Show viruses, malware the door

For a free antimalware and antivirus app that also runs in your system's background, AntiVir works surprisingly well.

Consistently at or near the top of independent efficacy testers, Avira's AntiVir remains one of the best freeware security solutions around. Its scans are flexible, allowing the user to fully scan both internal and external hard drives, run a preloaded scan--for rootkits, for example--or customize a scan. The latest version introduces antispyware protections, scanning tech that can crack open "locked" files, improved internal security to prevent AntiVir's files from being maliciously altered, and one-click threat removal--no more baby-sitting.

There are few interface changes in version 9, and older users are not likely notice anything different in the interface besides a refreshed banner logo. The main window offers a left side navigation with drop-down menus and a central pane for more detailed information. AntiVir opens to the Status menu, informing you of your last scan, your last definition file update, whether the real-time guard is active, and premium upgrade link. Events logs changes to the program and the Reports tab keeps a history of threats. Both are exportable.

The Local Protection and Administration navigation options reveal the Scanner, Guard, Quarantine, and Scheduler features. Combined with the Configuration button located at the top of the central pane, users can customize their scans as necessary. Quarantined file information is on display, with options to scan it again, restore, delete, and e-mail the file to Avira. The rebuilt heuristic engine retains the same choices from the previous version's, and can be turned on or off in part or in full and offers three intensity levels. The scheduler offers much that other free antivirus programs don't, and the help features are excellent, with mouse-over information on each feature.

Savvy users will notice the removal of the on-demand e-mail scan, and AntiVir is still challenging to fully uninstall. Despite these hang-ups and the nag screen that follows definition file updates, AntiVir offers such effective protection and a well-rounded set of features that as long as the updates keep coming, it'll be our first line of defense.

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