Killer Download: Top antivirus programs for Windows

You have to stay vigilant if you want to keep your computer safe from viruses. Grab one of these Killer Downloads for the ultimate in protection.

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A few years ago, it seemed like we would hear about a new virus threatening to hijack computers around the globe every week. Though it may feel like we're out of the woods these days, it is probably only because many users and companies are now much more aware of potential threats than they used to be. Even computer manufacturers have gotten the message and take more precautions by including some form of pre-installed protection. But when the limitations on these demos run out, it has been my experience that many people just hope for the best because of how little we hear about new threats. Of course, these are the same people who later call me up asking why their computers no longer work.

Even though we don't hear about as many threats in the news, there are just as many viruses out in the wild and some viruses have become even more destructive. At work, your company probably has an antivirus system that protects you from most new strains and an IT department that keeps it updated. At home you are the IT department, and if you want to keep your files safe, you have to remain vigilant.

Fortunately, we have plenty of high quality, free, and low-cost antivirus programs here at CNET that you can install at home and start using right away. These programs let you scan all the files on your computer along with any you receive in e-mails, on floppy disks and CDs, and (gasp!) from downloads. They also come with auto-updating features so you always have protection from the latest malicious strains.

Avast Home Edition
Don\'t let the slick interface fool you. Avast is a powerful antivirus application. (Credit: CNET Networks)

Avast Home Edition, a popular choice for home computer users, offers free virus protection, a futuristic-looking intuitive interface, and regular updates. The on-demand scanner lets you choose specific files and folders for quick scans. While it seems odd to me, Avast is also completely skinnable with several skins to choose from at its site. This is a solid and well-respected (aesthetically pleasing!) program to keep your computer virus-free.

AVG Anti Virus Free Edition
A recently redesigned interface makes AVG incredibly easy to use. (Credit: CNET Networks)

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition is an excellent virus protection program for home users. You can schedule full virus scans when you know you'll be away from your computer to make the process painless. I use this one on my home computer and have never had a single problem. I've been thinking about upgrading to the pro version, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

Nod32 Standard Version
The NOD32 developers recommend an In Depth scan at least once a week. (Credit: CNET Networks)

NOD32 for Windows is another popular and powerful home virus program that scans for viruses in the background while you work on your computer. This one quietly scans Internet traffic, e-mails, and any floppy disks you may use, keeping viruses and worms away from your system.

Any of these programs are great choices for virus protection from the latest nasty strains. The sooner you get one of these programs, the less chance that the latest virus will infiltrate your system. Got a better antivirus program? Let me know in the comments!

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.