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Ask the readers: Inexpensive anti-virus software?

Linnea wrote:

I was wondering if your readers have any recommendations on anti-virus/anti-spyware/firewall software.  I’m looking for something that works, but is inexpensive as well.

Since I’m not that knowledgeable about this I’m very interested in hearing what other people use and like.  My current subscription is up in early September so I’d like to do some research before then.

Hope you can help!

Anyone have tips, suggestions, ideas, or input? Fire away and tell us all about your experiences and recommendations!

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  • jrh613 says:

    Has a free online scanner. Its the same as the scanner they sell except that you have to go online an start the scan yourself every time you want to scan.

    Many IT people I know prefer Trend Micro over Norton and McAfee.

    The truth is that you shouldn’t have to run a scanner very often as long as you stay away from questionable/adult websites.


  • Stef says:

    Check with your local cable company. If you get high speed internet they sometimes offer it for free. Otherwise I have used AVG – it is great.

  • eunice says:

    a friend of ours is in the computer business, and he recommended avg’s free home version to us. you can download it from avg’s website We’ve been using it for almost 1 yr, and been totally satisfied. doesn’t bog down our computer like norton used to, and it’s way cheaper….FREE! 🙂


  • sumpteretc says:

    I use AVG Free Edition, and it seems to work quite well for anti-virus. I rely on Windows for Firewall purposes. I don’t currenty use any spyware program, but Spybot Search and Destroy has at least a free limited program which works well.

  • Andrea says:

    I know nothing about it myself, but I can extend the highest recommendation to my friend Jared Ingold. Email him at

  • Kristine says:

    Check out for a post she just did about this. Tons of suggestions in the comments there. My recommendation is Avira – My DH is a computer science prof, in network and security, and it’s his choice for all our computers. Free and uses less resources than McAfee and Norton. We’ve not had any problems!

  • sara says:

    I use AVG, it’s completely free. Just download it from their site.

  • Trevor says:

    Forget about inexpensive; there are good, *free* anti-viruses available.

    I use a Mac now, but my favorite when I used Windows was Avast!.
    It requires registration, but it *is* free, even when registered.

    AVG Free is also very well-regarded.

  • Jody says:

    My Dad’s a computer tech, and he swears by Zone Alarm (which we have on both of our computers here at home). The free version is just a firewall, but it does a great job!

  • Rebecca says:

    I use AVG which you can download free off of the Internet. A friend of mine who works with computers for a living. It’s worked great for me so far!

  • Tiffany says:

    I second AVG, it is free and great and recommended by my IT DH and his techie friends.

  • Trevor says:

    This recent Lifehacker post links to a free software bundle that looks promising:

  • Dawn says:

    I’m another fan of AVG Free edition. My husband set it up on our computer 2 years ago, and we haven’t had a problem yet! (We used to have McAfee, and we had 2 viruses in less than a year.)

  • Wendy says:

    We also use AVG Free. It’s worked great for us for over two years.

  • cignatiou says:

    I’ve used Avast anti-virus home edition for years. It’s superb protection for free.

  • Yep, use AVG free as well. Best I’ve found.

  • Tim Owens says:

    The combination of AVG with Windows Defender will match many of the popular paid programs and it’s completely free. So yeah, I’ll definitely be the 4th…5th…whatever to recommend you download the free edition of AVG and save the money for another day!

  • Kathie says:

    Just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for an award on my blog at Please come on over and pick it up 🙂

  • Kathie says:

    Just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for an award on my blog at Please come on over and pick it up 🙂

  • Lea says:

    Clamwin is a free virus/spyware/malware protection and scanning program, McAfee has some free products as well including firewall. I have used both in the past and have found them both to be helpful. You can check on the MSN website to find more possible free software of this type. Good luck!

  • Mandi says:

    avast is also free. We’ve switched to that in the last year and been really happy with it.
    I’d also recommend using mozilla and gmail for email. They have almost completely eliminated pop-ups and spam for me!
    HUGE time saver

  • I use AVG and have never had problems – it’s free and it works great for me.

    Personally I would stay away from Norton. I had it pre installed when I bought my new computer a few years ago and it drove me bonkers.

