How To: Buy anti-virus software

If you are looking to buy anti-virus software for your computer then you may be bewildered by the choice available. How to choose the best anti-virus? Are the big name brands like Norton and McAfee better than the rest? Does paying more get you the best virus protection? Which anti-virus product is the best value for money? How can I avoid buying useless "scareware"? This article explains the various features and terminology used by publishers of anti-virus software, to help you choose the best anti-virus software for your needs.

Features of anti-virus software

All anti-virus products do the same job, but they differ in the features they offer. Some features are essential, others may be nice to have but are there more for marketing reasons - because they make the product look better - than anything else. Realize this and you can avoid getting talked into buying an expensive resource hog.

Basic features

An anti-virus product will typically feature several different scanning options. Some are more essential than others.

Scanning technology

All anti-virus products need to be able to detect the presence of a virus in a file. How this is done may have a bearing on its effectiveness.

Other features

Anti-virus software may offer a number of other features.

Choosing the best anti-virus software

In choosing the best anti-virus software for your needs, you should start by picking the products which offer the features that you consider important in your particular case.

You might consider it important to rank products according to their effectiveness at detecting viruses. However, this is hard to do objectively, and not much of an indication of how well a product will perform in the real world. Many computer magazines and independent websites try to do this, and often do it badly, because representative samples of viruses that are currently in circulation are hard to come by if you are not a developer of anti-virus software with customers sending suspicious files to you every day.

One measure of effectiveness that has been widely used, and which we have referred to in our reviews on, is the VB100 certificate awarded by Virus Bulletin. However, many authorities now feel that this is rather a flawed test. It is based on a product detecting a known set of viruses, so it's a bit like passing an exam in which the questions are known in advance.

The fact is, just about every anti-virus product sold by a reputable vendor today will do an effective job of catching viruses. So it is better to make your choice based on factors like feature set, frequency of updates, update size, ease of use, system resource usage and cost.

Our recommendations

If you want to give your computer the best protection from viruses, consider the following products. Read the linked reviews for more information.

Why should you trust our advice any more than other sites on the Internet? That's a good question! One reason is that you can see who we are.'s owner and author of this article, Julian Moss, is a former computer magazine journalist, and Tech-Pro Limited is a registered UK company. You can find out more about us on the About Us page. Don't buy security software from a site whose owners hide their identity!