You may be confused when those who seem to know a lot about this topic use terms like “antivirus” and “malware” interchangeably. Or you may wonder why you need a firewall if you have an antivirus. To the casual reader, these terms can be confusing – and certainly off-putting. That’s why so many people put their trust in paid-for solutions. And money in those companies’ pockets.
Over the next few minutes I am going to lift that veil of confusion and empower you to make decisions for yourself that will protect your PC from those who might seek to damage it for fun or profit.
First: what is a PC security suite?
A security suite comprises of six items:
1. An antivirus
2. A firewall
3. A malware detector
4. A web page phishing, or malware, detector
5. A software uninstaller
6. A cache cleaner and leftover removal software
Let’s take a look at each of these aspects in turn.
Best Free Antivirus
There are at present 5 key players when it comes to free antivirus software providers: Avast, AVG, Microsoft Security Essentials, Avira and Panda.
Avast is my favorite of the bunch. First installation was a little frustrating as it took quite a long time and hung a couple of times, but it was well worth it in the end. In many of the reports from others online I found it to be a very well regarded solution. In fact, it won Bronze in WebUser’s “Best Antivirus 2015.” Not bad at all,considering it was the only free antivirus deemed worthy of inclusion among the paid-for contenders.
When I first tried Panda, the cloud based antivirus I was very unimpressed. It did its best to upload all my files to the cloud and make them inoperable on my PC. Now, two years later, it has matured and does a very noteworthy job with very lightweight software. It’s cloud-based so it doesn’t clog up your laptop.
A firewall is used to protect your home network – not just an individual PC. Windows already comes with its own Firewall, but if you want real control over what your computer is sending and receiving online, Glasswire is awesome!
It’s a network and threat monitor all in one – and can even tell you what your laptop has been accessing online in your absence (or what applications have accessed it).
You’ll get notified the first time any software accesses the internet so you can see whether it’s intentional or a nasty,
Glasswire will even monitor your bandwidth and internet usage for you. Hurry though, Glasswire have stated this won’t stay free forever!
Contrary to many people’s ideas of an antivirus, it’s just the front line of defence and doesn’t always ensure a trouble-free laptop. From time to time it’s important to run a malware scan on your machine. This is to find malicious software that you downloaded in error, or got past your antivirus because it was unknown to it at the time.
The very best of the free options, in most people’s opinion according to my research (and in my own experience) is MalwareBytes free anti malware.
When using this program, always update it beforehand, as it is constantly being updated to battle new threats. Also, don’t delete anything unless you do your homework on what it is recommending you delete.
Always delete a Trojan.
Web Link Malware Detector
When browsing search results it’s not always possible to avoid the infected sites that will harm your laptop just by visiting them. Thankfully there is a way to know whether to visit a link or avoid it!
There are two contenders for this section and both are equally good.
1. The Web of Trust
2. Avast Online Security for Chrome
Both give a green light (either circle or tick) beside a safe link in your search results – or an orange or red one if the site link is dodgy. The only difference is that Web of Trust has fewer users to report malware and so I would trust Avast more.
Software and Leftover Files Removal
From time to time you will need to remove old or unwanted software and the best uninstaller I have found that balances amount of leftover files removed with speed of operation is iObit’s rather excellent Advanced Uninstaller.
Be careful when doing deeper cleans that you make sure any registry files you delete are part of the unwanted software. However, this has not been the same problem using iObit as it has been when using other uninstallers which have more scope for mistakes – deleting incorrect registry files can be fatal for your PC or laptop!
CCleaner is short for “crap cleaner” and is used for clearing cookies, temporary files and all sorts of other junk files that when let build up on your machine over time, will slowly drag its performance down to a crawl.
Admittedly I own the professional version of this, but the free version is not to be taken lightly. In fact there’s little extra to the pro version than extras like automatic cleaning and self timing. However at less than $20 for a lifetime license and the ability to use the same license for every laptop in the household it’s a very small price to pay.
Check out Defraggler from the same people, to help defrag your machine on a monthly basis so that after removing files, what remains is kept in one piece to allow smoother hard drive operation.
There you have it – a complete set of absolutely free software that will rival any paid antivirus security suite!
Enjoy the savings and the peace of mind.