The Top-Rated Anti-Virus Software

This article was originally written for ArrowQuick Solutions, a technology consultancy for small businesses.

As IT experts, our customers frequently ask us which security software we recommend. ArrowQuick sells Kaspersky, which we feel offers the best all-around protection against viruses, trojans, worms, and other malicious software (malware). There can be differing opinions on aspects like support and ease of use, but detection and performance can be measured quantitatively.

AV-Comparatives is a company that tests the effectiveness of anti-virus software. They release regular reports comparing the software from major vendors. I’ll present their most recent data below — if you just want a summary, skip down to the last section.

On-Demand Detection

In August, they released their report for “on-demand” detection — that is, when manually scanning a computer to search for malware. Here are the detection rates for a recent set of malware:

  1. G DATA Antivirus 99.8 percent
  2. AVIRA AntiVir Premium 99.4 percent
  3. McAfee VirusScan Plus 13.11.102: 98.7 percent
  4. Symantec Norton Antivirus 98.4 percent
  5. Avast Professional Edition 4.8.1348: 98.0 percent
  6. F-Secure Antivirus 10.00.246: 97.9 percent
  7. BitDefender Antivirus 97.8 percent
  8. eScan AntiVirus 10.0.997.491: 97.7 percent
  9. Trustport Antivirus 97.6 percent
  10. ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4.0.437.0: 97.2 percent
  11. Kaspersky AntiVirus 94.7 percent
  12. AVG Antivirus 8.5.406: 94.0 percent
  13. Sophos Antivirus 7.6.10: 91.3 percent
  14. Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.5.2900.28: 90.0 percent
  15. Kingsoft Antivirus 2009.08.05.16: 86.4 percent
  16. Norman Antivirus & AntiSpyware 7.10.02: 84.8 percent

Note that these are all the paid consumer versions of the software.

Microsoft Security Essentials had not been released yet, so it was not tested. The Windows Live OneCare software is no longer sold by Microsoft (though it will be supported until 2011).

As you can see, although all software performed pretty well — most found at least 90% of problems — some clearly did better than others, and sometimes finding that last intruder can make a big difference.

Two other data points were provided by AV-Comparatives: false positives and throughput. Too many false positives (detections that aren’t actually malware) causes confusion on what is actually unsafe. Throughput measures the speed of the scans; obviously software that performs quicker is more desirable.

Graph of false positives.

False Positives (click for full size)

Graph of throughput rate.

Throughput rate (click for full size)

Proactive Detection

AV-Comparatives also compares the software for proactive detection — the ability to find malware, without manual scanning, by using heuristics and other complex algorithms. This test simulates malware that is brand new and doesn’t have signatures yet, or when a machine hasn’t downloaded the latest signatures. This method is decidedly more difficult, but some software still performed quite well.

  1. AVIRA AntiVir Premium 74 percent
  2. G DATA Antivirus 66 percent
  3. Kaspersky AntiVirus 64 percent
  4. ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4.0.437.0: 60 percent
  5. F-Secure Antivirus 10.00.246: 56 percent
  6. Microsoft Security Essentials 1.0 beta: 56 percent
  7. Avast Professional Edition 4.8.1348: 53 percent
  8. BitDefender Antivirus 53 percent
  9. eScan AntiVirus 10.0.997.491: 53 percent
  10. AVG Antivirus 8.5.406: 49 percent
  11. Trustport Antivirus 49 percent
  12. McAfee VirusScan Plus 13.11.102: 47 percent
  13. Symantec Norton Antivirus 36 percent
  14. Sophos Antivirus 7.6.10: 34 percent
  15. Norman Antivirus & AntiSpyware 7.10.02: 32 percent
  16. Kingsoft Antivirus 2009.08.05.16: 32 percent

The spread between software is much greater. Some software also had false positives, with six of them (AVIRA, Sophos, McAFee, TrustPort, Norman, and Kingsoft) having more than 15 false alarms.

