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I hate viruses, and so does everyone else who has ever gotten them or will get one. Since 2006, 1 billion people have the internet, which means that there are now more viruses then ever.

Viruses come in many forms and with many different problems attached to each kind. Some viruses are designed to mess up your entire computer and destroy all data; others are made just to show you unwanted advertisements every once in awhile. Either way, they shouldn't be on your computer and can be removed by you.

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The above information might have widened your eyes and shrunken your brows. Anyway, you can get some free version antivirus too!

As noted, each of the three free antivirus scanners - AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic, AVAST 4 Home Edition, and AVG Free Edition - have proven ability to detect in-the-wild viruses. This is a core, basic functionality of any reputable antivirus scanner and thus serves only as the basis for inclusion in the review, i.e. no points were awarded for meeting this minimum qualification. (Before considering any antivirus solution, you should check their ItW certification by consulting any of the following: VB100%, ICSALabs, or Checkmark).

Zoo Detection
AVAST 4 Home Edition had the highest rate of zoo virus detection (92%), followed by AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic at 85% and AVG Free Edition at 81%.

However, AVAST's higher zoo detection was offset by a correspondingly higher rate of false positives, 9 total compared to AntiVir at only 2. Conversely, AVG scored the lowest in both categories, racking up 11 false positives.
Response Times
How nimble your antivirus vendor is can make the difference between an infection and a non-event. To gauge this, we looked at the response times recorded for 26 major outbreaks during a particularly prolific virus period. Vendors who were among the first five to release antivirus updates for one of these 26 threats received points accordingly. AntiVir was one of the top 5 vendors a total of 5 times, AVAST appeared twice, and AVG only once.

Compressed/Archive Types
Many virus creators thwart signature-based scanners simply by repackaging a known virus using a different compression or archive type. This not only changes the signature, not all scanners can decompress the resulting files in order to scan them properly. According to tests performed in 2005, AntiVir is capable of scanning 30 different compressed and archive types, compared to AVAST at 28 and AVG at only 17.

Adware and Spyware
When it came to adware and spyware, none of the free scanners peformed well. The best of the worst was AVAST, which removed 33% of the active components of the adware and spyware installed to our test system. AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic removed 5% and AVG removed none. (Paid versions of these same products proved more capable thus a low score for the free products has no bearing on their paid counterparts).

Each of the free antivirus scanners was conservative in the amount of disk space used, installing 40Mb or less on our test systems. (The smallest was AVG at only 30Mb). AVG installed four running processes, compared to three for AntiVir and six by AVAST. The footprint on the system can be particularly important for those running older operating systems (i.e. Windows 98/ME) where hard drive space and memory might be at a premium. Fortunately, any one of the three meets those needs.

Support Options
If you run into difficulty using the product or trying to remove a stubborn infector, you'll have to resort to an online knowledgebase or self-help forum. AVAST does offer phone support, but there's a per minute charge attached which could likely turn the free solution into an expensive alternative rather quickly.

The Final Scores
If we left spyware/adware removal out of the mix and focused only on the scanner's ability to detect traditional virus threats, out of a possible 125.6 points, AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic scored 94, AVAST 4 Home Edition scored 89, and AVG Free Edition scored 66. However, when we included adware/spyware removal in the judging, the results were dismal, with AVAST scoring highest at 66 points, AntiVir following at 58, and AVG with only 30.

Of course, these particular antivirus scanners don't claim to have adware and spyware removal capabilities, so it would be unfair to judge them harshly if they do not. Still, if you are looking for a standalone antivirus scanner that can also offer spyware or adware protection, you'll have to shell out a few dollars to get it.

Please send an email with subject "Send me AVG Free and Updates" if you want to get AVG Free to the address smallicons@gmail.com.

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