For many years it has been long my personal belief home anti-virus protection should be provided completely free of charge, and in the case of Windows Operating System (OS); the OS most plagued by viruses, worms, spyware and other malicious software (malware), it should be built into the operating system itself.
I believe free and built in anti-virus is a necessity to protect the individual PCs of non-security savvy home user, and to protect everyone else on the Internet as well. As 100,000s of PCs infected by malware affects and impacts everyone online. Malware infected PCs are used for everything bad, from sending spam Email messaging on mass, to the mass propagation of malware, to highly intricate network based attacks. It has been a long personal criticism I had of Microsoft, in that they didn’t provide built in anti-malware (anti-virus) protection right out of the box, well until now.
Yes the good news is at last Microsoft has finally got around to providing free anti-virus and anti-spyware with their Windows operation systems for home and small business users, the only proviso is you actually own a licensed copy. Over the last six months I have been trying the Microsoft anti-virus protection on a multiple of Windows operating systems and different hardware, and I have to say I have found it to be up to the job, and indeed I would say it’s on par with most home commercial anti-virus applications, in fact in one test I found it scans much faster than some of the commercial AV products. Now commercial anti-virus vendors will claim their specific product is better than everybody else’s anti-virus application, and that their product provides extra security protection, has won awards etc. However the truth of the matter is no anti-virus application can ever guarantee 100% protection, and it is a dangerous game to play to assume one anti-virus application protects better than another, given the fluid nature of malware threats which changes by the hour.
It is true many anti-virus products come packaged with additional security protection for your money, some are more useful than others. Many of these additional services such as web filtering and anti-spam can be obtained for free elsewhere. For instance home users should be aware Microsoft Windows 7 provides web filtering out of the box while email providers such as Google's Gmail have pretty good anti-spam built in these days. And as for operating system firewall protection, well that's already built into the Windows operating systems. Some of these extras can actually unnecessarily slow your PC operation down for very little security benefit, especially on older PCs.
Aside from the Microsoft offering, there are several other good free Windows based anti-virus applications available, which have been around for a number of years, such as AVG and AVAST. However for home users I would recommend installing and trying out the Microsoft anti-virus application first, which known as Security Essentials. But that’s my personal opinion, the important thing is you install and use an anti-virus application on your Windows PC, regardless of who provides it, as it’s a vital component of home PC security.
My recommended Free Anti-Virus\Anti-malware Products are:
Microsoft Windows Security Essentials
Anti-Virus & Anti-Spyware
Requires licensed copy of Windows
Requires Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7
Windows XP, a PC with a CPU clock speed of 500 MHz or higher, and 256 MB RAM or higher.
Anti Virus Protection
Spybot Search & Destroy
Anti-Spyware/Anti-Adware Protection & Spyware/Adware Removal
Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool
Finally I would like to stress the importance of ensuring your anti-virus application receives updates automatically, without automatically updating enable with your anti-virus application, your PC won't be protected against the latest threats. And equally the important, is to check Microsoft security updates (patches) are automatically downloaded and updated upon their release, these updates tend to be released on at least monthly basis.