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Thanks to the proliferation of computer viruses and malware, the digital space today is awash with anti-virus products. With so many different products to choose from, the decision can be daunting. Before we get all caught up in Windows 8, we’re going to take a look at my favourite five free solutions for Windows 7.

Microsoft Security Essentials 4: Independent anti-virus tester AV-Comparatives tags its new/unknown virus detection ability at 77-percent (compared to the highest score of 90-percent). While this solution is not the most comprehensive, it is simple to install and use, and does not consume too much system resources. That’s why despite a not-so-impressive score, AV-Comparatives awarded the product an “Advanced+” rating. An excellent product for the technophobe.

AVG AntiVirus Free 2013: Perhaps the most popular and powerful free anti-virus around – West Cost Labs’ proprietary real time virus detection puts AVG’s detection rate at 89-percent. Its other features include anti-spyware protection, rootkit and identity protection, and a URL checker that checks for known rouge websites as you surf.

avast! Free Antivirus 7: While not as popular as AVG, avast! is a well-tested and respected product. In a test conducted from March to June 2012 by AV-Comparatives, the product had a protection rate of 98.4-percent, which is just a hair below the highest score of 99.6. Its other features include real-time email, web traffic, network traffic, scripts and browser protection, and per-to-peer and instant messaging tools. The flipside – the extensive features have a negative impact on system performance.

Avira Free Antivirus: Between December 2010 and August 2012, Virus Bulletin tested Avira six times – and it passed everytime. If that’s not enough, Avira scored a 90-percent detection rate in West Cost Labs’ real time detection test. But while Avira’s anti-virus capabilities are staggering, its “extra” security features are not. There is no anti-phishing, behaviour monitoring, nor e-mail protection.

Panda Cloud Antivirus 2: This is the world’s first cloud computing-based anti-virus product – small and quick to install, light on system resources and according to AV-Comparatives, has a respectable protection rate of 97.1-percent. However, during AV-Test’s certification process, Panda was found to be lacking on the ability to repair infected systems. Besides this, you always need to be connected to the Internet for protection, and have to live with advertisements that make the product free. This product is ideal for netbooks and upcoming Windows tablets.

Do you have any favorite anti-virus software to share with us?

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