  • Helene says:

    I’ve used the AVG free for several years and also Spybot. Both free and has worked great for me.

  • amanda says:

    Mir at had a post about this exact thing today. Check it out.

  • Heather says:

    I usually wait for the beginning of the year when you can get the norton software free with the purchase of tax software. Usually we end up getting it at Staples. I also have spysweeper on my computer and am able to get that for free at the same time. That being said, I’ve already had to uninstall and reinstall norton 2 times this year because it wasn’t working correctly. The first time the norton software people helped me at no charge and the second I was able to do on my own. I’m not sure I’ll return to Norton after this. I might see what other anti-virus software titles I can get for free this winter.
    I also had trouble getting my rebates. Luckily I had copies of everything and the store manager was able to get them for me.

  • Melissa says:

    I use SuperAntiSpyware. It is great. I had a subscribtion to McAfee virus software but SuperAntiSpyware found things McAfee didn’t.

  • Melynda says: has Panda Internet Security 2008 for $40 with a $40 mail in rebate. I don’t know much about it but there are reviews on the webpage.
    I wouldn’t pay money for antivirus software. There are so many out there for free or free after rebate you should be able to find something that will work for you without shelling out any money.

  • Jessica says:

    We use AVG and ZoneAlarm, which are both free. Also you may be interested that home routers offer hardware protection against internet attacks.

  • Dona says:

    We were using avg and then we had some issues–my techi husband could explain better than I–anyhoo, we switched to free avast. So far no buggy issues 🙂

  • Mary Jane says:

    You can go online and get a free subscription to Avast for a year or 14 months. It’s a great program and FREE at that! A instructor that teaches electronics and does alot on the internet told me about this site. He said never pay for an anti-virus protection, I work with at a college. So go and check out this site:

  • Melodie says:

    We use AVG per recommendations of my brother-in-law who is a computer tech for the airport. He also set us up with COMODO Firewall protection. He thinks highly of both and we haven’t had a problem with either thus far.

  • Lacey says:

    I also recommend AVG!

  • Tara says:

    My husband has read good things about bitdefender. Zone alarm is a free firewall program.

    Hope that helps!

  • Dona says:

    We were using avg and then we had some issues–my techi husband could explain better than I–anyhoo, we switched to free avast. So far no buggy issues 🙂

  • I stumbled across this website the day after I purchased Norton AntiVirus which is very expensive. So, next time, I will probably try one of these free ones!,2817,2260070,00.asp

  • LadyCiani says:

    My husband and resident computer geek/expert recommends:

    ZoneAlarm (free software firewall)


    AVG Antivirus

    Caution: They may have newer versions that require you to pay, but we have been using the free versions for quite some time and they are very effective.

    Also recommended for spyware and malware:

    Spybot Search and Destroy (also finds viruses, but mainly for spyware which will slow your system down over time)

  • Shruti says:

    Google Pack has anti-virus and anti-spyware software

  • I will start off by saying NOT to get the following:
    Norton/Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro.
    All three suffer from feature bloat to the point where the products will bog down your system greatly.

    There are three free antivirus programs which have already been mentioned (Avast, Avira, and AVG, I don’t count ClamWin as it’s open source and not for the “not that knowledgeable” user). My experience is that Avast is best for most users. AVG has become more bloated recently and I’ve found is not as effective in assisting the user in removing bad things found. Avira’s product is excellent and very light-weight, but it will pop up a reminder daily that they have products they want you to buy. Avast provides a lighter product than AVG, and one that I find more effective while being less annoying than Avira. Avast only requires you to re-register once every 14 months (although they’ll try to get you to buy at that time).


    A combination of Avast, Spybot, Windows Defender (free from Microsoft for XP and included with Vista) and the Windows firewall (especially when used behind a hardware router) will be very effective in keeping your system safe. However, if you get infected with something, you should seriously consider backing up your data, reformatting your computer, and reinstalling all software. Malware has become so sophisticated that it is unlikely that any removal utility is going to get rid of it all once you’ve become infected.

  • Julie says:

    I just switched from Norton to Avast ( I’m impressed with how often (every couple of days?) it updates itself.

