. I will say that scanning separately for viruses and for spyware is rather wasteful; all AV software should take care of spyware at the same time. Presumably this will eventually be the case.

bonus's avatar

I’d have to say, the reason I was using zonealarms in the first place was it’s ability to tweak the firewall. This kind of tuning of the firewall is not as easily done through the built in Windows firewall. So, I turn off the Windows firewall and use the Zonealarms firewall. I can’t remember what I was setting up (maybe some filesharing at work?) but I found tutorials on how to do it and it was just a quick no-brainer. I still stand by it, even if it is resourceful from time to time. I find that many things are. There are some ways to decrease Zonealarms cpu hogging. Turning off unnecessary security features will reduce that footprint substantially and immediately. I don’t use the email security feature, for instance (I get enough of that security using firefox, its add-ons, and gmail, imo). Another thing to do is not allow automatic updating of ZoneAlarms (or anything else, for that matter). Automatic updating runs in the background occasionally and will slow your machine appreciably. I think one of the reasons many of us strongly dislike Norton or Mcaffee is because the user interface is so convoluted and opaque and tweaking these settings is not so easy to figure out how to do. Zonealarms, in comparison, is more stripped down and decipherable in my opinion.

jdogg's avatar

i would have to say my 3 favorites: AVG, Trend Micro, and SpySweeper…but my favorite all time spyware and malware defenders are Spybot, and

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