A Guide to Anti-Virus Software


This is a fairly useful piece of kit, especially if you use a lot of peer to peer software (like Kazaa) or download extensively from untrustworthy web sites. Don't be fooled into paying out money for one of the big companies - Norton, for example, allegedly hide the fact they haven't updated their virus scanning engine in 2 years with the well-known brand and (in my experience anyway) it will slow an old computer to a crawl (their Internet Security package is surprisingly effective however). Instead there are many free alternatives that perform better when extensively tested.


My personal favourite (after trialling all the major ones, including Norton and McAffee) is AVG which you can find here.


The other top choice would be Avast although I found it slightly more awkward to use. All of these programmes are free for personal use.


If you fancy paying then there's NOD32 which is rated very highly and gives you a 30-day trial. Personally I found the interface to be a real nightmare to navigate around and would therefore steer new users away from it.

Sophos Footnote

This is the virus checker recommended by the university. Personally, I hate it. I must have tried to use it on nearly 20 different computers to remove a virus and frankly I've found its success rate to be appalling. Nearer zero then one hundred percent. I also find it difficult to configure and the default options are really annoying. For example, one time it was set scanning and we left to go into town for an hour or so. On our return we discovered the damn thing had picked up a virus at around 20% and had then paused the scanning to ask us what to do with it. Surely it could carry on in the meantime... Anyway, in the interests of a fair trial I've done some hunting around and Sophos generally scores well in the online reviews I've seen. However, definitely do not install it for Linux - it consistently fails the prestigious VB100% tests for all tested Linux distributions (but then, with Linux you don't really need a virus checker in the first place ;)). The only virus checker to have never once failed a test on any platform is NOD32, so if you decide to pay for a virus checker (which you'll have to do with Sophos when you leave uni) then get this instead. Above all, definitely do not use any of the following (some big names here!) who managed to fail the latest tests in February 2005: AhnLab, ArcaVir, F-Prot, F-Secure, McAfee, MicroWorld, Secure Resolutions and Unasoft. To get a rough idea how effective your virus checker is, download the Eicar test files. Scroll down the page to find the four files (each file is not a virus - simply a test). Navigate to them in windows and open them - a decent virus checker should detect all four when you try and open them (each of the four files is more difficult to detect than the last). I haven't had a chance to see how Sophos performs here, but AVG certainly grabs the lot.