  • My DH is a webmaster and secures our computers and network using the free versions of Avast and Zone Alarm. Both are fabulous protecting our computers.

  • Lorie says:

    I also highly recommend AVG. We have used it for years and love it!

  • Colleen says:

    Zonealarm and AVG are what I swear by — add spybot search and destroy and Lavasofts ad-aware for spyware, and you should be set.

    Whenever I need new software, I always check Kim Komando’s website — She has a techie radio show that is nationally syndicated, and she vetts a lot of freeware programs, which I think is awesome, because then I know what to trust!

  • Lois says:

    I highly recommend (free) Avast! and I also use free versions of Spybot Search and Destroy and Lavasoft’s Ad-aware. The latter two you have to activate (download updates first) for the free versions, but it’s not that troublesome.

  • Karen says:

    My hubs works for Dell and he and all of his friends use and suggest AVG Free. We have used this for years with no issues!

  • Amy says:

    I use spybot search and destroy. Google it. It rocks. And it’s free.

  • AVG, the free edition, works fine.

  • AVG, the free edition, works fine.

  • greenwillow says:

    I recommend either AVG or Avast! as mentioned above. Both are free – I use both (on different computers) but my son who is in IT recommends Avast! over AVG. They both have worked fine for me!

  • Heather B says:

    I am familiar with the AVG Anti-virus and I can tell you that it can identify a problem, but when it comes to a virus it is not capable of removing it. You will have to purchase something like Norton Anti-Virus for around $39.95 and sometimes it’s on sale for $29.95. There is also Kaspersky for around $39.95 ( and also one called Panda Security ( for $39.95. I would recommend that you purchase the full Internet Security instead of only the Anti-Virus. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

  • Another recommendation here for AVG. You’ll have to get the newest version (8) from because it’s not on the Grisoft site – at least, it wasn’t there a week or two when my son went to download the newest free version. All we could find on the site was the paid version.

    Also, a lot of people swear by a new one on the scene, I think the name is SuperAntiSpyware. It’s free also, although it’s mostly for spyware, even though it will help with some viruses as well.

  • Kara S says:

    Like others have said, the free version of AVG is great for antivirus software. ZoneAlarm works very well as a firewall program. You can “train” it for which programs you want to have access to the internet and other parts of your computer. I’ve used both as our protection for the last 4 years or so and not had a bit of trouble. Any virus threats are stopped immediately and virus definitions are auto updated every morning providing the latest protection.

  • Nikki says:

    Another vote for AVG free! I’ve used it for 8 yrs and never had a problem! I highly recommend it! You can find it at

  • Tina says:

    I would like to also reccomend Avast. We love it!!, and it’s all we have ever used on our laptop.
    My dad told me about it and that it is what he uses on all of his personal computers and he works for a Big International computer software company!!

  • check out and click on the freebies page. There are always AV softwares like McAffee, Norton and Zone Alarm on there for free after rebate (from other stores like Fry’s or We ordered ours through that site and have been totally happy!

  • Amber says:

    I have to disagree with the others about free virus products. It is worth every penny to go with a paid subscription service – I use Norton. I must say I am a computer programmer with a Master’s degree in computer science, and I did lots of research for my degree on this very subject. Free programs are often delayed in posting updates for new viruses and miss many of the viruses “in the wild”. If you need futher proof, I just removed 5 viruses from my MIL’s computer – she runs AVG. I promptly bought her a copy of Norton Antivirus this weekend. 🙂 I agree that many of the paid programs are “bloated”, but it’s better than having a computer full of viruses. Trend Micro is a very good program that is paid and isn’t as bloated as others. The company I work for (a Fortune 500 company) uses this on all their computers. Check with your employer as well – my company offers a discount when buying Trend Micro though them. I can get it for $15 annually. HTH!

  • Laurie A says:

    My husband (the computer geek) has us protected by AVG.

  • My husband is a network technician and has been for over 10 years. On all 5 networked computers in our home, he has installed AVAST! It is free with all the bells and whistles. He has tested 4-5 different programs, but (according to him) AVAST is the best, and it is free.