This report was released in November, so it includes the beta version of Microsoft Security Essentials.

PUA Detection

AV-Comparatives’ most recent report tested the software for detection of Potentially Unwanted Applications. PUAs are classified as adware, spyware, rogue, or fradulent software. They may not be as malicious as other programs, but can still slow down your computer or compromise your privacy.

Here are the results, with MS Security Essentials included:

  1. G DATA Antivirus 2010: 99.8 percent
  2. Trustport Antivirus 2010: 99.8 percent
  3. AVIRA AntiVir Premium 9.0: 98.9 percent
  4. McAfee VirusScan Plus 2010: 98.9 percent
  5. BitDefender Antivirus 2010: 98.6 percent
  6. eScan AntiVirus 10.0: 98.6 percent
  7. F-Secure Anti-Virus 2010: 98.6 percent
  8. Symantec Norton Antivirus 2010: 98.6 percent
  9. Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2010: 96.7 percent
  10. ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4.0: 96.5 percent
  11. avast! Free 5.0: 96.3 percent
  12. Sophos Antivirus 9.0.1: 95.4 percent
  13. Microsoft Security Essentials 1.0: 94.6 percent
  14. AVG Anti-Virus 9.0: 93.9 percent
  15. Norman Antivirus & Anti-Spyware 7.30: 88.5 percent
  16. Kingsoft AntiVirus 9 Plus: 87.1 percent


Here’s how AV-Comparatives categorized the software, rated from best to worst.

For on-demand detection:

  • Advanced+: G DATA, Symantec, Avast, F-Secure, BitDefender, eScan, ESET
  • Advanced: AVIRA, McAfee, TrustPort, Kaspersky, AVG
  • Tested: Sophos, Kingsoft, Norman

For proactive detection:

  • Advanced+: G DATA, Kaspersky, ESET, F-Secure, Microsoft, Avast, BitDefender, eScan
  • Advanced: AVIRA, AVG, Symantec
  • Standard: McAfee, TrustPort, Sophos, Norman, Kingsoft

For potentially unwanted applications:

  • Advanced+: TrustPort, G DATA, McAfee, AVIRA, Symantec, F-Secure, BitDefender, eScan
  • Advanced: Kaspersky, ESET, Avast, Sophos, Microsoft, AVG
  • Standard: Norman, Kingsoft

What do you think of the results? How does the software you use stack up?

Leave a Reply

3 Responses to The Top-Rated Anti-Virus Software



  2. Very interesting. Aggregating the results in the three areas would show G Data to be the winner. I wondered what Price points might be. Here is what I found:

    G-Data Antivirus 2010 – $19.96 1yr 1 PC
    AVIRA AntiVir Premium 9.0 – $26.95 1yr 1 PC
    Kaspersky Antivirus 2010 – $49.95 1yr 3 PCs
    ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4.0 – $39.95 1yr 1 PC
    F-Secure Antivirus 2010 – $93.85 1yr *converted from Euro
    McAfee VirusScan Plus 2010 – $39.99 1yr 1 PC
    Microsoft Security Essentials 1.0 – $0.00
    BitDefender Antivirus 2010 – $$29.95 1yr 3 PCs
    Symantec Norton Antivirus 2010 – $39.99 1yr 1 PC
    eScan AntiVirus 10 – $39.28 1yr 1 PC
    AVG Antivirus 8 – $34.99 1yr 1 PC

    So most are in the same price point. Guess the good thing about this is we can focus on quality and not worry about getting taken to the bank.

  3. My personal best it BitDefender and I also appreciate that G-DATA- that we all know has Bitdefender engines- made it first in this top.

  4. Antivirus protection is a moving target, but its nice to be able to access up-to-date statistics on the products to see if some are sliding or gaining in their functionality. It is my hope that social engineering awareness and teaching common sense on computing security continues to improve with computer usage.

    Great article.