Fall 2010 security suite roundup | The Download Blog - CNET Download.com

Fall 2010 security suite roundup

The past few months have seen most major security suites get updated, and we've collected them into paid and free categories. Which one was our favorite? Read on to find out.

The fall months may be the season for colder weather and dying leaves, but in the software world it means major updates for security suites. We've reviewed and benchmarked 11 suites, organized them along the traditional line of cost, and picked one in each category that we highly recommend.

We looked at four updated free security options: AVG Anti-Virus Free 2011, Panda Cloud Antivirus 1.3, Microsoft Security Essentials 2, and Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9. Other well-known free security programs, such as Avast and Avira, generally update in late winter or spring, so they were not included.

AVG Anti-Virus Free 2011

AVG made some big improvements this year, notably in tightening up its installation and scans, comparing well with the lightweight Panda Cloud Antivirus' small performance hit. If you're looking for a newly updated free suite, though, AVG Anti-Virus Free 2011 is your best choice.

Seven pay-for-play security suites also updated and were reviewed, including well-known powerhouses like Norton and Kaspersky, but also Trend Micro, BitDefender, Webroot, PC Tools, and AVG Internet Security 2011, the paid upgrade from AVG's free version.

Old haters of Norton are seriously missing out if they haven't given it a shot in the past few years. It's fast, effective, posts minimal system performance hits, and is our choice for top paid security suite of the season. It's not the only game in town, though, as Trend Micro has revamped to offer serious competition, and what Kaspersky lacks in quickness it makes up for in efficacy.

Norton Internet Security 2011

In addition to our product comparison charts (free | paid), check out CNET Labs' performance benchmark comparisons below. (Read more on how CNET Labs tests security programs.)

We can see from these tests that though no single program scored better than all the others, there were clear leaders in the key trials of start-up time impact, shutdown time impact, and time to complete a full scan. Panda Cloud Antivirus is highly competitive with AVG Free, whereas Norton's performance strengths lie in its threat prevention and detection, because several of its competitors leave a smaller footprint on your system.

Free security suite benchmarks:

Security program Boot time Shutdown time Scan time MS Office performance iTunes decoding Media multitasking Cinebench
Unprotected system 42.5 11.28 n/a 917 180 780 4,795
AVG Anti-Virus Free 2011 55.24 11.59 548 1,039 200 870 4,709
Panda Cloud Antivirus Free 1.3 50.12 14.8 540 1,044 199 832 4,790
Microsoft Security Essentials 2 54 18 1,560 1,038 201 800 4,790
Ad-Aware Internet Security 9 54 18 1,620 1,039 199 797 4,792

*All tests measured in seconds, except for Cinebench. On the Cinebench test, the higher number is better.

Paid security suite benchmarks:

Security program Boot time Shutdown time Scan time MS Office performance iTunes decoding Media multitasking Cinebench
Unprotected system 42.5 11.28 n/a 917 180 780 4,795
Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 47.49 17 1,750 1,068 207 823 4,661
Webroot Internet Security Complete 2011 47.86 15.97 1,459 992 198 848 4,729
BitDefender Total Security 2011 47.84 13.82 775 1,032 200 825 4,769
Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2011 44.79 16.56 500 1,060 201 852 4,765
Norton Internet Security 2011 48.91 11.78 890 1,028 199 861 4,780
AVG Internet Security 2011 56.21 16.3 480 1,043 198 820 4,759
PC Tools Internet Security 2011 55 20 1,245 1,086 204 832 4,792

*All tests measured in seconds, except for Cinebench. On the Cinebench test, the higher number is better.

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