Microsoft continues to improve the standard security in its operating systems, so you may be tempted to skip buying anti-virus protection. Windows 7, for instance, offers better safeguards than those found in Windows XP, though these protections still don't stack up to those found in Windows 8. The company includes progressively better security in each new Windows operating system to provide a base level of protection. This is designed for inexperienced users who try to get by without third-party security software. But that base level still doesn't provide ideal protection, as Microsoft's virus scanner underperforms third-party protection in security tests.
If you want to keep your home and work computers more secure, we invite you to learn more about antivirus software. Let's concentrate on the best: Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Kaspersky Anti-Virus and Norton AntiVirus. To see profiles of individual anti-virus programs and other security information, we invite you to read our articles about antivirus software for Windows 7.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Kaspersky Anti-Virus and Norton AntiVirus do what antivirus products are supposed to do: defend your computer from malware incursions. They can also identify and immobilize new security risks. The performance of a product in objective tests is one of the most important factors to consider when looking for Windows 7 anti-virus software. In addition, you should consider the software's features and the company's help and support. Let's consider these buying criteria a little more closely.
The most important factor in choosing anti-virus software is its ability to protect your computer. It should not only defend against already-identified malware, but also find new and emerging threats. Good software looks for suspicious scripts, phishing campaigns, and risky websites that could harm your system.
We've thoroughly checked the anti-virus products' performance, drawing on data from an independent lab called AV-Test. This organization employs hundreds of workstations networked to dozens of servers, to expose anti-virus programs to tens of millions of existing and potential threats. Based on this battery of tests, AV-Test evaluates how well the products protect against malware, and how thoroughly they detect and eliminate existing infections. The tests also evaluate overall usability.
Most programs excel at some but not all of these tasks. During summer 2013 tests, AV-Test analyses showed better usability for Norton AntiVirus compared to Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Kaspersky Anti-Virus. However, Norton could not match Bitdefender or Kaspersky in repairing pre-existing infections. Bitdefender and Kaspersky both beat Norton in tests designed to measure the security software's ability to protect computers from malware infiltration.
While you examine the features of anti-virus products for Windows 7 software, it helps to think about the features you need and the ones it might simply be nice to have. Does the software protect you from phishing, flag threats in email and instant messages, protect you while browsing the web, and recognize when you insert a thumb drive, so the software can scan for threats? Is it easy to install and use? Can you schedule scans to run during times when you are not using the computer?
Help & Support
Several of the antivirus software programs for Windows we reviewed, including our top four recommendations, provide support via live chat, telephone and email. These vendors understand the importance of providing outstanding help and support, and they make appropriate investments to maintain good reputations in this area. Some lesser competitors do not provide all three methods of support.
While Windows Defender in Windows 7 offers some protection, and definitely outperforms XP's security, that doesn't mean it fully protects your system. Microsoft's Windows 7 security enhancements can't fully replace dedicated anti-virus software. To defend your system completely, choose from Bitdefender, Kaspersky and Norton, all excellent options for Windows 7 internet security.