    To download it, here is the link:

    Great job asking for help with this task. It is great to have friends with answers. : )

  • Jenny says:

    For antivirus, we use free AVG, you can download it off of CNET at

    For spyware we use spybot search and destroy and/or adaware. They are also free and can be found at the same website. They both have free or commercial versions, so just make sure to download the free one.

    A free Malicious Software Removal Tool is available from Window’s Update.

  • Jon says:

    All of my clients are running AVG for their antivirus softare with a mixed bag of Ad-Aware, Spy Bot and Windows Defender (because in my experience NONE of them gets everything but all three combined seem to get it all) to back it all up. Windows Firewall is verboten at client sites because I set them up with SonicWall firewalls to let me remote in securely and the Windows one is less effective anyway. For families and home users who can afford it (about $150 a year) I HIGHLY recommend a SonicWall but if it’s out of their price range then Windows Firewall makes a suitable backup.

  • Angela says:

    We use the free AVG virus protection. There are frequent updates and it seems to do an okay job. Previously, we had used Norton.

  • Mel says:

    I second the first person’s post. I am a HUGE Trend Micro fan. I also heartily agree with Jim’s assertion that you don’t need virus software at all if you use some common sense when opening files and email attachments. We have not run Windows updates or any virus software for over 5 years and have been fine, by the Lord’s grace. I do not like the fact that a company can access my computer and “install” whatever they like on it and access my files at the same time, so I immediately uninstall all virus programs and turn off Windows updates when getting a new computer. When I have knowingly opened a questionable file and gotten burned and ended up with an adware program, Trend Micro’s online House Call scan has done the trick! I should also add, that before I became a virus program snob, I would often get infected and even when running Norton’s, Adawre, Spybot, etc, I would often have to turn to Trend Micro to get rid of whatever I had! TM was also the top pick among all others in some computer magazine publications due to their excellent track record.

  • Angela says:

    We use and recommend AVG free edition. Husband works in computer security and still sticks with it.

  • Jennifer says:

    We have free Norton through our DSL provider. We also have the BSafe Online suite that offers anti-virus, firewall, spam filter, pop-up blocker, and family-friendly Internet content filtering. We do pay $69 for it each year, but it’s worth it to have the trash filtered out. Between the two (DSL’s Norton and BSafe Online), we haven’t had any virus troubles!

  • Nicole says:

    Buy a MAC and never buy anti-virus software again! Plus they look cool.

  • I always have used Norton Anti Virus, and I have never had one single problem with spyware, hacking or anything at all.

  • Amy says:

    We also use the free AVG software and have had no problems – with the software OR viruses!

  • LeAnn says:

    I also have been using AVG for a couple of years now and I have been very satisfied with it.

  • Lana says:

    We’ve been using AVG and zonealarm on our computers for years. AVG is the best we’ve found and it’s free. I can’t stand Norton. It came installed on my laptop and I had non-stop problems until I uninstalled it and added AVG.

    You should probably also get a spyware scanner–especially if you sign up for a lot of freebies and such online. (Or download music…)

    Spybot was mentioned above, but we also use Adaware by lavasoft. Just google and you’ll find it. What Adaware doesn’t catch, spybot does and vice versa. They work great together!

  • Ginny says:

    AVG Free for anti-virus and Zone Alarm for firewall. Both are free and work well. They are recommended by some of the top computer people.

  • Carrie says:

    My husband is a computer engineer and we have AVG Free Edition. He recommends it to everyone. We have it on our computer and have never had any problems.

  • Rene says:

    I am going to quote an e-mail from a family in our church that I found very helpful:
    I’ve heard of a few situations in the last few weeks of children accessing inappropriate sites over the Internet so I thought I would do some research into content filtering software (even though our family is young, I though it would be good to have something in place now, before problems arise!).

    Most of the systems are costly and don’t work that well, but I’ve seen some very good reviews of the following service that is free and does not work by installing filtering software on the computer. Rather, it works by changing the DNS settings on the router/computer that then allows the software to block sites that are inappropriate. It seems to be highly used by large corporations, but best of all, it is free!

    The web is for the service is:

    I installed it on our router in around 10 minutes, there are very easy instructions online to set this up.

    Hope others find this to be a helpful system too.

