Refined for 2010, the Security Starter Kit will ensure that your sanity lasts way longer than your resolutions through a collection of must-have programs to protect your Windows computer.
In our six categories this year, we offer the core essentials of Antivirus and Anti-spyware, as well as ancillary but important categories such as In-browser Security, Firewall, Encryption, and Parental Control. If you're looking for more than security, there's also our Windows Starter Kit. Essential utilities have earned their own kit, too: the Windows Utilities Starter Kit.
- CNET editors' rating: 4.5 stars
In the tripartite competition between the most popular free antivirus software, Avast Free Antivirus has arguably gotten the least attention outside of Europe, but we expect that to change. Avast's recent independent third-party testing has been notably solid, able to hold its own against better-known programs from Symantec and Microsoft.
Avast doesn't skimp on the protection it offers, either. It guards your PC with multiple shields that scan files and the network connection. It comes built with a robust set of tools, including antivirus, antispyware, antirootkit, heuristic-based detection, and shields for P2P transfers, instant messaging, network traffic, and the Web. You can select parameters for scanning, choose wild cards to exclude specific file types, and block certain URLs and file operations, such as writing to files or even renaming, deleting, or formatting them. You can adjust the sensitivity level for the program's detectors. The clean new layout won't seem unusual to new users, but old fans will note that this is a dramatic change from the unhelpful previous design. With immediate real-time protection, clockwork updates, and much more, this free software is highly regarded.
- CNET editors' rating: 4.0 stars
Although AVG has flagged a little in the past few years, AVG Anti-Virus Free 2011 breathes some new life into one of the most popular security programs around with a shorter install, better usability, and faster scans.
The suite continues to offer an excellent if not perfect level of security as it faces more intense competition from other free and paid security suite makers. Fans of AVG will definitely want to upgrade, and new users should consider it if they're looking for an effective freeware solution with solid link-evaluating features.