Avast! Free Antivirus
Avast! is like the blockbuster of antivirus software — minus the whole big-name budget. It’s easily one of the most, if not the most, popular antivirus software on the Web given the program is loaded with a modest breadth of exclusive features that have yet to find their way into most other antivirus software. The program, free for non-commercial use, is quick and effective, providing tools for full-system malware scans as well as those for sifting through email communications, attachments, and various Web activities (i.e. Web pages, downloads and java scripts). Furthermore, the software touts drag-and-drop scanning for individual files, phishing protection, and a Web reputation system that displays red or green icons within your browser based on good or bad user ratings. The feature works very much like the aforementioned Web of Trust extension, except it instantly crowd sources a site’s merit without additional, third-party add-ons.
The light-gray interface is straightforward and self-explanatory, featuring a navigational pane on the left-hand side and a real-time graph that aggregates shield activity, and allows users to quickly check the overall stats of their computer. Although the software automatically updates and enables subtle, pop-up notifications by default, users can easily turn off either feature if they prefer greater manual control or wish to subdue the alerts entirely. It’s lightweight, tailored for Mac-specific malware and simply a convenient tool to have in your back pocket whether you’re an Apple disciple or a Windows devotee. Plus, it’s tough to argue with more than 25 years of service.
ClamXav is not your typical antivirus software. The open-source software is barebones and rudimentary in nature, designed as a graphical user interface for the open source ClamAV antivirus engine, while still boasting the same functionality you’d likely find in most paid antivirus apps. The app can scan individual files or entire folders on-demand, on access or on schedule, subsequently detecting and quarantining both Mac OS X and Windows-based malware swiftly and efficiently. It doesn’t handle email scans quite as fluidly and methodically as Avast! — the detection system is often overly aggressive when it comes to pinpointing potential threats — but it is capable of removing malware from your mailbox and allows users to save their favorite scan locations for quicker access. Also, although ClamXav is natively powered by the ClamAV engine, those familiar with code can incorporate their own engine build instead, adding substantial flexibility catered more toward open-source aficionados than the everyday user.
The program is also relatively light on resources, clad in a gray minimalist interface that makes starting and halting scans a breeze, and comes equipped with a monitoring mechanism that scans new files as they arrive. The biggest drawback, aside from occasionally sluggish scan speeds, is easily how infrequent virus definitions update. Still, the sheer level of flexibility ClamXav offers gives the software a slight upper hand above its closed-source competition.
Sophos Antivirus for Mac
If offering an entire history of Mac malware dating back to ’82 isn’t evident of a developer on top of its game, I don’t know what is. Straddling the line somewhere between necessity and excess, Sophos offers all the basic utilities you’ve come to expect from quality antivirus software. The utility offers custom, on-demand, and scheduled scans for specified files, folders and drives, along with additional tools for deleting and quarantining any software Sophos deems as a potential threat. The software even incorporates a “Live Antivirus” feature that will quarantine unknown files that are merely exhibiting suspicious behavior in line with that of malicious threats — a tool that could potentially be seen as overkill, but is a reassuring precaution all the same. Like most offerings on our roundup, the program is fairly lightweight and scans relatively fast, quietly, and non-obtrusively performing vital background tasks while barely leeching or exhausting your system’s resources.
Despite the notable feature set, Sophos manages to fit each facet of the software within a compact, cocoa-based interface that looks and feels like a native Mac app. Initiating a full-system scan can be done directly from the main interface, while additional options for more specific scans are discretely housed within a drop-down menu located toward the bottom of the window. Additionally, its malware definitions are constantly being updated, ensuring the program is never without the latest knowledge of potential threats. It’s one of the most hands-off antivirus programs on the market, and as such, sits among the best.
“State-of-the-art” is a buzzword thrown around more and more with each passing Apple keynote. However, though Comodo makes the same claim regarding its latest antivirus software for Mac OS X, the program is at least capable of executing what the developers intended it to do (and rather well). Featuring both full-system and file-specific scans, the relatively-lightweight software combs, detects and quarantines suspicious files and those the program deem hazardous to your system. Scanning options aren’t any more exemplary than any other antivirus software on our list — Comodo provides on-access, on-demand even scheduled scans during specified time frames — but the detection rates are high and the scanner’s default mode does an excellent job of skipping files previously scanned after implementing the latest update. Furthermore, files can be individually scanned by dragging and dropping them upon the Comodo icon in the dock in a similar fashion to Avast!
The program’s streamlined, red-and-gray interface is visually more akin to Windows than Mac OS X, but each task is still easily accessible from within each of Comodo’s three action-oriented panels. Definition updates, though slow, are frequent and thorough, and the software’s accompanying support forums provide ample clarification and guidance should users have trouble adjusting the program’s security level or various settings. The built-in diagnostics routine will even verify files, Registry entries and other issues a standard scan can’t solve. Plus, it’s compatible with most other antivirus software if you want to mix and match.
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