  • Mara says:

    One more vote for AVG…I had been running Norton with horrible results. My computer was slow and it blocked things I didn’t want blocked (like baseball games!). AVG has been great – and it’s free!

  • We have used AVG for years. And our systems are constantly exposed to malware (hubby worked as a rater). It’s free & it works!

  • Krista says:

    I am a Norton fan. We’ve had it for years, and we just upgrade it once a year. It has a really good Parental Package that goes with it for free. I like that because I can block all kinds of websites that I don’t think are appropriate for me or my teenagers, (if you know what I mean) It also has a pop-up blocker, and of course the firewall is good too. I’ve never had any problems.

  • Lorelei says:

    Your internet provider may give you a free software; ours does. Also, periodically you can get Norton antivirus or McAfee for free after rebate from places like Staples or Office Depot. I don’t know of any ongoing promotions right now.

  • Kitten says:

    We use this company and it is free:


  • Melissa says:

    AVG free all the way. We’ve used it for years and have never had a problem.

  • Linnea says:

    Wow! I am completely overwhelmed by all of MoneySavingMom’s helpful readers. Thank you so much for lots of great information – I will check into these options and I’m sure I’ll find something that will work – and for FREE. Call me naive, but I didn’t know there was free anti-virus/firewall protection out there!!

  • JoAnne says:

    My vote goes for Avast. It’s free for personal use. I’ve never had a problem with it, and it doesn’t slow down my computer like the big name anti-virus programs.

  • Erica M says:

    Another pleased AVG Free Edition user here! We set ours to run a scan once a week. The entire computer will run a bit slow while it scans, so you might want to set it for a time you won’t be on the computer. If you must be one, you can always pause the scan till you’re done. Just remember to turn it back on when you leave the computer. 🙂

  • Julia says:

    My husband works as a developer for Symantec, the parent company of Norton. Ironically, the first thing he does when he gets his hand on a computer is uninstall Norton and install AVG. He’s a huge fan, and it’s always worked great for us.

  • Kristen says:

    I’ve been using the full version of ZoneAlarm Security Suite that I got free after rebate at one of the office stores. I’ve been very happy with it. I used to use McAffee and now HATE it. I don’t care for Norton either. I have a friend that owns a computer business who recommends AVG.

  • Tracy says:

    If you download the free AVG, do you have to remove norton before installing it? I was told that some of these virus protection programs will cause issues if you install more than one.
    Thanks in advance

  • Mike says:
    After rebate all are free
    KASPERSKY ANTI-VIRUS 7.0 (3 USER) Price $55.00 / $55.00 Rebate


    PC-CILLIN INTERNET SECURITY 2008 (3 USER) Price $40 / $40 Rebate

    *Rebates valid from 2008-08-20 to 2008-08-28

  • Rhonda says:

    My IT person told me that if you set your computer up with a password protected administrator account and user accounts (at least one to work from, but as many as you want) that DO NOT have administrator rights. Then only go into the administrator account to install or uninstall programs, you will never need virus protection. My computer has been set up this way for 4 years without virus protection and I have never had a problem. He said that the reason this works is that virus have to be installed on your computer and that requires administrator rights. So if you are working in an account that doesn’t have administrative rights, a virus can’t install with permission. It helps to NEVER open an email that you weren’t expecting too. If you set your email up to a preview pane (where you can read some of the email without actually opening it), it helps to know if the email is valid. If you are ever questioning the validity of an email, find out from the sender if they actually sent it before opening it. This is free and my computer has been completely protected for 4 years now.

  • Birgitte says:

    AVG is pretty good, Avast is too big and cumbersome and slows down your computer.

    I now use Nod32 which is about 40$. It is small, doesn’t hog resources and doesn’t bug me all the time and yet it still works great.

  • Heather says:

    I had several tech guys recommend Avast! The explanation I got from one of them is the Avast! was created in Russia and that’s where all the really bad viruses and spyware come from…so they really know how to find them…I don’t know, but it’s worked out well for me in the past.

  • Michele says:

    AVG is awesome!!! I highly reccomend it! I use the free version on my old laptop and I use the regular AVG on my other two PC’s and Love it! AVG is very self explanitory and very user friendly. 🙂

  • Iva says:

    My vote is for AVG, too.

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